My sister JoJo was diagnosed several years ago with stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma. She was barely fifty years old.
JUST KIDDING JOJO!
She wasn't even 40 years old.
Jo was the youngest sister and I never let her forget it. As children, I would tell Jo I was older and thus smarter than her, but I don't think she ever believed me. We fought hard; hair pulling, name calling, kicking, spitting, you know, the usual girl stuff. But then we played hard too; trike rides, playing dress-up, racing barefoot on gravel, exploring creeks and barns, and riding minibikes and three wheelers. (Clearly this was years before computers and video games).
We became adults and continued to fight a little and play a lot and laugh even more. My sister is the funniest person I know.
One day Jo called me at my job in Iowa City and said she had a lump in her armpit and was going to get it checked out. We joked about shaving armpits and infected hair follicles. I never thought for a moment it could be cancer.
When the diagnosis came, the treatment started immediately.
Because her cancer was late stage and aggressive, the first treatment did not do much and almost killed her. Meanwhile the cancer continued to spread.
After a second unsuccessful treatment, she went to Mayo Clinic.
At Mayo, JoJo underwent a radical treatment that eliminated the cancer only temporarily (and again almost took her life) which was a miracle unto itself. It was at that point, Jo's doctor said she needed a bone marrow transplant and if she didn't get one, within three months her cancer would "come rip-roaring back, even more aggressive than before" and they didn't think there would be much hope for treatment.
My siblings and I were tested for a bone marrow match before they went to the national bone marrow registry.
I was the only match and they called it a "perfect match" as they needed 3 of 6 factors to match in order to do a transplant and my blood matched all 6.
Jo has a quick, sharp wit and is usually the funniest person in the room. She never lost her sense of humor during this whole terrible ordeal. In fact, she became funnier.
She consistently had her doctors in stitches, the nurses laughing out loud, the receptionists smiling, and random strangers in the elevator giggling as they exited. People did not expect a woman with a bald head, bloated body and dark rings under her eyes to be so positive and friendly and funny. But she was. Nobody was safe from her infectiousness.
Donating bone marrow is no big deal, seriously. I would encourage anybody who is thinking about donating, DO IT! I had to go up to Mayo a week before Jo's transplant, get one shot a day for five days in my stomach which never even hurt, you couldn't feel it. I antiqued, read, shopped, walked, and ate at some good restaurants the rest of the day. The day Mayo had set up for me to donate, I sat in a room on a bed with a tv and snacks while they put a needle thing in each arm, started the machine and for five hours one day and two hours the next, they got the "gold standard" of stem cells, enough for the transplant and then some. Didn't hurt a bit.
The next day, my sister had her body drained of all her marrow and the day after that my marrow was transplanted in.
And this is how strong my sister is. That girl exceeded all milestones immediately. She survived the transplant. The marrow took immediately. Her numbers climbed rapidly. Any milestone set was crashed through immediately by her. She was required to stay in the city of Rochester, Minnesota for six weeks, the average amount of time needed for a transplant patient. The doctors released her from Rochester on the 7th day, that's how high her numbers were.
Jo has been clean for over six years and her fabulous doctor at Mayo told her she is no longer in need of their services but for a yearly checkup now. She was sure glad her doctor broke up with her :):):)
So she wrote me a check for six million dollars. And then told me not to cash it.
That's okay, I didn't NEED the six million dollars anyway. What's important is that I still have my sister here to torture with my older and wiser unsolicited advice and she still has me here to crack funny on.
To learn more about being a
bone marrow donor and
possibly saving a life,visit