Sunday, February 17, 2013


I have some AMAZING NEWS today!!!

I can now officially say:


Yesterday my counts went WAY up, meaning that my sister’s cells have officially “engrafted” to my bone marrow!! With my white cell counts coming up to an almost normal level, most of the pain and side effects I’ve had have almost magically disappeared and finally left a happy, comfortable Sarah. Today I was talking with my Aunt and said something about me having cancer; she said, “Sweetie, you don’t have cancer anymore.” It totally took me by surprise. I knew I was going to be cancer free after my transplant, but the engraftment makes it official. WOW. Thinking about all I’ve been through since this whole process began, from mid-September to as little as 3 days ago, I can’t believe that I’m moving from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor. The word survivor holds so much meaning for me: it means that I was challenged to fight for the rest of my life, and I not only stepped up to the plate…I WON.

As I lay in my hospital bed with tears of joy but exhaustion from a long and difficult battle, I’m preparing for the last leg of my journey. Although it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I have worked my butt off through this entire transplant. Although I was really sick, in pain, and exhausted from getting chemo and radiation before my transplant, every day on the bone marrow transplant floor I had to meet certain goals: Be out of bed and in a chair for 10 hours a day; eat 1,500 calories a day; exercise 60 minutes a day; and take 2 baths a day. All of these measures are to make sure that patients stay strong during transplant since it’s such a critical time. Staying in bed all day, for example, can very easily cause pneumonia, which could be fatal to someone with low white blood cell counts. While it was extremely difficult to meet all of my goals, I was absolutely determined to get out of this hospital as soon as possible. In order to be discharged from the hospital, the nurses had to have charted that I was accomplishing all my daily tasks no matter how high my counts were. My doctor estimated about 2 weeks from transplant until I could leave, but my social worker warned me that most people take 3-4 weeks to reach the eating and exercise goals. However, my doctor told me I was ready to leave on DAY 12 after transplant!!! I had worked so hard every day, even when I was feeling sick or in pain, and it ended up paying off. All those prayers for strength and endurance were definitely heard, so thank you for all of you guys who were praying for me! <3

Here are some awesome pictures from the actual transplant:

 My brave little donor who saved my life <3 Love you, Mary!!!

As I said above, I’m now on the homestretch: getting ready for the rest of my 100 days that I’ll spend in an extended-stay hotel. It’s actually a really nice room that’s almost like a little apartment for me! I still have strict rules to follow about diet, exercise, and keeping myself away from germs. However, to me this is like the sprint at the end of a marathon; the finish line is finally in sight. Thoughts of going back to school, going on vacation, or even just little things like going shopping or going out to eat are keeping my head up and becoming more real every day!

Overall right now, life is GOOD. I’m almost pain-free, I’m out of the hospital in just a day or two, and I STILL have amazing family and friends supporting me every step of this final sprint. Tonight, I’m praising God and counting my blessings for a successful transplant that is giving me years and years of LIFE and a life that will be lived with more contentment and meaning than I would have found otherwise. “Living life to the fullest” sure does have a whole new meaning to a girl who can now say that she is a SURVIVOR.

Love love love,

P.s. This song was all I could think about while writing this post, so enjoy a little old school Beyonce ;)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hope and pray!

Hi to all of Sarah’s family, friends, and supporters!
This is Sarah’s Mom, providing an update on her progress after the bone marrow transplant, with her permission.  Sarah has not felt up to writing her own blog entry for a little while, so I thought I should let you all know how she has been doing.
As you all know, Monday, February 4 became Sarah’s new birthday!  On that evening, Sarah received the precious stem cells which were harvested over a span of two days from her sister, Mary.  Mary’s courage in undergoing this procedure was remarkable; she had to undergo injections for five days to generate extra cells.  These injections cause muscle and bone pain.  Then Mary had a central line surgically implanted and had to lay still for 8 hours the first day (and about 5 the second) as the apheresis machine did its work.  Mary was the youngest and smallest donor that Loyola has worked with, so she received some extra attention to be sure all went smoothly.
During Mary’s time of injections and preparations, Sarah also garnered lots of courage in enduring four days of twice-daily radiation and then two days of aggressive chemo.  The side effects of these treatments have been difficult for our Tough Cookie.  We liken these days post-transplant to Marine boot camp.  For these weeks, while we wait for Mary’s cells to engraft and Sarah’s counts to recover, Sarah lives on the transplant floor with a challenging regimen of exercise, nutrition, and other requirements, no matter how she feels physically.  No excuses allowed.  Boot camp, indeed…but all designed for a healthy outcome.
It is hoped that within two weeks, this engraftment will occur.  After that, Sarah will begin her 100 days of isolation in a specially-contracted hotel room close by the hospital.  She will continue to maintain the strict protocols for transplant recipients, and spend two days a week back here at Loyola in a special outpatient-type unit.
As you can imagine, it was terribly difficult to watch two of my children suffer through the pre-transplant procedures, as well as the transplant itself.  But the strength that comes from watching the kind of unconditional love to which we all aspire kept me going.  Mary never, ever complained, even once.  Sarah has never, ever told me that this challenge is too hard to overcome.  And we were astonished at what happened on the 4th, transplant day…nearly 1500 people pledged to pray for Sarah that day.  Hundreds prayed and fasted, too, from all faith backgrounds and beliefs.  Many were strangers to us—friends of friends, and some had simply heard Sarah’s story and felt called to lift her up to God.  The Holy Spirit was moving powerfully that day, and we felt it.
And, so, we wait.  We await engraftment.  We wait for Sarah’s counts to rise again, so that her pain will decrease.  As hard as it is, I have learned that waiting is holy.  Waiting forces all of us to look to God’s face for help and hope.  We train our gaze on Him, trusting in the promise of Romans 8:28…that somehow, in some way, good will come from these  experiences.  How about you?  What are you waiting for? What is causing difficulty in your life? God undoubtedly uses suffering to advance the gospel, even when we cannot comprehend it.  We wait, and we trust.
Know that Sarah remains firm in her faith.  Know that your many cards and well wishes have lifted her up on some of her roughest days.  Thank you to her wonderful friend, Megan, who traveled all the way from St. Louis just to be with Sarah on the 4th.  Thanks to all the Kappa Deltas who continue to be such a support to their sorority sis—even sending her the largest teddy bear I have ever seen!  Thanks to all for your love and prayers for our tough cookie.  I’m sure she will be posting soon, when Mary’s cells have found their home in Sarah’s bone marrow.  Hope and pray!
Love, Mrs. W.