My love for my family isn’t the only thing that helped me fight cancer.
It was August of 2001 and Anna was a kindergarten teacher and a city council member in Tolleson, Arizona. About five weeks into the school year she began getting tired, but that was typical for the beginning of a new school year with everything that has to be done. Anna went to the doctor when the tiredness did not go away, that was when her doctor decided to draw her blood for the first time. After additional blood work at an oncologist’s office Anna was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare form of leukemia.
Anna began treatment with a blood transfusion the next day followed by three weeks of chemotherapy and her first bone marrow transplant on September 10, 2001. Anna’s whole family was tested and luckily both her bother and sister matched. Her hemo-oncologist decided to use her brother because had the same exact blood type and was considered a perfect match.
It was important that Anna found a match within her family. The medical staff told her that finding a donor through the National Bone Marrow Registry would have been more difficult.
“When I was first diagnosed with leukemia, I knew I had to beat it, to be here for my husband and two sons. Lucky for me, the amazing cancer specialists at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix were on my side. Throughout both of my bone marrow transplants, the doctors said they weren’t basing my chance of survival on numbers; they were basing it on me. That’s just the kind of individualized care I needed to give me the strength to get back to my family. There’s no way to describe how truly gifted everyone is at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
In June 2002, Anna’s body started rejecting her transplant. Although it was less than a year since her initial transplant, a new technique utilizing a stem cell transplant, with cells from her brother. On July 23, 2002 Anna began her second journey in her treatment process including chemotherapy again. “I felt I was a young mom, my kids were young, there was no way that I could leave them and stop fighting. Even though I knew that my husband would take care of them or my parents or my extended family, but I think that was the biggest thing keeping me fighting was my kids.”
Anna is doing well today; her and her family has been through a lot since 2002. She has had a few close calls where she got really sick, but she made it though. “Before all of this happened, I never thought I was a strong person… I had to break it into pieces in order to conquer it.”
"I am living proof."