On Sept 5, 2008 I entered a walk in clinic because I was feeling exhausted and out of breath. My husband and I had 3 young kids and I chalked it up to a busy summer chasing my boys around! Little did I know that I had stage 4 cute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). At the walk- in clinic I was told I needed a stem cell transplant otherwise the outcome would not be very promising. Did I have time to be sick? No! 3 young boys in Scouts, football, guitar lessons and other activities made me think that this was a very big mistake – I couldn’t have cancer!? But within an hour of being diagnosed I entered the Tom Baker so they could do a bone marrow aspirate to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, and shockingly, it was true. My husband and I were in tears as we relayed the devastating news to family and friends.
The next day, I entered the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary where I would spend most of the next 4 months fighting for my life. And fight I did. I was surrounded by so much love and support. Meals were delivered for almost 6 months straight, every day hot and ready at 5:00pm to my boys while I was in treatment! Our boys were all on football teams and my husband Craig was a coach. The outpouring of support made it easier for me knowing I could focus all my energy on getting myself better because my family was being taken care of. I wrote a daily blog, sharing my feelings of what cancer was like and made it a positive personal journey -one worth surviving! Unfortunately none of my 4 siblings were a match for the stem cell transplant, so blood samples were matched through the world wide stem cell donor bank. Three days before Christmas I was given the best Christmas gift ever! A donor was found! All I knew was it was a 34 year old male! Perfect! I knew he would give me hope and faith to survive and help rid me of my blood cancer! After many rounds of chemo I was able to come home for Christmas!
In preparation for the stem cell transplant, I had 2 rounds of full body radiation which was the scariest thing ever! My transplant was February 5th, 2009. Holding hands with my husband and in laws we prayed that these new stem cells entered my body would lead to a cure for me! After a year of recovering, I was very determined to find out who my donor was. Lucky for me he also wanted to know if he was able to save a life (the process at the time required 1 year post transplant and both parties agreeing to be connected/introduced) We met and he has become such a big part of our lives. Kevin was a marine from San Diego and there were many emotional tears. How do I thank the man who saved my life!? Kevin soon became a lifelong friend with me, my 3 boys and husband. We were so deeply connected, I even got ordained and officiated his wedding in California! Life is full of surprises. I have so much gratitude in my heart for being given a second chance on life. Encouraging others to become stem cell donors has been part of it. I was always aware of my experience and that others around me in hospital were not always so lucky. Cancer has taught me to live every day to the fullest, tell the important people in your life what they mean to me, and live life with a grateful heart!
The Light the Night event is such an emotional evening. Seeing the support, love, and sharing touching stories from survivors or families who have lost someone makes it such an incredibly beautiful evening!