I just celebrated the 5th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant, and I can’t believe it’s been 5 years. In some ways, it feels like yesterday, but in other ways, it seems like forever ago when I first learned that I would need a life-saving transplant …
I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in 2007, and I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, which thankfully, resulted in remission. To celebrate the journey and one year of remission, my family and I planned a trip to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We were so excited to celebrate! We planned to leave on a Sunday in June, and I had one more appointment on the Friday before we left. At that appointment, I found out I had relapsed; the leukemia was back. Absolutely devastated, we decided to postpone the trip and start treatment right away instead.
I was evaluated for a bone marrow transplant, and they found a perfect match who was available and willing to donate. By God’s grace, I received my transplant on August 15, 2009. All I knew at that point was that my donor was male, 21 years old, and from another country. I remember writing him a card and sending it through the Be The Match organization to let him know how my recovery was going. Because he was an international donor, we couldn’t exchange information for two years. After two long years of anonymous letters, my donor Johannes and I were able to learn each other’s names and locations. We immediately made contact and began emailing. It was so incredible to be able to talk with the man who saved my life! How could I even begin to put my gratitude into words?!
My family and I decided to re-schedule the trip we had postponed for summer 2012, and we couldn’t wait to finally go – we had so much more to celebrate! That trip was symbolic of God’s healing and grace, and it became even more significant when Johannes and his dad agreed to meet us in London to spend a few days together.
It was an experience of a lifetime! There I was, sitting in a London pub, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the man who gave me the gift of life. It was so amazing to spend a few days exploring London with Johannes and his dad Bernd. God is so good – He healed me and blessed me with two new family members from Germany. What an incredible gift!
Fast forward three years, a dozen Skype sessions, tons of emails, and countless postcards – Johannes surprised me with the news that he and his girlfriend Tina were coming to Georgia to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of my transplant — I call it my transplantiversary. They arrived on Aug. 15 and we spent the weekend camping out at Lake Lanier with friends and family. I loved every minute of it!
We also took Johannes and Tina to tour Winship and meet some of my doctors and practitioners, which was an amazing experience. We went to the hospital and showed Johannes around the unit where I spent so much of my time surrounding the transplant. God is so faithful – it felt like I had come full circle to be able to return to Emory with my donor and celebrate complete healing. What a beautiful experience!
I will forever be connected to Johannes and his family, and it is all because he joined the bone marrow registry in Germany. Through God’s grace, Johannes gave me the gift of life, for which I could never fully express my gratitude. My prayer and my hope is that others will be inspired to join the registry as well – there are so many people who need this life-saving gift, and you could be the match for them! The registration requires a simple cheek swab, and you can request a kit at BetheMatch.org. You, too, could save a life!
About Erin Blonshine
Erin Blonshine lives in Gwinnett County and works as a hospital teacher in the School Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. She felt called to work with children and families experiencing challenges similar to her own. Erin feels blessed by the unique opportunity to serve others in her role at CHOA.
Erin enjoys spending time with her family, including her one month old niece and her two-and-a-half year old nephew. She also loves to travel, hang out with her friends, and relax at Lake Burton.