In February 2011, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia. After two rounds of chemo and a bone marrow transplant in June 2011, I was in remission for 12 months until experiencing a serious relapse in June 2012. Rachel passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on October 13, 2012. If you want to help, you can give blood and get registered as a bone marrow donor on www.marrow.org. The survival rate that she always chose to believe in was 100%. She will always be 100%.
In February, I was feeling very fatigued and had a constant fever. I thought I might be anemic because I had been slightly anemic when I tried to donate blood a few months before. So I called the doctor and requested a blood test. In the middle of the night the doctor called and said I was so anemic I could have a stroke or heart attack at any time and sent me straight to the emergency room for an emergency blood transfusion. They didn't know what was wrong and the next day I had a bone marrow biopsy. A few days after they confirmed the worst: acute myeloid leukemia. The sub-type is called a 5Q deletion, which is a chromsomal abnormality that makes the prognosis "unfavorable." My only chance is a bone marrow transplant.
In February, March and April I did two rounds of in-patient chemo at Kaiser that had various complications but I made it into remission. My brother was not a bone marrow match, but the doctors have since found three perfect matches for me. One of these people is going to save my life. In mid-June I will be begin full body radiation treatment at Stanford followed by ablative chemotherapy to wipe out my faulty bone marrow, which will be replaced by the immature stem cells taken from my angel donor. Hopefully, they will graft to my body and I will survive the complications of engraftment. I will stay at the hospital another few weeks until it's safe enough to be released. For the next 100 days I will need a full time caregiver and lots of rest, blood transfusions, and doctor visits.
The process is tenuous and scary but I plan on making it through it. It helps that am in remission going into transplant. The next year will be hard. If I relapse the cancer will be terminal, but if I go one year without recurrance the chances are very good that I'll be OK. At two years post-transplant they consider it practically cured. It's going to be a long road and there will be a lot of potholes. I will get through it with the support and prayers of my family and friends.
Everyone wants to help, and there is lots you can do. You can donate blood, and if you can't, ask someone you love to donate for you. Or ask everyone you kinow. You cannot direct your blood to go to me, but you can save someone else's life with every pint you give and there is so much need. You can also ask your blood bank to test you to give platelets. I have developed antibodies to platelets and they have to be specially matched to my DNA, so sometimes there aren't any platelets and I have to get by on prayer until the blood bank secures some. In general, there is a huge shortage of blood products, so anything you give will save a life. While many of you are not able to donate blood, you know someone who can, so please spread the word.
Somewhere out there three people have taken the time and steps to get on the bone marrow registry. One of these matches will go through the process of donating stem cells to me, a perfect stranger, to save my life. This selfless act starts by going to www.marrow.org and ordering a free testing kit, which contains swabs and directions how to painlessly add your DNA to the bone marrow registry. Even with 16 million people worldwide on the list, more than one person a day dies because they don't have a match. Leukemia is the number one disease killer of children under the age of 11. Most peope don't realize that getting tested is painless and donating is an outpatient procedure with few side effects and more discomfort than pain. Unlike organ donation, it isn't invasive or surgical, and your body will reproduce the stem cells donated in a matter of weeks. Being a match means having very similar DNA to the patient, even a full sibling only has a 25% chance of matching. I was on the registry for over ten years and I never got called to give this gift.
While you can't do much to help me other than support my family with prayers, food, and goodwill, you can donate blood and get on the registry to save lives. I am keeping track of all the blood donated and the number of people who register, and each addition gives me strength to continue supporting this cause during a long life. This journey is long and arduous but I can do it. I am much younger and much stronger than this disease's usual demographic, so those nasty statistics don't apply to me. The only number that applies to me is 100%, the survival rate I am choosing to believe.
Until cure I am blessed just to be.
Mar 7, 2013 9:57am
Our good friend Meredith posted this old Facebook post from Rachel on her Birthday yesterday. As I re-read it I could not help to hear her voice... enjoy!
