My name is Heather and I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) +FLT3/ITD on December 14th, 2017. That morning I noticed I was extremely pale and I had large bruises over my body. My doctor ran blood work STAT and within an hour I knew my platelets were below 20 and I needed to rush to the ER. I was pretty near death at that time. I was in Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), which has a pretty high mortality rate.
I ended up having two strokes because my body started forming clots in the vertebral arteries that feed my brain. I also formed clots in both arms and in one of my hepatic veins that drain blood from liver into the heart. I had multiple infections including sepsis and fungal pneumonia. My amazing oncologists were too scared to give me any sense of hope of survival though that 1st round. Any time I was encouraged because I pulled though some catastrophic event, my doctors would only say "Let's see how tomorrow goes." The only option was to keep moving forward!
I was in the ICU during my entire first round of induction chemotherapy but I successfully went into remission! Over the next four months I had three more rounds of consolidation chemotherapy along with a new FLT3 inhibitor called Rydapt. After that final round I began to prepare for an allogenic stem cell transplant. I had Total Body Irradiation and some legitimate chemotherapy before getting my stem cells on July 4, 2018. A beautiful unrelated donor from England donated her cells so I could have a chance to live. I want this life more than I can express. I have three amazing kids who I need to live for; Cole (17), Emma (9) and Chloe (5).
I have a fantastic husband named David who is the love of my life. Who thinks I am beautiful even though I look emaciated and am bald. I have a strong supportive family who loves me beyond words. I need to live. I have so much I want to see and experience. I want to show my love for God, want to hold my kids for years to come and want to snuggle my husband at night until we are old and grey. I pray this is my path.
I will walk for the Light The Night campaign this year and every year to come because I believe in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). During the beginning of my diagnosis, the LLS web site provided me with the information a newly diagnosed patient needs. Information that was both accurate and encouraging. Their site also has a large number of group forums where cancer patients and caretakers can ask questions and provide support for one another. My AML and transplant community help me to feel "normal" as I bond with others who have walked a path so similar to my own. LLS also funds many research projects which aim to develop life improving medications and lifesaving clinical trials. How do we cure cancer if we are not doctors? We donate. Let’s wipe out blood cancer together! Heather