One mother’s story and why you
should get swabbed with OneMatch
*A parent’s love for their child holds no condition or boundary, only limitless attention to their well-being and good health. This is especially true when they are young and facing insurmountable odds to survive a life-threatening disease or cancer.
Blood cancers, including leukemia, continue to represent the highest patient group who have exhausted all avenues of treatments and therapies and are now anxiously hopeful their life stories will have happy-endings by stem cell transplantation.
For over 100 Canadian stem cell patients from newborn to 16 years of age; their stories continue to be written as they wait to fulfill their dream of finding their unrelated stem cell match to survive.
The hope for these children and teens reside in the 48 countries world-wide, including Canada, where over 20 million selfless individuals have registered to become stem cell donors and wait year-to-year for their call to donate. Hope is also found in the over 550,000 public cord blood units provided unfettered by loving mothers world-wide for any patient anywhere, who need their happy-ending.
We love our children. Effort is limitless when our child needs us to hold their hand, stroke their face and whisper words of encouragement into their ears. For the love of all children, in Canada and around the world, please register to become a potential stem cell donor today.
There is an immediate need for young male donors between the ages of 17 and 35 years old; as younger male stem cells offer better patient outcomes post-transplant.
One mom’s story
It was March 17th, 2011, the day my whole world changed. After trying unsuccessfully to tame a fever off and on for weeks with advil, tylenol,( sometimes dosing together) many doctors’ visits and three rounds of antibiotics was when I knew there was something wrong. Never, did cancer come to mind. It was that day after blood work was drawn at my request, the doctor came into the room, hand still on the door knob and said: “It’s definitive, it’s leukemia.”
The words hit me like an ocean wave. My stomach rolled, my knees weak, my heart ached, I couldn’t catch my breath and like a slide show the past three years of my life flashed before my eyes from pregnancy to that day, just one month before my daughter’s third birthday.
I was given two choices that day, to willingly submit my daughter to the torture of chemotherapy and treatment or do nothing; the latter was not an option. I stood up, I put one foot in front of the other, I signed consent, document after document, after document literally signing my whole life away. Within only an hour of this news that brought my world as I knew it to a halt, my precious three year old angel had been sedated, had her first bone marrow aspiration, and her first dose of chemotherapy.
This journey has been a roller coaster and I can medically sum it up for you. In the past 19 months my daughter has had five surgeries, seven bone marrow aspirations, 71 doses of chemotherapy, 34 transfusions, 179 nights in hospital, 1 ICU admission, two hospital birthdays, one relapse, two remissions and one bone marrow transplant. She has had a portacath in her chest for treatment, a hickman central line in her chest and a picc line in her arm. Too many blood pokes, procedures and dressing changes to count.
I have held my daughter down as she fought, terrified, but I did it in hopes to save her life. I have held my daughter while wearing a yellow gown, gloves, mask, booties and hair cap, to protect her from me, her mother. I have also watched nurses nearly 100 times wearing the same garb and face mask to administer her chemotherapy to protect them from this poison but it was going directly into my baby’s veins.
There have been times when all I wanted to do was hold my daughter but couldn’t as she was so frail with tubes from her chest, her arms, her legs and her nose. I have also watched my daughter so brave, so resilient bounce back time and time again. No fear of nurses or hospitals. We’ve set up tents in our hospital room, we’ve drawn chalk on the floor and played hopscotch for hours. We’ve put our bathing suits on and danced in the shower as she wanted to know what the rain outside felt like.
I have had my daughter’s life and her future spoken to me statistically. I have been to a child’s funeral. Childhood cancer is underfunded, under publicized, and far from understood. The cause of childhood cancer is unknown, therefore cannot be prevented. We’re told childhood cancer is rare yet it is the number one disease killer in children – more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and AIDS combined. One in five children still die. One in three children will die young because of the actual treatment and side effects. Two-thirds of children will live with severe side effects such as heart problems, infertility, cognitive impairment, lung problems, hearing and eyesight loss and are at an extreme high risk of developing a secondary cancer. More than 10,000 children in Canada are in the fight today. Another 1,300 Canadian parents will receive the horrific news that their child has cancer this year.
This is not just a sad story. This is not something that just happens to people and you should feel sorry for them. This is something that happens to people and you can do something about. This is a call to action. I have been humbled as I witnessed what a group of people can do when they want to help.
My daughter was lucky that my husband was a match and was able to donate his bone marrow to save her life. It is a rather simple procedure – he didn’t even have to take his pain medications and was up and moving around in time to watch them infuse his marrow into our little girl. Not everyone has this option. There are precious children like my daughter who are very sick and waiting for a bone marrow donor that will save their life. You have the power to end a family’s nightmare and save a child. I don’t think there is one person reading this who wouldn’t save a child if given the chance– so please, go to onematch.ca and get swabbed.
I encourage you; I challenge you to take this message and share it with everyone you know. Tomorrow turn on your computers, go to onematch.ca and do it – sign up and wait for your kit to get swabbed and register to save a life. Google childhood cancer. Donate, give and give generously, volunteer, advocate. These are children, we are their voice. We need to be heard. We need newer, better treatments. We need a cure.
In closing I’d like to leave you with a quote. It may not be a famous quote or author but it is a quote I often reflect on, one that I have written on my shower walls when I needed strength.
“What I want you to understand is that I run my peds unit a little differently then what you may be used too. This is not general surgery in miniature. These are tiny humans, these are children. They believe in magic, they play pretend; there is fairy dust in their IV bags. They hope and they cross their fingers and they make wishes and that makes them more resilient. They recover faster, survive worse, they believe. In peds we have miracles and magic, in peds anything is possible.” ~~Arizona Robbins; Grey’s Anatomy~~
I’d like to thank you for reading my story and hope you have truly heard my words, my pleas for pediatric cancer awareness and the importance of getting swabbed with OneMatch. As a cancer Mom; a Momcologist, this topic weighs heavy on my heart, my mind and my soul. Please go to onematch.ca and register to be swabbed – you could save a life like my daughter’s.