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This past month I was honored to be a speaker at the City of Hope’s ‘Spirit Of Life’ event in San Francisco. Contributions of over $150,000 were generously donated in a single evening, and the event raised almost $1 million overall.
700 people including representatives from Nibbi came in support of California’s leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
My story is a testament to the remarkable work at City of Hope and I am pleased to share it with you.
In the fall of 2006, I was diagnosed with fourth stage follicular lymphoma by my local doctor and was immediately started on chemotherapy and direct spinal injections which over the course of six months was successful at achieving a complete remission. Unfortunately within a few months, a PET scan showed that my disease had returned.
After all close relatives proved to be unsuitable for stem cell donation, an unrelated donor was sought from the Be the Match Registry, but none could immediately be found.
My only alternative at the time was to be my own donor in a procedure known as an autologous bone marrow transplant.
I underwent a preparatory chemotherapy regime over the next few months and my transplant was performed in 2007 at Stanford Hospital. I spent months recovering in an isolation ward until my immunity reached a point that I could be released to further recover at home.
Six months after the transplant, a noticeable lump appeared on my left arm and a PET scan showed that my disease had once again returned. A search was again started and my cancer was kept in check with maintenance chemotherapy, while I waited to find a match.
For two years the search went on but no donor could be found. The future was uncertain on how much more treatment my body could withstand. Life went on, but my hopes were few. Then in 2009, I received the call of my life from City of Hope. They had a close match for a transplant from the recent birth of two boys. When they were born, their mothers donated the umbilical cord blood to the Public Bank.
I immediately flew down to Southern California to have additional tests performed and to meet the doctors, nurses and staff who would be saving my life as one of the first hundred adult patients to receive a Dual Cord Blood Transplant at City of Hope.
I was admitted to City of Hope a week later and preparatory chemotherapy and full body radiation were administered. For the fourth time my hair fell out and my determination returned. Once again I found myself in an isolation ward, a port in my chest and pumps at my side.
I fought a tough battle, complications were many, and the days in the hospital grew to triple digits, but I had engrafted at day 21 and my “Little Donor” was fast at work building a new me. Just this last March I celebrated my 7th year of continued remission.
I encourage you all to join the bone marrow registry, the life you could possibly save is your genetic twin! Visit: bit.ly/BeTheMatchDonor
Erik Hansen is Nibbi’s Senior Project Manager at Alice Griffith and joined Nibbi in April this year.