Stephen’s medical journey began, he says, “with a shocking diagnosis of leukemia. I was then a 47-year-old, aging baby boomer who had just been told he had a symptomless yet deadly blood disease. I couldn’t even spell the word, but “leukemia” came with its own unique good news/bad news scenario. CML is a chronic, less aggressive, slowly-developing cancer … possibly even curable back then with a bone marrow transplant. But 18 months of treatments later, my chemotherapy suddenly stopped working and I found myself in urgent need of a stem cell transplant.
“An only child with no siblings as possible marrow donors and time running out, I would need to find a matched unrelated donor in order to proceed to transplant … the only option left for me. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a suitable marrow match in any donor registry. I was sent home and told to get my affairs in order. But miracles … if you believe in them … started happening. And more than just one.”
“Somehow, I ended up in the right place at the right time to become one of the very first 'full-sized' adult patients to participate in a clinical trial using stem cells from umbilical cord blood instead of bone marrow for my transplant. A generous mother had decided to do what very few moms were doing ten years ago. She consented to donate her newborn daughter’s cord blood to one of the very few public cord blood banking programs in the country. That single donation proved to be my one … my only … stem cell match. And not just a good match … a perfect one.”
“Without that mother and her now ten-year-old daughter, my story would be quite different. So life is good once again. A different, much better life, filled with new appreciations and priorities and a daily opportunity to smell roses, count blessings, watch two children marry and prosper, and pal around with three growing grandsons to share the joys of life. And all because of some anonymous mother and her daughter, who will never have any idea what they’ve done for me and my family.”