Allow us to introduce you to Deb T., a CLF patient who is very excited to share her story with you.
We met Deb after she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in 2009 and treated at Mercy Hospital in Muskegon and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. According to the National Marrow Donor Program website, AML is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Deb spent about six weeks at Mercy to undergo chemotherapy treatments before her doctors referred her to Karmanos for a stem cell transplant.
When Deb was reading through pamphlet resources that a social worker from Karmanos provided her, she learned about a program at Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan that would put her in touch with people who were also diagnosed with AML. Before her stem cell transplant, Deb spoke with two AML patients who gave her an idea of what to expect with the transplant. One girl she talked with even came to visit her after the transplant. Deb recalls how this generous and caring act surprised her.
“It was so special that she came to my room just to say hi and see how I was doing,” said Deb. “It was so nice to have someone to talk to who knew what I was going through.”
Helping Hands, Healing Hearts
Since her transplant, I’ve worked closely with Deb and check in on her every so often to see how she’s doing. I also provide resources for financial support and transportation to get Deb to her checkup appointments at Karmanos (it’s quite a haul from Muskegon to Detroit).
“Jessie does a great job of keeping in touch on a regular basis,” said Deb. “It means so much to have someone to talk to, point me in the right direction if I need help and get me in touch with support resources. I felt so much better at the beginning of this whole process because I got connected with other people diagnosed with AML.”
You’ll be happy to know that, overall, Deb is doing pretty well today. She has some lingering eye issues and experiences fatigue, but from other AML survivors she’s talked with, this isn’t uncommon. Deb likes to say she is the “new” normal. She visits an oncologist in Muskegon every so often and travels to appointments at Karmanos in Detroit every three months. Deb tells people the same thing when they ask how she’s feeling: She’s still here to complain about it.
Paying it Forward
The roles were reversed on Deb when we approached her last year to see if she’d be willing to serve as
a support system for recently diagnosed AML patients. She immediately accepted the offer.
Deb also has some great advice for anyone afflicted with AML or another cancer-related disease:
“The two most important things for me were to stay strong and keep the faith. I believe that’s what has gotten me through all this. My initial reaction when I received the diagnosis was that AML was a death sentence, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support because a lot of other people are going through this exact same thing. You have to stay strong.”
Finally, Deb stresses the importance of keeping up with doctor appointments. “Don’t ignore the important stuff.”
Thank you, Deb, for sharing your story!
If you have any words of encouragement for Deb or questions about her story, let us know in the comments.