After only a few months of being in "remission," I found another lump. I instantly called my surgeon and then told the oncologist to tell him because he wanted to wait, but I had a bad feeling. January 2010 I was in for surgery again finding out the same news as the year before, but this time they sent me to Roswell Park Cancer Institute because my cancer came back so soon. I was told I needed a few months of inpatient chemo and then a stem cell transplant. My first meeting with BMT doctor he said at least 20 times if I didn't do this and this.. I would die. Of course I was scared out of my mind thinking of my little baby girl.
April 20th 2010, I had an autologous stem cell transplant where they used my own cells for it. I spent 35 days in the hospital. I was sent home the day before Mother's Day because I refused to spend Mother's Day in the hospital. The next few months were very hard, but thankfully my mom and friends were there to help me. We all celebrated my one year from transplant thinking that I'd made it through it all, but in October 2011 I was having pains in my lower ribs on my left side. I went to my regular doctor and they had set up for an ultra sound a week away. My mother didn't want me to wait, so she insisted that I called Roswell. Of course that night they set up a CT immediately. I had the results the next day that I had a tumor in my lungs. They weren't sure if it was Hodgkin's or not, so I was sent to see a surgeon who then sent me to have surgery just few days later.
While in surgery the surgeon came out asking my mother to make a quick but important decision to take out the lower part of my left lung because the tumor was so big. While they were trying to take out the portion of my lung, they noticed diseased lymph nodes under lung so they took those instead of my lung (thankfully). So, then I was told I needed more chemo and another stem cell transplant, but this time from a donor. I did 6 rounds of chemo, which I was extremely allergic to, so I had to have a lot of premeds to help stop the reactions. During all the chemo they needed to find a donor for the stem cells. My sister Veronica immediately said she would get tested. They told us not to get our hopes up because there was only 25% chance she would be my match, but I knew she would be. It took two weeks to get the results. The night before I got the call I prayed for my dad to do what he had to, to make sure she was my match. 10am the next morning I got the call that not only was she my match, but she was a perfect 6 out of 6 match.
In March of 2012, Veronica and her family traveled to New York from Tennessee so that she could donate her cells to me. At the beginning of April I was admitted into the hospital to receive chemo and radiation, (which I was told by radiation doctor that I'd pretty much be dead for a day) so I made my mother and my boyfriend Jeff take shifts that day to make sure I was ok. April 10th 2012, I received my sister's cells. I will forever remember the amazing selfless gift my sister gave me, and again this time I spent 30+ days in the hospital and was sent home a few days before Mother's Day so I could spend the day at home with my daughter. The next few months were rough. I ended up losing 50 pounds from not eating much because I got graft vs. host disease where my cells were fighting my sister's cells.
Between my family, my amazing friends, my loving daughter and my amazing boyfriend, (now fiancé) I was able to make it to 100 days from transplant. I was very weak for a long time, and when I went for my day 100 tests they found out cancer was back again for the 4th time, so I had to go back on the chemo I was allergic to, but this time the premedication they were giving me before wasn't enough so I needed 6 different medications which caused me to have amnesia for 24hours.
In February/March I was sent for a chest CT which came back that cancer was gone, but I was going to continue on chemo until the 16th treatment, which after that they would give me more of my sister's cells to help fight any leftover cancer cells. I was up to almost 12 treatments and my whole body started to swell and muscles caused so much pain. Walking has been a chore and I've had to use pain medication every day to dull the pain so I can just get through the day. My oncologist stopped treatment in case that was the cause of all this pain. My transplant doctor decided to then send me for a pet scan and CT scan to see if cancer was still gone so that I could get my sisters cells soon. The scans came back showing the cancer was back for the now 5th time, but they wanted to make sure it was cancer and not graft vs host disease, so I had to have another surgery so that they could biopsy the lymph nodes. It came back as cancer, but this time they found out that my cancer is attached to my Epstein Barr virus. So, after meeting with the transplant team my doctor told me he knew a doctor in Houston, Texas that has a treatment where she takes donor cells that have been exposed to EBV, then take those cells, grow them for few months, and then give them to cancer patient to help attack cancer cells. They then had to test my sister's blood to see if she's been exposed to EBV, which they say 90% of people have been. I was still worried, but shortly after, I got the news that she was exposed so she was again a match for donation.
Now as I wait through the next few months for her cells to grow, I am on a new chemo and a chemo pill. Trying to stay positive and pray that I can get to Texas and that the treatment will work, so my now almost 5 year old daughter can finally see her mom healthy. I'm just taking everything day by day, waiting for the call to go to Texas...
Please come visit www.facebook.com/groups/raffleforvanessa for more ways to help reach my goal! Thank you!
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