Love Conquers All: BMT Nurse Shares Her Personal Transplant Journey

Posted February 5th, 2014 by Be The Match and filed in Patient Stories
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Clint-and-Becky_203px_v2Becky woke up feeling like she had been hit by a car when she was just two weeks into her freshman year of college. “Everything hurt and I had terrible stomach and back pains,” she says. Just days later her world was turned upside-down when she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, rare at age 18, and told she needed a bone marrow transplant. “I was shocked and scared. Bone marrow transplants were still considered a newer treatment option at this time, but it was the only curative course of action,” says Becky. Luckily, Becky’s sister was a perfect match and in January 1992, she received a life-saving transplant at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

She returned to college that May with a new passion for life. “My life had changed so drastically. I went from being 18-years-old to an adult in just a few short months,” says Becky. Feeling blessed, Becky changed her major from music to nursing, wanting to help patients like her.

In her final semester of college, Becky visited her doctor for her three year post-transplant check-up and received heartbreaking news. She had relapsed.

Adding to the heartache, Becky had recently joined a singles group at her church and had fallen in love with an amazing man named Clint. “We had been dating a little over a year when I found out I had relapsed and I didn’t know what this meant for our future.” A few days later, Clint proposed saying, “I don’t care if we have three weeks, three months or three years. All I know is I want to spend it with you.”

Her heart filled with hope, Becky gathered her strength and had her first DLI, donor lymphocyte infusion, a treatment option that eliminates the need for a second marrow transplant in some patients. A few months later, she graduated with a degree in nursing and was married the very next day.

But Becky struggled to stay healthy, relapsing and returning to remission six times. “I could never make it past the three year mark and this cycle became my new normal,” says Becky. “My family would joke about the ‘many faces of Becky’ yo-yoing from puffy steroid cheeks, to bald from chemo and appearing totally healthy.” But she remained a resilient fighter with support from her husband, family and her church.

But what really kept her going was her role as a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) nurse at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “The BMT unit is a place that needs hope and, just by looking at me, I give that hope to both my colleagues and patients—I’m someone who has walked in their shoes and truly understands,” says Becky. 

In 2010, after her fifth relapse treated with DLI and drug therapies, Becky’s doctors decided it was time for a different approach. A search began for an unrelated marrow donor and three perfect matches were located. “I felt so lucky,” says Becky.

Becky chose to have her transplant at Moffitt and was admitted as a patient to her very own unit.  “My colleagues are like my family and it was so great to know that everyone was looking out for me. I had so much trust in them.”  Becky experienced some Graft-versus-host disease, a common side effect of an unrelated marrow transplant, but the transplant was a success.

Today, Becky is happy, healthy and has rejoined her team as a BMT coordinator. And, for the first time ever, she sailed past her dreaded three year post-transplant check-up with a clean bill of health.  “All we’ve ever known is sickness, health, sickness, health so Clint and I were too afraid to make long-term plans.” She believes her future is bright. At the top of her bucket list is taking a trip to hug the young military man who stepped forward as her marrow donor and saved her life.

“Life is fantastic and I have been so blessed to share my journey with others,” Becky exuberantly says!

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11 Responses to “Love Conquers All: BMT Nurse Shares Her Personal Transplant Journey”

  1. Ben Kastein says:

    Becky, you’ve been through an awful lot but the strength of your character, will and faith must be far stronger than the CML that has challenged you for years. I hope you continue your cancer free life! I was just diagnosed with CML on January 2nd so this has grown near and dear to my heart and that of my family. Visit the following link and you can see my story too 🙂
    http://www.bethematchfoundation.org/site/TR?fr_id=2618&pg=entry#.Uv40Q77nbug

  2. Elaine Clayton says:

    Loved reading your personal story. I have a similar one. In 1999, as a high school freshman, my daughter’s boyfriend was diagnosed with CML. A non-related donor was found and he received a bone marrow transplant in April 2000. His transplant was a success (two years of ups and downs) and that young boy is now my precious son-in-law! He and my daughter were married in July 2010. He is a basketball coach at a local high school and my daughter is a nurse. We are thankful for everyday that we have with him. Our entire family is in the National Registry and I hope and pray everyday that someday I too, may be a match for someone needing bone marrow. May you continue to live a happy, cancer-free life!

  3. Terry Sylvanus says:

    I was privileged to know Becky as a colleague and a patient – and thrilled to know she is still doing well – and hope she and Clint continue to enjoy health and happiness for many years to come!

  4. Traci Tew says:

    My sweet friend! You are the strongest person I know! You have handled all you faced with grace and strength! What a blessing you are in my life! So thankful for Clint TEW! ! He’s a keeper! 🙂 God brought you two together! No doubt! Celebrating with you! And praying for great health and happiness for you and Clint! Love you girl!

  5. Melanie Langston says:

    You have always inspired me!!! I’m so glad that they wrote this article about your journey because God has so carefully scripted every detail. I love getting updates from you and or about you- you are the perfect example of God has got this and God is in control. You and Clint are truly amazing!

  6. Sydney Ellis says:

    Such a strong woman Becky! And your husband makes a very strong man too. You are such an inspiration to those who read your story….one of the true fighters sought to never give up. And that is hope for us all! I pray that your healthy lifestyle continues and your love, faith and hopefulness does as well. God bless you!

  7. Marcie says:

    We love you Becky! You are an inspiration tome, our patients, and our staff. God bless you

  8. Nisha Nisha says:

    I Love You Beck… You are a very STRONG woman and a Inspiration to me with Clint by your side. God Loves You Be Blessed my sister….

  9. Dianne C in AZ says:

    Becky you are without a doubt an inspiration and a woman of great strength, courage and faith. As a patient who underwent a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor for Acute Myeloid Leukemia close to one year ago, I understand much of what you have gone through. God has a purpose for people like us! Having been on both sides of your ailment, you are an even better resource and support to your patients. I use every opportunity to speak with others undergoing cancer treatment – whether Leukemia or not. My desire is to “mentor” such patients through their treatment and recovery and my daughter, who turns 10 this summer, is interested in helping the children of such patients. I thank God every day for THAT day and his supernatural healing and for the love and support of my family and friends and onology doctors and nurses. My nurses and nurse practitioner helped me get through the process. And now I thank God for you and the inspiration to others you have become. God bless you and your family!

    Dianne

  10. Nancy Villegas says:

    Becky I am proud so proud that you are my cousin your are a real hero you have been a real trouper such an inspiration to family and friends your strong faith in a real God who loves us so much you and your husband make a great team and great role model for others we love you”

  11. alana says:

    Hi Becky ,You are so STRONG and a Inspirational women.All the best.

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