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An Interview with a Bone Marrow Donor – Alexis Wismer

14 Aug

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this interview with you today!  A sweet friend, Alexis Wismer, saved someone’s life less than two years ago!  She became a bone marrow donor and was kind enough to answer some questions for us about her experience.

Alexis is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, so it was no surprise to learn that she had been a donor.  The surprising part was learning about it after the fact because she kept it so quiet as to not draw attention to herself.  :)

This is Alexis with two of her very special little friends, Drew and Tess.

Have you ever wondered who needs bone marrow donations?  Patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell, or other life-threatening diseases such as PNH depend on bone marrow donors for life-saving gifts.  The donor needs to be a genetic match, which makes it challenging to find just the right match for each patient – making it all the more important to get as many people on the registry as possible.

At some point in my (hopefully distant) future, it’s possible, as a lymphoma patient,  I might need a bone marrow transplant.  My friend, Dolly’s daughter, Kellie, received a bone marrow transplant from her brother, Kevin five years ago – saving her life.

Bone marrow donation is a critical, life-saving gift that many are eligible to give.  The registration process is fairly simple, and as we’ll learn from Alexis, the donation process was not that difficult, either.  I hope this interview with Alexis will answer some of the questions you might have and motivate you to sign up to become a donor!

Thanks for taking the time to answer these important questions, Alexis!

R: Why did you decide to sign up for the bone marrow donor registry?

Alexis: I was in grad school at Georgia Tech and was spending a day shadowing an alumni of my program at the Children’s Hospital and they were running a bone marrow registry drive that day. We both signed up…

R: Was signing up difficult?  What did the process involve?

Alexis: It only took about 5-10 minutes. There was a little card to fill out with contact info and then the cheek swab. That’s it! (There is a even a mail order registry kit online http://marrow.org/Join/Join_Now/Join_Now.aspx)

R: How long were you on the registry before you received notification of a potential match?

Alexis: Probably 3-4 years

R: When were you notified of a potential match?

Alexis: February 2010.

R: Do you know anything about your recipient?  Have you ever met or talked to him/her?

Alexis: Other than knowing she is a female in her 60’s. (If I’m remembering correctly, she is out of the country which prohibits further information from being disclosed.)

R: Did you have to go through additional testing to determine if you were a good match for the recipient?  Can you explain what that involved?

Alexis: There were a few blood tests and a day of getting checked out by lots of different doctors, but they coordinate and handle all the details. You just show up. Since I had to travel to Emory in ATL, they even put me up in a hotel the night before since my appt was in the morning.

R: Once they determined you were a match, tell us about the process?  How long did it take?  What kind of pre-donation steps did you have to take?

Alexis: It moved pretty quickly once the first blood test confirmed I was a match. I had a full day of doctor’s appts and then a couple weeks later started the four days of injections to boost my bone marrow and then I spent a day in Atlanta for the actual procedure.

R: What was the actual marrow donation process like?  Can you explain to us how it works now as I think the process has changed through the years.

Alexis: They did not have to drill into my hip so it actually wasn’t very painful! They are now using peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical, in most cases. According to the bone marrow registry “There can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects of donating PBSC. Due to taking a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation, PBSC donors may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue. PBSC donors are typically back to their normal routine in one to two days.”

I never had much pain leading up to it. You are hooked up to machine for about 4 hours where they take blood out of one arm, run it through a machine to separate out the stem cells and then put it back in your other arm. It started to get a little uncomfortable at the end with the big needles in your arms (and you obviously can’t move really). But I drove home from Atlanta that afternoon and was back at work the next morning.

R: Was the donation procedure painful?

Alexis: Not really. Just a little uncomfortable. :)

R: Do you hope to meet the person who received your donation?

Alexis: It would be nice, but I think given the restrictions with out of country donations, the chances of it actually happening are slim to none.

R: Would you do it again for this person or someone else, if necessary?

Alexis: Yes!

R: What would say to anyone considering signing up for the bone marrow registry?

Alexis: It takes about 5 minutes to just sign up and you never know whom you might be a match for. And even once you are match, they continually give you the option stop at any point in the process if you change your mind and don’t want to go through with the donation. They don’t pressure you at all.

