In 1989 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was 29 years old, five months pregnant and had a two-year-old daughter. I had a grapefruit size tumor attached to my lung and my doctors planned to prolong my pregnancy by giving me half the radiation they would normally use to shrink the tumor. I gave birth three weeks early and began chemotherapy immediately. I was treated for six months, all while caring for a newborn and toddler.
The tumor shrank but then began to grow in another area so I was told I needed a bone marrow transplant to save my life. I was directly admitted into the transplant unit where I remained for seven weeks. I had a great support system, with my husband visiting daily and other family members as well, but not seeing my children for over a month was extremely difficult. I was a young mom and could not imagine my daughters possibly growing up without a mother.
While being treated at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, Christina Merrill, now the founder and Executive Director of The Bone Marrow Foundation, was my social worker. Christina’s visits helped me get through the seven weeks inpatient and I continued to see her during my outpatient clinic visits as well.
It has been 26 years since my transplant and I am feeling great! My daughters Shari, 29, and Michelle, 26, are amazing and my husband Andy is now a trustee of the Foundation. I was a dental hygienist for 30 years and retired in 2014. Since retiring, I have been volunteering at the Foundation and it has been great for me to be able to help support an organization that is so meaningful to me and to my family.
As I read the hundreds of patient applications each week requesting support for caregiver expenses, lodging near the hospital, transportation, food, insurance co-pays and other financial needs, I am grateful the Foundation is able to assist them and their families during such a difficult time in their lives. Volunteering at The Bone Marrow Foundation is so rewarding for me, especially knowing the time I invest allows the Foundation to help more patients who are struggling.