From FB on Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 9:25pm
25 Things about me, none of them very interesting by Rachel Brant Peres
1. I am terrible with faces. I wouldn’t recognize the UPS guy that I saw every single day if I saw him out of uniform at the grocery store. I never introduce myself to people because I’ve usually met them already, or sometimes might even know them well. I need to watch movies with another person who can tell me if that is the same guy from the last scene in a different outfit.
2. I lived in Alaska for 4 years and I could not see Russia. I once cross country skied to school.
3. Partially because I am an Air Force brat, I have lived in 9 different cities in five states and two countries.
4. I love the sound and smell of the ocean. It’s like soul candy.
5. My favorite place to be is under water, but I prefer it when not wearing cement shoes.
6. I like to work for start-ups where I wear multiple hats so I don’t get bored doing any one task or job. Thus, I am currently and usually unemployed (laid off for the 7th time since I graduated from college).
7. I like to write. It’s the one thing I know I am good at. Some day the stars may smile on me and my kids will leave me alone long enough to write a book. Until then, I’ll write press releases, web copy, marketing brochures, and resumes.
8. I have been married for 8.5 years, I have 2 kids (Evan is almost 4 and Kate is 18 months), 2 cats, 1 sink full of dishes, and 7 loads of laundry to do at any given time.
9. I am 5 foot 10 inches tall. Taller than most of you without my heels, which I never wear anymore since at my advanced age it’s now better to feel good than to look good, dahling.
10. I finally found out that the only thing I have in common with my biological father is that we both hate mushrooms.
11. I am a firm believer in karma and Murphy’s Law. Perhaps they’re conflicting spiritual positions.
12. I always overtip. A dollar has a much different value to you than to your waitress. It’s only one-quarter of a venti latte to you but to your server it’s a validation. People who are nice to you but are not nice to wait staff are not very nice people. I once dumped a longtime boyfriend over his refusal to tip a waiter who told him they were out of cheese.
13. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by seeing how well they tip, if they wear seatbelts, and if they use turn signals. These are indicators of someone who respects themselves and others, and used to be my litmus test for dating.
14. For the most part, I am always sarcastic so you should never take anything I say seriously since I’m usually kidding.
15. My dream job would be a television reviewer for Entertainment Weekly. Or a travel writer who got to go all over the world on someone else’s budget and review their accommodations. Or heiress. That would be a good job.
16. I am conversational in German and Spanish, as long as the conversation involves ordering a beer or bumming a cigarette. I am long-winded in English.
17. I studied abroad in Vienna, where I lived in a flat with a hausfrau and went to school and traveled all over Europe every weekend. It was the most amazing 4 months of my life.
18. In my previous life, I was a marketing professional in the high-tech field. Now I am a full-time mom whose managers are younger than me (by about 32 years), less educated, more demanding than any boss I ever had, make me work nights and weekends with no vacations, and not only don’t pay well, but I have to pay them. Nevertheless, my kids are an amazing gift.
19. I have a terrible memory. If I mention a memory of childhood to my mom, she will tell me that it never happened. I can’t remember major incidents from 3rd grade, 8th grade, high school, or even college.
20. If I were in a band, I would name it Schadenfreude (which in German means happy bummer. It’s essentially the act of laughing when your friend runs through a glass door, and the reason that Funniest Home Videos has been on the air for 20 years.)
21. I recently realized that I am a perfectionist, and that perfectionism leads to procrastination which leads to purgatory. That is why it took me four days to write my 25 things list.
22. Things I love include John Irving, bacon, filet mignon, brie, TV, People magazine, my baby’s cute little waddling butt, my son’s amazing eyelashes, and my husband’s uncanny ability to call who the murderer is 10 minutes into the show.
23. I used to be obsessed with the Ouija board and have had several bizarre experiences with it.
24. I love indie music. I hate hearing the same stuff on the radio 10 times a day.
25. I did my senior thesis in college on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and my research was quoted by a national publication.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
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