Occasionally I invite other stem cell transplant patients to tell their story about their specific blood cancer, treatment, recovery, and hopes and dreams for their future. You may wonder where I meet these other blood cancer and stem cell transplant survivors – at Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic of Georgia, of course! This week’s post is about Mabel Barba, a 31-year-old mom, and life partner.
Like other patients diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia), most people don’t know they have this blood cancer brewing in their circulatory system until an annual physical or symptoms are so severe to seek medical attention. Meet Mabel Barba and her family.
“Blessed in every way, my personal and professional lives were very busy and productive. I’ve been married since 2015 to Leandro and in 2017 we welcomed our only daughter, Maya. I was always on the go, especially since my career was gaining momentum, until one day in December 2018 I woke up thinking I had a really bad cold. A trip to the ER confirmed I had pneumonia and a compromised immune system. My bone marrow was producing immature white cells (cells that make up the immune system) and not enough red blood cells or platelets. I was admitted to the hospital immediately, the doctors suspecting I had a type of blood cancer. After a bone marrow biopsy, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia is an emergency blood cancer that requires immediate aggressive chemotherapy.
I was referred to The Blood Marrow Transplant Group of Georgia at Northside Hospital Atlanta, GA where I started my first chemotherapy treatment. Three different chemotherapy drugs were used to clear the immature cells and to reset my bone marrow.
Cytogenetic testing showed I had two mutations. One of the mutations puts me at risk of relapse in less than 3 years with a 20-30% survival. Therefore, my best treatment plan is a Bone Marrow Transplant to produce a brand new immune system.
I lost two potential donors just as we were starting treatment for stem cell collection. The pain of this heartbreak was unbearable, but I had to stay strong to undergo more chemotherapy to keep leukemia away while I waited for my donor. The fear of death doesn’t compare to the fear of not seeing my daughter grow up. Now, I am determined to heal and raise awareness on the urgent need to register as a Bone Marrow Donor and actually go through with the donation process. The fear and misconception of donating bone marrow should not be a reason not to help someone get a second chance at life.
After I heal completely, my plan is to go back to work and back to training Jiu-jitsu and Capoeira. I also plan to be very involved with Be The Match to expand the registry of Bone Marrow Donors. Most importantly, I plan to spend more quality time with my husband and daughter.”
Everyone has hopes and dreams that are waiting to be fulfilled. Some of us, like Beth Wilson, Mabel Barba and myself as well as many others would not be here without the life-saving treatment of a stem cell/bone marrow transplant. Our hopes and dreams would have ended with our deaths. But, because of Be The Match and volunteer donors, we have been given the ultimate gift – a second chance at life, to give back, to make a difference, and to continue our life as we envision.
I’m sure many of you heard the news about the New Jersey principal at a high school died while donating stem cells by way of bone marrow biopsy. That was April 2019. Upon hearing the news, I immediately thought the principle had an underlying medical condition to cause coma and death during stem cell harvesting procedure. You see, stem cell collection is very low risk. If there are side effects, it would be a small infection at the IV or hip site and minor flu-like symptoms. Upon further investigation, police learned the school principle died from the anesthesia given him for stem cell collection via bone marrow biopsy. 80% of the time, stem cell collection is done peripherally, i.e., from the arm similar to an IV or from the subclavian vein through a catheter.
Do not let the above story about the school principle deter you from donating stem cells to save someone’s life. Be The Match registration process is simple, convenient and so easy…click here for the step-by-step instructions.
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Be The Match, bethematch.org