The following shows a timeline of how things progressed once Alexis was notified she was a match thru the date of her donation:

February 1: Email (and I’m sure a phone call, too) notifying me that I was a potential match.
February 2: Health History & Consent Forms
February 8: Blood drawn
April 30: Email notifying me I am a match for the recipient
May 14: Physical Exam in Atlanta – lab, xrays, ekg
May 26: LabCorp
June 3: First Injection (in Atlanta)
June 4: Second Injection (at home)
June 5: Third Injection (at home)
June 6: Fourth Injection (at home)
June 7: Bone Marrow Donation

To learn more or sign up to be a bone marrow donor, visit The National Marrow Donor Program.

Promise me you’ll consider becoming a donor.  Be The One to Save a Life!
♥ Rachel

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[Guest Post]: The Inspiring Tara Shemo Wallace

11 May

I am so happy to bring you a guest post by one of my newest friends, Tara.  She’s a Kentucky girl which made me love her instantly since my family’s roots are in that beautiful state.  Tara is the author of the fabulous blog, Created to Be Beautiful, which is an inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting expression of her faith.  Her life story includes struggles and challenges, but she looks for the beauty in the every day and strives to continue to be the woman God made her to be.  I believe she succeeds beautifully.

The Heavy Sword

There are many times I have not understood God… many times I have felt His Words were contradictory.

Over the last three years I have been in a spiritual battle within my family. I have felt the attack in every area of my life; from my marriage, to my children, to my finances, to my very life on this earth…. Some days, I am just very exhausted.

Oh, there have been many, many victories!! God’s hands have literally carried us through each and every day. It is amazing to look back through my journals and remember all that He has done… I am overwhelmed!

But there are still times when I do not understand Him.

For us Christians, we truly believe in the One: The Almighty God. We truly believe in Jesus: God in the flesh that died upon a cross to save us from our sins, and then three days later rose from the grave. We also truly believe that God the Spirit lives within us, helping to guide us and lead us through this earthly journey called life.

So if we believe this to be true, then we also have to believe there is a darkness; an enemy of our souls… the enemy of our Creator. This enemy engages us Christians in a spiritual battle; he wants to steal, kill and destroy our lives here on earth, as he knows the end result: Our God Wins!

I have felt this battle. I have literally felt this darkness….

I have looked to God, to His army of Angels to help me engage and stand strong.

The battle has been fierce… it has been exhausting. I have enlisted many prayer warriors… I have prayed many prayers, and believed many scriptures.

We are told in Ephesians 6 that we are to suit up, put on our armor and fight this battle. So I have picked up my sword… I have fought and will continue to fight.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

But then I grow tired, and God tells me to rest.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Hmmm….

Do I fight?

Or do I rest?

Then I read to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

So I pray….

But then I feel I am just rambling to God and I read, “Be still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10)

Hmmm….

Do I pray continually?

Or should I just be still and listen?

So I have debated with God over the last few years about this….

I want to fight, but my sword gets heavy; very heavy…. So I need to rest.

I want to pray and continually talk with God, but my prayers seem repetitive; I have poured out my heart through words and tears for years… so sometimes I just need to be quiet.

It sounds like God is contradicting Himself….

But I have come to a place where I now think differently. I think God meets us right where we are! Whether it is a season in our lives, a bad week we are having, or maybe it is just a weak moment… He meets us wherever we happen to be.

There are times in our lives when the battle is fierce and God empowers us. Not only can we carry our swords, we are ready to rage into battle and “slay that dragon.” So God gives us strength, boldness, courage and energy. We feel that extra spring in our step and we know “we can do all things through Him who gives us strength” (Philippians 4:13). Those are the good days.

But there are times in our lives when we feel weak, weary… exhausted. Not only can we no longer fight the battle, we seem to just be dragging our swords behind us. And you know what? God meets us right there, too! He beckons us, “Come to Me”… “I will give you rest”! He holds us, He refreshes us, He wipes away our battle sweat and tears…. He nourishes our weary souls. Those are also the good days.

There are times when we are constantly in prayer. All day our lips are full of praises to Him… words and prayers are being spoken with ease. He is our Father and our Best Friend as we engage in continuous conversation. Our spirits are lifted and we easily find the gratitude to bestow praises unto Him. Again, those are the good days.

