Patty Shanley Zelle Fights MDS- Cancer

Patty is a victim of Myelodysplastic Syndrome, often called MDS, which is a rare and aggressive blood disorder. Many of you may have followed Robin Roberts of 'Good Morning America' as she bravely fought this same disease.  

Patty will require chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and months of treatment and isolation. Many expenses will not be covered by insurance. ALL proceeds will go to help Patty beat this dreadful disease.

Patty has lived in Candlewood Shores in Brookfield, CT, for most of her life. She is the wife of Bob Zelle and the mother of Brendan and Bridget Zelle. She currently works at Huckleberry Hill School as a library assistant.

Patty has always been busy helping others in her neighborhood, school, and family.  Being busy, she didn't think too much of always being tired.  Her PCP decided to watch her blood levels. After a blood draw in which the numbers didn't look great, she was referred to a hematologist. This doctor tested for many things, including MDS.  At this time Patty was totally unaware of the seriousness of the disease inside her- she was just tired.  So it came "out of the blue" to be diagnosed with cancer on April 24th.

A chemo-type plan was started.  Patty’s MDS was very aggressive. On April 29th, Patty started treatment- one week on, three weeks off.  The purpose of these treatments is to keep leukemia at bay.  Without these treatments and the stem cell transplant, leukemia is a certainty.  

The treatments took a lot out of her so friends, family, and coworkers came to the rescue with food, housecleaning (no germs!), and emotional support. Fundraisers have started: tag sales, bake sales, art sales, all ways to support Patty who has supported so many.

On July 14th, Patty, accompanied by her sister, Maureen, went to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for a second bone marrow aspiration. This time the head of the transplant team held her hand. Patty consented to having the team go a little deeper and donated additional bone marrow to be used for MDS research in the hopes of finding a cure. She will be donating bone marrow with each aspiration as she is able. This was important to Patty.

Now four treatments, one blood transfusion, and two bone marrow aspirations later, Patty will be entering Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC in August to prepare for her transplant.  She will have a Hickman line inserted and begin chemotherapy.  This chemotherapy is intended to kill her immune system, the one that isn't working.  After a week in isolation receiving this therapy, basically a germ-free bubble, she will then receive new bone marrow from her sister, Maureen, a perfect DNA match- 10 out of 10 markers. During this same time, Maureen will be self-injecting the drug Neupogen which will boost her stem cell production. On transplant day, Maureen’s stem cells will be harvested and inserted into Patty to begin the recovery.

This begins a month in total isolation in the hospital.  Since she will have no immune system when she receives this bone marrow donation, she will need a sterile environment.  Hopefully, within 30 days, she will be well enough to move out of the hospital- but not too far away.  She will be staying in American Cancer Society paid-housing in NYC called Hope Lodge and will not be able to return home to CT for several more months. During this time in the NYC apartments she will need 24/7 caregiving. She will need transportation in NYC several times each week to go to the hospital, with her caregiver, and then back to the apartment.  There will be transportation costs to and from NYC for the Zelle family. Food, parking, loss of income, the list goes on. 

When she leaves NYC and returns to Brookfield, more than 100+ days after entering it, she will still need caregivers to supplement her family caregivers.  

Patty will be unable to work until her immune system is strong enough to let her return to the school system.  During this time she must meet her medical plan deductible, perhaps even for two years.  There will be medical bills.  She will be on many drugs to help her body not reject this new bone marrow, as well as a myriad of other drugs she is not even aware of just yet.  She expects these drugs to be part of the new normal for the next several years. 

Patty has faith and a strong conviction to beat this cancer.  Her family has rallied around her and her friends have been generous to the point of tears.  She has been overwhelmed by the generosity and thanks you for your 'pay-it-forward' attitude to help.  Some of you she knows very well.  She will thank you and hold you in person.  Some of you she knows only as an acquaintance.  She will still thank you and hold you in person. Others of you she knows not at all, but she will hold you in her heart and thank you for your generous donation.


Keep up to date on fundraising events at her Face Book page: Patty's Plan for MDS

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Liz Shanley Miller 
Shelton, CT
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