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“Sometimes the strength of Motherhood is greater than natural laws” - Barbara Kingsoliver
There are lists and lists of things to get “Mom” for Mother’s Day but this story is truly the #1 greatest gift any Mom could ask for – her life. This is the story of a Mother’s life that was saved by love, hard work, hope and one big miracle. A few months ago I shared a story of a Mother in desperate need of help from the world. (One Match to Save a Mother’s Life) Myy dear friend Erica needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She had been diagnosed with a deadly case of leukaemia and was told she only had only months to live unless a bone marrow donor could be found.
This is her story. A story of being a Mom with two beautiful boys, a remarkable husband, a story of community, a story of hope and a story of the greatest gift a Mom could ever want.
The gift of life.
Guest Post by Erica Harris
When I was asked by Jacqueline (founder of 365give) to write a little synopsis of my journey in honour of this very special Mother’s Day, my mind instantly brought me back to my Mother’s Day celebration last year. The day started with a wonderful wake up, spoiled by drawings and wee surprises. And after a fun filled family brunch with the in laws, my oldest son, then 4, then took me on a “date” – we rode the bus in absolute glee and smiled away at an afternoon kids concert. Beautiful day, beautiful memories. Not once did I then consider what would arise in the weeks to come as even a distant possibility.
Last spring as I spent a fun morning at the aquarium with my boys, I picked up an urgent message regarding a relatively routine lab I had done hours earlier. Thinking there must be some confusion as my results couldn’t be in that quickly, I then learned I was to avoid all public places as my immune system was so comprised. My final diagnosis of acute leukemia came within a few short days. Hours following this, a bed was made available for me in the province’s Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant unit at Vancouver General Hospital.
I had no time to prepare myself, or my family for this huge upheaval. I embarked on my new path in shock and disbelief. For one so passionate about life, health and wellness this was just not within the realms of possibilities. My heart simply ached at the thought of being separated from my angels and not having any idea where to start explaining what had transpired and why mama would not be home.
I had no idea what was to lie ahead- the tubes, the machines, the surgeries, the days of isolation as a result of life threatening septic infections, the endless gut retching nausea, the frequent bone marrow biopsies, the exhausting night sweats, the ongoing blood transfusions, etc. What was assumed to be an original 3-4 week stay resulted in a full 2 month stay as the original chemotherapy proved unsuccessful. After I did not respond to what is referred to as “salvage” chemotherapy, I given a 2 month diagnosis, perhaps 6 months at best and offered no further treatment aside from palliative care. A second opinion in Seattle at one of the leading US leukaemia treatment centers confirmed the prognosis. So despite having had just received the amazing news that perfect 10/10 bone marrow donor was found on my behalf (after great efforts on behalf of One Match, the VGH team, my incredible husband and our amazing team of support who started their own missions to spread awareness), I learned the very next day it was an unattainable goal as I first had to be in remission to be eligible for transplant. After hearing this prognosis, I knew I just needed to be home with my family. I did just that- the team at VGH reluctantly discharged me the next morning. And with the strength of my 3 handsome loves by my side, I gained strength and “our fight” began.
On every step of this road, our family has been embraced by an amazing circle of love and support. Friends, family and and complete strangers sent messages of love and inspiration, devoted hours on our behalf to prayer, meditation, research on alternative approaches and leading health care providers in the field, cared for our babes, donated blood, prepared meals, shopped, and helped in any/every way possible. All of this paved the way to a very unexpected victory in ‘our fight”….and by the grace of God, the healing hands of my beautiful angel babes, the world’s best husband by my side, and our incredible team of support, my labs started to reflect some change and very slight optimism that at least the disease was not progressing at a rate that was originally anticipated. Another biopsy was scheduled and we learned I had attained remission.
Our head Doc said there was absolutely no explanation he could offer aside from saying it was a true miracle.
I was then eligible for transplant, which I had at the end of October. Although I am still on a rather bumpy road while adapting an entirely new immune system from an unrelated superstar donor, I am now moving full steam ahead and getting stronger every day. I am not yet off this big detour but I get to be here to be the first to greet my angels when they wake and the last to kiss them goodnight.
I am over the moon to be able to conquer most of my mama routines on most days.
As I picked up my oldest from kindergarten the other day, I stood from a far as I approached the field. He was running about laughing away with his friends, so enthralled in their game and so incredibly happy. I had tears of joy just being able to see this moment. As I stood there thinking how difficult it may soon be to tug him away from this fun for our trek home, he saw me from across the playground. Instantly, he sprinted towards me shouting to all with such excitement “there is MY Mom!” with his arms outstretched to dive into mine. My now 3 year old sets out on his daily missions to find mama treasured rocks, pine cones, or the prettiest weed of the day and shares them with me in the sweetest, highest pitched voice as he tells says he loves me soooo much. These slower days have welcomed so many quiet simple moments on the home front and these moments are true bliss. I thank God every day for my incredible blessings. My heart shines in ways I never imagined possible simply to hold their hands in mine.
This road has obviously been an unexpected lofty toll- from my husband not working for months on end to be my side, to additional child care costs, to the cost of uncovered medications and the countless supplements, to ensuring every nutrient consumed is of the highest quality, and the many expenses of fees incurred from professionals we sought along the way for many consults/treatments.
