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Three Bone Marrow Transplants in One Family: A Struggle to Overcome the Impact of Cancer


By Lauren Smith, proservecharity@gmail.com

Ten years ago, our youngest son, Gabriel, had a bone marrow transplant due to being born with a rare disease, aplastic anemia. Immediately after he was born, we were flown to St. Louis to get treatment for him. We were blessed to have a 19-year-old donor from Germany. Overall, Gabriel did well with transplant.  A year and a half later, we discovered he had cataracts but otherwise he managed well.

In 2021, I discovered weird red blotches on my arms.  I was a working mom of three and found myself just tryingto minimize and handle it myself.  I took long soaks in the tub thinking it was an irritation of some sort.  One evening my 16-year-old had an earache so I had to take her to urgent care.  I figured while I was there, I might as well show the doctor.  He sent me to the nearest hospital where my platelets were 11,000.  It was discovered that I had leukemia, but they believed it was only in the bone marrow.  I spent 46 days in the hospital receiving chemotherapy.  At the end of the year, I received a bone marrow transplant.  I now have GVHD of the lungs, cataracts and neuropathy.

My other son, Xavier, is four years older than our son Gabriel.  We recently found out that he needs a bone marrow transplant due to having aplastic anemia and bone marrow failure. Despite another major health crisis, my husband says, “this is our third transplant, we will be alright”.

This has been overwhelming for our family.  However, despite the recurring frustration and stress of these experiences, our family tries to stay positive.  I have post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, and many strains trying to juggle what is needed for my family.  However, we try to use our faith and friends to get through.  My husband and I rotate our time at the hospital so I can get some breaks. I journal and focus on taking one step at a time. We use humor when we can.  I like to say my donor must not? have liked chocolate since I no longer love it. I try to spread the word on the importance of signing up for the bone marrow registry as I know how these donors have saved my family. I also wrote a chapter in a book called Embracing the Impacts of Cancer.  I keep trying to help others understand and cope with this challenging process. Day by day, we overcome.

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