I clearly remember lying in bed at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (OHSU) in Portland in the fall of 2009. I had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia weeks earlier.
The doctor just pronounced to my wife and I, “Well, we’ve got you in total remission, now we’ll work on your transplant. It’s a full non-related bone marrow transplant, using stem cells.” He left the room and I looked at my wife and said “What the heck does that mean”?
My name is Bill Meade. I was 59 at that time and was still in somewhat of a shock that “super healthy me” had cancer. The doctors at OHSU were wonderful, gifted people but only had a limited time with each patient. I so wished that I could have spoken with someone who had actually been through all that was ahead of me.
I was unaware, at that time, such groups as the nbmtLINK existed but I vowed that when I got through this I was going to look into that possibility, and help if I could.
I am connected with three cancer organizations now, including the nbmtLINK, as well as my local hospital. I have supported twelve patients in the United States and Canada in the last four years through these groups, talking on the phone and through e-mail.
They all do a great job connecting me with patients who have a similar diagnosis and treatment options. It varies at what stage, if at all, a patient wants to speak with someone who has been through the entire process. Some patients were just diagnosed, some are still waiting for a match.
It’s a gut punch when you are diagnosed. Often, many do not wish to discuss the treatment and future with someone who has been there. However, some do. I have spoken to many and heard a lot of stories. It’s amazing how similar our thoughts, fears and concerns are.
I am fortunate to be here, in Central Oregon, enjoying each and every day with my bride of 47 years and my Goldendoodle of five years. I’m more than willing to discuss my experience.
Note: The nbmtLINK has a free Peer Support On Call program available. This program offers emotional support from trained volunteers who are bone marrow/stem cell transplant survivors, caregivers and donors.