In May 2016 I was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia called MDS (myleodysplastic syndrome}. Prior to being diagnosed, my only health complaints were a random onset of what felt like asthma attacks during my cycling classes (the only reason I went to the doctor), feeling very tired, and not always thinking clearly. I was told that if I did not begin treatment right away I would have two years to live. I’m a 41-year-old mother of a 9-year-old and 5-year-old (and wife to an amazing husband), so my only true option was to begin treatment.
After being presented with treatment options, we opted for an intensive round of in-patient chemotherapy of which I underwent in June 2016 and managed symptoms in July, 2016. During my initial diagnosis I learned that I would eventually need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. This would be my only hope of a cure. We immediately started research to learn about how matches were found and I discovered that because I am a person with a mixed race and ethnic background (African American, Filipino and White) I would have a difficult time finding a full donor match.
My twin brother wasn’t a match and there were only two likely matches in the registry but both declined. We moved forward with an alternative stem cell transplant using donated umbilical cord blood on September 21, 2016. The stem cell transplant engrafted and I’ll have my one year celebration Sept 21st, 2017.
I am a professor of sociology and teach about social stratification, inequality, and racial outcomes in institutional processing. I research class and racial differences in criminal justice processing and outcomes. I am the daughter of a Black and Filipino man, wife to a Black man, sister to Black men, and mother of a Black son and daughter. I live in the United States and, as many of us know, understand the racial inequalities in our broader society. Many times I feel overwhelmed about the lack of ability to make institutional differences, be it in our systems of education, criminal justice and health care.
I take every opportunity I have to spread the word about the need for communities of color to get registered. We had seven drives in four different cities last October to spread the word with Be The Match. In spite of the inequality we see in society, when we register for the bone marrow registry we can save the lives of people diagnosed with cancer, sickle cell anemia and a host of other diseases. We can cure ourselves by ourselves.