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.