Today’s post comes to us from TNT honoree and TNT Hike alumnus, Joan Banich. Joan recently celebrated a very special milestone and has been gracious enough to share her story here.
Just a year ago, I was preparing to undergo a bone marrow transplant in hopes of a potential cure for my Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a rare bone marrow disorder. At that time, my daughter was about to graduate from high school and my husband was busy packing our belongings to relocate for the four months of my treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). They both have had to sacrifice so much ever since I was first diagnosed in 2003.
By 2011, my MDS had progressed significantly. Despite the serious risks and complications associated with a transplant, it became the best treatment option. We realized we couldn’t just put our lives on hold and anticipate things would eventually return to normal. Instead, we had to move forward and adjust to a new ‘normal’.
We rented a condo near SCCA and made it as cozy as possible. Family and friends went out of their way to help us. The myriad of lab tests, doctors’ appointments and clinic visits became routine. We found ways to show love and share laughs despite the setting.
The uncertainty of not knowing what will happen has been hard to deal with. One of my main concerns as a transplant patient is Graft vs. Host Disease (GvHD) where my donor’s cells would attack my own cells. GvHD can show up at any point in time. I keep hoping for the best possible outcome while trying not to worry about all the bad things that can happen.
There are milestones along the way that allow me to check the progress I am making. The biggest milestone was surviving the first 100 days post-transplant. There were days of being extremely sick, needing urgent care in the clinic and dealing with tremendous fatigue. Somehow, I’ve made it through even the most difficult times.
And I’ve passed another major milestone. On June 22, I reached the 1st anniversary of my transplant. That definitely gave me a reason to celebrate. My doctors have advised me I should be able to return to work soon. It’s another opportunity to adjust to a new norm.
Through this journey, I have learned to mainly focus on what I know is for certain but prepare for anything. To prepare myself, I rely on LLS. The patient support and information LLS provides is so vital. In addition, the research they fund has helped find new treatments, improved the transplant process and increased survival rates. I have directly benefited from all of this. I am so grateful that because of LLS, I am able to reach yet another milestone.
Thank you, Joan, for sharing your story. Your strength is an inspiration.