But then there are those times when we feel we have said all we can say. How many times do we have to say the same prayers for the same requests… for how many years? We probably sound like broken records. Does He ever get tired of our voice? Of our asking? So we just keep quiet…. Instead, we silence the tongue and just listen. We listen for Him. We shut out the distractions of our own voice, of our own wants and requests, and we just enjoy being quiet before the Almighty. He has so much to say to us, but many times we are talking a mile a minute and we can not hear Him. Most of the time, God speaks in whispers…. When we are silent, those whispers can be heard loud and clear. Those are the great days!

Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God’s voice is its most essential part. Listening to God’s voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine. – Andrew Murray

So where are you today? Are you in a fierce raging battle within your own life? Have you put on your armor and engaged in battle? Or are you weary today… not even sure if you can take that next step or breath? Are you constantly praying and presenting your requests before God? Or are you taking time to be still and listen?

Wherever you are at this moment (and remember, it could change tomorrow)… just rest assured that He will meet you right where you are!

He gives strength to the weary. He gives wisdom. He gives guidance. He heals. He restores. He refreshes. He listens. He speaks. He gives. He allows. He rescues. He forgives. He loves. He promises and is faithful. He makes all things new and beautiful. He is all we need…. no matter where we are. He helps us carry the sword!

May you find the beauty in today,
Tara ♥

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

~ Leave me a comment, I would love to read YOUR thoughts~♥

Recent entries from my gratitude journal: (to read more about this, click here)

96. Geese swimming on pond
101. Gifts unexpected!
107. Life experiences… helping to prepare me for the future
112. Beautiful daughter on 17th birthday
117. Barefoot baby walking on sidewalk… hand tightly in mine

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Thank you so much, Tara, for sharing your heart with us today!  If you would like to check out Tara’s blog, you can find her here.

It’s Friday, folks!  Have a great one and a terrific weekend!
♥ Rachel

[Guest Post]: The Amazing Sarah Lawhorn

4 May

I am tickled, thrilled, excited, and overjoyed to bring you a guest post today by my good friend, Sarah Lawhorn.  Sarah writes about her life, her family (and her sweet baby, Jackson!), her faith, her job, and her Tennessee Vols (ick!) at The Blog Formerly Known as the OG Daily News.  That’s quite a title, huh?  Prior to yesterday, the title of her blog was The Oooey Gooey Daily News, but after being notified this week that she was infringing on someone’s copyright (who knew??), she had to change it.  She’s in the process of looking for a new title for her blog, so if you have any great suggestions, pass them along.  She’s having a contest to select the best name.

Jason, Sarah, and Jackson Lawhorn

Thanks Rachel for asking me to guest post today! Rachel and I work for the same company and have become wonderful friends during the 4 years I’ve been there. Although we have our differences (really just our choice of football teams), we are kindred spirits in so many ways! I am so thankful for her friendship and that I get to know her in REAL LIFE!

The story I wanted to share with you all today is about a big blessing in disguise that God used in my life at work.

A little over two years ago I was about to get married and had made the decision to go back to school to get my MBA. My company has a program where they will reimburse you for your tuition based on your grades, and then you have to commit to working for at least a full year after you complete your degree. Sweet deal, right?

My soon-to-be-hubby was also in MBA school and we would be able to take classes together! Perfect! I had already signed up for school and been accepted; the only thing standing in my way was approval from the “powers that be,” which would certainly be no big deal.

Welllllllll… the “powers that be” felt like getting married, moving to a new house, and starting grad school all at once while working full time would not be best for me, so they wouldn’t approve the reimbursement program. I was CRUSHED!! I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t able to do what I had planned, and was bitter about it for a quite a while.

In October of 2010 (a little over a year later), we found out that we were expecting our first child in July 2011! This was quite the surprise but such a HUGE BLESSING!! After being pregnant for a while, the hubs and I started conversations about whether I would go back to work full time after having the baby. We never seemed to be on the same page and I would ask God all the time “What do You have planned for us? I just want to KNOW!!” (Here’s the story with ALL the details, in case you are a details person.)

