I gave birth to my second daughter in September 2019. My older daughter was two at the time, so when I noticed I felt tired all the time, I assumed it was from having two young kids. But my belly wouldn’t go down, and when I went to my six-week post-partum check-up, my OB could feel my liver. I had an ultrasound, which showed my liver and spleen were massive, and I had a lot of fluid in my stomach. I was then sent to the ER, and they noticed my heart was a little enlarged. They brought in all these different doctors—the liver specialist was sure it was my heart, and the heart specialist was sure it was my liver. I was discharged without a diagnosis, but my bloodwork was sent off to hematology, just to check off all the boxes. A couple weeks later, they told me I had plasma cell leukemia.
I was referred to Dr. Patel-Donnelly; we knew people in healthcare in the area, and they all spoke very highly of her. I saw her two days after being referred, and right away she knew I needed a stem cell transplant, but I wasn’t ready for that. She came up with a plan to admit me to the hospital to start chemotherapy first. In August of 2020, I had my stem cell transplant.
When you Google plasma cell leukemia, it doesn’t look good. I didn’t want to look things up after that. I told my nurse navigator, Jennifer Ward, that I didn’t want to know the prognosis. I didn’t want to know the long term, I wanted to focus on what was happening right in the moment. She was great—she would tell me what we were going to do, and I trusted her.
My family and my faith were a great support system during treatment. My family helped with my girls a lot while I was at the hospital, and while I was in Baltimore receiving my transplant. I was already religious, but I leaned on my faith a lot. My grandma had all these healing scriptures she gave before I went to the hospital the first time. It helped me stay positive.
Beginning treatment while I was breastfeeding my nine week older daughter was a stressful time, this meant I would have to stop something so important to me. However, knowing I was in good hands, and trusting it was the right thing to do made it easier. I just had to trust that I would be fine, and I would be around to see my girls grow up.
I’m really honored to be an ambassador for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society® (LLS). I did the Light the Night fundraising in 2021 and was proud of the amount I was able to raise, but I still wanted to do more. I had been a runner before, so I thought I’d try my first marathon!
I ran at a marathon held at Walt Disney World, on a team for LLS. I started training in April of 2022, and I went slowly. They gave me a training plan, and I worked on it along with my friend Kelsey—having someone with you is a lot more helpful than just running alone.
It was an incredible weekend. I was asked to speak at the LLS rally before the race—there were about 500 people there, which was both terrifying and amazing! The day of the actual race felt like Christmas morning. The race begins at five in the morning, but I was up by two because of all the excitement. I finished the race in five hours and 45 minutes. I was really emotional, which was hard, because you have to breathe a certain way when you’re running!
Being able to raise that money for such a good cause was wonderful. But there are a lot of people who would love to be able to run, or even just walk, but are too sick to be able to. It wasn’t long ago that I wasn’t able to, but I can now. I did it because I was able to, and that felt amazing.