Survivors, stem cell transplants – and a reason to celebrate

May 10, 2013 | by

The description is simple: Blood and marrow stem cell transplants replace a person's faulty stem cells with healthy ones.

The reality is complex: High doses of chemotherapy and radiation must be used to destroy the disease and “make room” for the new, nondiseased stem cells. The immune system is then essentially kick-started to start producing healthy cells on its own.

Survivors and family at the City of Hope "Celebration of Life" Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion

Survivors and family at the City of Hope "Celebration of Life" Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion

City of Hope’s numbers belie both: Physicians here have performed more than 11,000 blood and marrow stem cell transplants. Based on a 2012 report from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, City of Hope is the only transplant program in the country to achieve eight consecutive reporting years of “over performance” in one-year overall patient survival.

Perhaps only those who have been there – and back – can truly understand the significance of this achievement; what’s it’s like to have gotten another chance at life, to have survived not just a life-threatening cancer but the ordeal of the transplant itself. So, once a year, they get a chance to celebrate with the only others who come close to understanding – their transplant  doctors, nurses and caregivers.

At the annual “Celebration of Life” Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on Friday, May 10, hundreds of transplant survivors from around the country will convene at City of Hope’s campus. Most will laugh and smile, some will cry, all will remember. There will be hugs, shared camaraderie and a deep appreciation of two new reunions. A Simi Valley boy who just turned 8 and a 63-year-old Woodland Hills man whose parents were Holocaust survivors will both be introduced to the two people, from England and Israel respectively, whose bone marrow donations saved their lives.

Through it all will be no small amount of joy – and determination.

When asked what makes this program so different – and it is different, in ways both tangible and intangible – Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, thought for a moment. Then he said, “We don’t have any results so good they can’t be improved. We’re always thinking: ‘How can we do this better?’ We’re never satisfied.”

City of Hope itself is also different, he said. “We’re just big enough to have everything we need – but not so big people get lost in the shuffle.”

He added: “Here, we have a commitment to take care of problems now – not ‘in the morning.’”

In the video above, Forman describes the progress science has made in treating hematologic cancers and, more important, the progress that has yet to be made – but will be made.

As both patients and the hematopoietic cell transplantation team know, even while they’re celebrating their successes, the push for new breakthroughs continues.

  • judy Keenan

    I'm so sure I'm NOT the first!!! I will be ONE YEAR OLD come 7/9/13….I am blessed, beyond belief and, MORE THAN GRATEFUL, to ALL at COH. How DO YOU(?) THANK..the peeps who have given one a second chance at life, HENCE HOPE…..You ALL are simply the best & most compassionate people I've ever met!! Please KNOW you, ALL, are appreciated always & in ALL WAYS!!!
    My FIRST attendance to the PARTY today (5/10/13)….and I'm even MORE impressed, if possible…..What a class act, i.e., every detail taken care of….WOW… Y'all know how to give a party & make us ALL feel so alive & so very special. Thank you TO EVERYONE …LITERALLY!! Yes, the nurses, docs & all med peeps major thumbs ups ;-). I shut up now, but THANK YOU AGAIN…FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY GRATEFUL HEART!

    • City of Hope

      Thanks for all the kind words, Judy. We're glad we were able to help and wish you many, many more years of health and happiness!

  • Pingback: Italian government orders trial of controversial stem cell therapy – BioNews | Stem Cell Therapies


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