July 1st came rolling around and our sweet precious Jackson Dean (Jack) was born! He is truly the biggest BLESSING we have ever experienced. I could go on and on… (and I do on my blog!) but to get back to the original story – We never dreamed we would be starting a family so soon, it just wasn’t in “our plan.” But the Lord’s plans are so much better than anything we could put together.

And you know what? If I had gone back to school, I would have been right in the middle of the program when we had Jack. And I would have either had to pay back all my tuition OR continue to work full time and go to night classes and THEN work another year full time after graduating to have the company pay for it! What a MESS that would have been because – let’s face it – I couldn’t bear to be away from the little guy for 8 hours a day, much less 2-3 more for classes each night! Yikes!!

So even though I was heartbroken, bitter, confused, and even angry about the decision that the “powers that be” made 2+ years ago, it was a BLESSING IN DISGUISE because the Lord knew that He had bigger and better things for me coming sooner than I would have ever imagined!

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I just love Sarah to pieces. She has such a sweet spirit and I treasure our friendship. Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your heart with us today!  Be sure to hop over to Sarah’s blog and let her know how much we loved her post today!

Have a beautiful weekend, friends!
♥ Rachel

[Guest Post] by Florence from Perks of Cancer

24 Feb

Today, we have a very special post written by Florence from the Perks of Cancer blog.  We don’t often associate cancer and perks, but Florence does a nice job of finding the unique little benefits of having cancer such as getting to ride shotgun or watching Mama Mia as many times as she wants.  :)   She asked me to write a post for her blog and my only request was that she do the same for us.  Her positive attitude is infectious and I think you will really enjoy what she is sharing with us today about her precious autistic son, Ben.  Thank you so much, Flo, for sharing your story with us!

I would like to thank Rachel for the opportunity to guest blog on her wonderful site.  Rachel and I are kindred spirits in many ways:  we both have cancer, we both blog about cancer and we both have chosen to approach cancer with a positive attitude.

My name is Florence.  I am a mother, a daughter, a “significant other”, a friend, and a Psychologist.  In April, 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.  Following the initial shock, grief, and anger of my diagnosis, I came to an important realization.  It came to me as I was lying in bed after a particularly difficult chemo treatment, thinking, “WHY ME?  I am a good person, I take care of my body, heck, I even re-cycle and compost!  Why has God inflicted me with this disease?  It is so unfair.”  The thought suddenly came to me that I am not going to help myself recover by wallowing in anger and self pity.  Joy, love, laughter, and happiness are all healing vibrations, and that is where I need to spend my time. So I decided to focus on the positive aspects of having cancer.  I issued myself a challenge to find 100 Perks of Having Cancer, (www.perksofcancer.com)  and I am more than halfway there!  Below is one of those perks:

Perk # 28:  Cancer Has Revealed To Me A Whole New Side Of My Autistic Son

My six year old son, Ben, has Autism. While he is bright, his verbal skills are very limited. Generally, he talks only enough to express his basic needs. At this point, meaningful conversation with Ben is not possible. While he says very little, Ben recently learned to use the computer to express himself. Several times since I have been diagnosed with cancer, he has surprised me by bringing me type written notes (done without prompting) with messages like: “Dear Mom, you are nice” and “Dear Mom, I love you.” Sometimes I will find his notes lying around the house, with messages such as, “Mom is sick”, or “Mom is hurt.”

On a rare occasion, Ben will catch me off guard by speaking a full, meaningful sentence. Never was I more surprised than one night while putting him to bed, when he said to me, “Good night. Guardian angels watch over you and protect you.” Some might say he was just echoing something he had heard me say a hundred times before. True. But the miraculous part is that it is the one and only time I heard him speak those words, and it happened to be on the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ben may look like he is “in a world of his own”, but these gestures prove to me that he is a sensitive boy who is very much aware of what is happening in my world.

You can find other Perks at my site: www.perksofcancer.com

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Thank you so much, Flo, for this beautiful post.  If you are reading this today, I would love it if you would leave a comment for her, either here or on her site, with a word of encouragement as she continues to be a warrior and fight cancer.  You all have been such an encouragement to me – I know she would appreciate your kind words, too.
♥ Rachel