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Stories of Hope

To better understand the impact of bone marrow failure, we present stories told by the patients, parents, family members, and spouses who are living with these illnesses. Our entire community benefits from the insightful stories patients and family members share with us about their personal journeys.

Bridget Daw

Aplastic Anemia and Treatment-Related Complications Influence Career Choice

In December 1992, I was an 8-year-old, halfway through second grade, when strep throat and a urinary tract infection just wouldn’t go away. A late-night trip to the emergency room revealed dangerously low levels of platelets, which explained this and the severe bruising all over my body and rashes on my joints. My platelets were under 2,000 and I was supposed to have 250,000.  I was sent to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia that night and a few days...

Sherry Pratt

Patient Trusts Her Instincts in Finding the Right Treatment

I never thought I would be diagnosed with cancer. I taught exercise classes, walked every day, ate a Mediterranean diet, and paid attention to products I used on my skin.  I became a certified health coach and taught healthy living classes.   But I did get a cancer diagnosis -- a rare blood cancer called MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome). Specifically, it was the Refractory Anemia with Ringed Sideroblasts, (RARS) subtype.  I was scared, mad, confused, and in denial. When I was first diagnosed in...

Jane Biehl, PhD

I Was Alone With MDS Until I Connected With Others on Social Media

I sat quietly in the oncologist’s office. The doctor confirmed that my diagnosis was MDS and calmly stated, “The average survival term for your kind of MDS is 104 months.” I felt the room spin.   I never have been healthy, and suffered from upper respiratory infections all my life. Kidney and bladder infections plagued me all through college, and I have had a severe hearing loss since birth. I had been diagnosed in 1986 with an IGA deficiency, meaning that I had insufficient immunity although...

John Vasquez, Part 1

In Treatment at NIH

Texas native John Vasquez led an active life until he started to experience unusual symptoms in 2015, including an incidence of numbness on one side of his body. The 20-year-old was soon diagnosed with aplastic anemia. He sought local treatment and was started on immunosuppressive therapy, causing him to suffer the full range of side effects – fever, chills, nausea and serum sickness, which includes joint and muscle pain. Rather than wait for his doctors’ next steps, John decided to contact...

Krissy Kobata

Confronting Challenges in Finding Matches for Multiracial Patients

34-year-old Krissy Kobata is a passionate patient and advocate/activist. Diagnosed in 2008 with MDS, she’s the epitome of resilience as she has waited for years to find a matched donor. She has devoted this time to helping other patients by enlarging the Be The Match® bone marrow registry. She’s directed numerous bone marrow drives and fundraisers, bringing thousands of new DNA donors to the national registry. However, her own path to finding a donor has been challenging and frustrating. Her...

John Vasquez, Part 2

Updates from John and Isabella!

Part 1 In late August 2017, AAMDSIF paid a visit to NIH patient John Vasquez and his sister/caregiver Isabella, several weeks after his stem cell transplant for severe aplastic anemia. Here's what each had to say about what they're doing and how they're feeling. If all goes well, they will be heading back home to San Antonio by February of next year. We’ll be updating their story here each month!   John Vasquez Stem cell transplant patient How are you feeling now, about...

Emma's Story, Part 2

As Patient Advocate, Emma Makes New Friends

When Emma was still being seen at the NIH twice a week, we were talking with her physician’s assistant about her t-shirt fundraiser and her Facebook group. After hearing what Emma was doing with these activities, they asked her to be their new pediatric patient advocate, helping newer pediatric patients with advice on how to cope with treatments. This seemed to be another way we could help. Within a few weeks there was a new patient and we were asked to visit with the family on site at NIH....

Emma's Story, Part 3

A Mother and Daughter Awareness-Building Team Get to Work

“Emma was active in raising awareness for bone marrow failure even before her arrival at NIH.” – Lydia Seiders I knew from prior experience with advocacy for other Illnesses, that “t-shirt advocacy” really works – they are great conversation starters. After I had read and re-read AAMDSIF’s patient guide, I felt ready to begin advocacy for aplastic anemia. I knew I could send anyone to their website for any questions I couldn't answer. Getting started with T-shirts...

Jill Minden

My Encounter with Aplastic Anemia

In 2007, when I was 25 years old, I started to get winded going up a flight of stairs. I also began having two hour long nosebleeds, and I knew something was wrong. I had my bloodwork checked and shortly after my doctor told me to go to the hospital right away because my blood counts were extremely low. I had no idea what that meant at the time, and wasn’t overly alarmed. Two weeks and two different hospitals later, I was diagnosed with something I had never heard of, severe aplastic anemia....

Shauna McMillan

Alaskan Goes Home for Treatment and a Fresh Start

I tell people I'm unique - almost one of a kind. I am 40 years old and have recently been diagnosed with a rare type of MDS having an unusual deletion 12q cytogenetic abnormality, known MDS 12q (-), or MDS 12q minus.  I was diagnosed in February of 2015 at age 38, however my health struggles began several years before that. I had been living in Alaska for nearly twenty-five years. In 2008, I was diagnosed with lymphocytic colitis (also a rare disease for someone of my age). I was referred to a...
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