Jacqueline’s mission with 365give and her amazing compassion for those experiencing difficult times exemplifies such heartfelt surprises and blessings that have helped ease our path by so many ways. Further, Jacqueline spread the word about One Match registration instantly upon hearing the urgent need. The love, generosity, time and kindness that have been extended to us along the way will remain in our hearts on this very special upcoming mother’s day, and every day.
Happy, happy Mother’s Day to all!
Could you climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Would you sacrifice you time, your energy and your money to climb for good?
This story features a good friend, Kay Walten. She is on her way to Africa next week to help change the world one very steep step at a time. Please consider supporting Kay on her plight to help women and children in Africa as climbs Mount Kilimanjaro. Watch the video and just click on this link on Go Fund Me . Help Kay reach her goal before she begins her climb September 29th.
Be inspired. Be generous. Give.
This story speaks for itself. It has been written by a husband in desperate need to help his wife. It is your chance to possibly save a life and if not Erica’s than someone that is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Please consider donating today. Please post this on your Facebook page, tweet it or create your own post to spread this urgent call for help across the globe. Time is of the essence. I have added link at the bottom of places all over the world that you can give a sample to. It’s easy and urgent. Please donate today.
Erica, I love you my dear friend and my families prayers are with you every day.
Urgent Plea for Bone Marrow Donors to Help My Amazing Wife and Super-Mama – Erica
This is our urgent plea to you and to everyone that you know to help my amazing wife/our boys’ super-mama Erica find a suitable bone marrow transplant donor to help to save her life and to get her back home to our two young boys (ages 2 and 5). The picture is a recent shot of Erica in hospital.
On the afternoon of June 6, 2012 we were told that Erica had acute mylogenous leukemia (AML). She was immediately admitted to the Leukemia/BMT ward at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and a first round of chemo was started on June 8th. The first round lasted 7 days.
The intent of chemotherapy for AML (an acute form of blood cancer) is to wipe out all of the bad (leukemic) as well as the good cells in Erica’s bone marrow (where blood cells are formed and grow). What the doctors are looking for after the chemo treatment is for the bone marrow to be entirely clear of all cells, enabling Erica’s healthy cells to start growing again without the bad leukemic cells (essentially pressing a bone marrow ”reset” button). When the bone marrow is clear after chemo and the recovery period, the doctors call it ”remission”.
On June 21st, Erica had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if the 1st round of chemo had done its job. Instead of a clear marrow, what showed was about 10% “immature” cells. The concern of her doctors was that these were bad leukemic cells that were not destroyed by the chemo.
On June 28th, Erica had another bone marrow biopsy. We received the results the next day, on Friday, June 29th. These results showed clearly that the 1st round of chemo did not do its job. As of June 28th, the bad leukemic cells were estimated at 60% to 70% of her marrow. When this all started at the beginning of June, before any chemo treatments, her bad cells were estimated at 26%.
What does this mean? For starters, we were told that this result means that she is in the “high risk” designation for AML. Very high doses of different, harsher chemo drugs and a bone marrow transplant (BMT) are the urgent course of treatment.
They started what they call ”salvage” chemo on Saturday morning (June 30th). This aggressive round of chemo lasts 6 days, with a 4 to 6 week estimated ”recovery” period afterwards. We were also told that if this chemo does not do its job and put Erica’s leukemia into remission that there are no other courses of treatment for Erica at VGH. Assuming this harsher chemo does its job, Erica needs a BMT right away. The BMT has to occur shortly after this round of chemo, once remission is indicated (ie that the marrow is clear of the bad leukemic cells).
We need your urgent assistance with the bone marrow.
We need to find Erica as close a match as possible for her BMT from an un-related donor. There are international bone marrow donor registries that are being searched right now. As of Friday, the doctor indicated that a match had not been found yet. Further, if a match is found somewhere in the world, that donor has to confirm their consent.
Our window of time is very short to find a suitable, willing donor if the chemo does its job and the marrow is clear.
If you, or someone you know, agree to donate, and get on the donor registry very quickly, you may be able to assist Erica.
Please encourage friends, colleagues and family to sign up to the registry to donate their stem cells/bone marrow if they are able.
Please circulate and post this information and our plea everywhere you can.
For those of you in Canada, below is a link to the “One Match” bone marrow registry run by Canadian Blood Services (CBS). Information about the registry and forms to complete are on this site Canadian Blood Services. For those of you not in Canada please search to find the donor opportunities in your country of origin.
There is a process to follow. Once you sign up online, CBS contacts you in 8-10 business days and sends you a swab kit – you can contact your local CBS office to see if you can shorten this timeline and/or have the swab done at their location. Time is of the essence.
Also, if you, and/or anyone you know, are able to donate blood and/or platelets – this is also very important. Erica had a number of transfusions of platelets and haemoglobins in her first round of chemo and we anticipate there will be many more transfusions during this next chemo treatment. You never realize how important donating blood and platelets really is until you are receiving them.
Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, strength and support.
Thank you for spreading the word and circulating our plea.
Thank you for helping to bring Erica home.
Faith, Hope and Love
“Go Fighters Go”
(This is what our boys say to their mama to help her get her healthy “fighter” cells working again in her body)
United States: http://marrow.org/Join/
New Zealand: http://www.nzblood.co.nz/