Friday, November 4, 2011

14th Annual Patient Reunion for the Duke ABMT Program

Saturday, October 29th was a day of celebration. A day to look back on difficult days, and to look ahead to better days. A day to catch up with new found friends who shared a common experience at the clinic. A day to once again thank the amazing staff at the Duke Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic. A day to share a meal and rejoice with patients and donors. A day to look around a ballroom full of survivors and find hope.

This event has been taking place for 14 years and it was a joy to be attending for the first time. I pray we will be in attendance for many years to come. It took place at the beautiful Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club on a drizzly Saturday morning.

We checked in, got our nametags, stood as a boutineer was pinned on Ernie's shirt, received a free raffle ticket, grabbed a muffin, and began to search for a few familiar faces. Here we are with Cookie and Paul, friends from Charlotte who we met at the Clinic following Paul's allogeneic transplant for a form of leukemia. He is doing wonderfully and although Cookie and I keep in touch by e-mail, it was great to see them and enjoy a delicious lunch together.

October 2011

September 2010

We also re-united with Rick and Nena, from Charlotte. Rick had an autologous transplant shortly after Ernie, for Multiple Myeloma. He is in complete remission, back to work and feeling well. We have kept up with Rick via his Caring Bridge sight. What a difference a year makes!

October 2011

September 2010

And here EZ is with his oncologist at the Clinic, Dr. Christina Gasparetto, the leading Multiple Myeloma researcher at Duke. We feel very blessed to have her as his doctor.

One cannot walk down the hallways of the ABMT Clinic without noting the photographs of survivors that line the walls. Ernie and other first year survivors proudly lined up for their individual photos, and then all survivors posed for a group shot. What a blessing to see so many smiling faces gathered in one place, dominating blood cancers!

Stephen Gray, a caregiver for his son, Kyle, who underwent a transplant for aplastic anemia as a college student, was the guest speaker. He educated and entertained us as the caregiver and parent of both a patient and a donor (Kyle's 16 year old brother, Evan, donated his stem cells). Kyle looked fantastic and praise the Lord he, and his brother, are doing well! A few things Stephen said really struck a chord with me as a caregiver:

The pay for a caregiver? The health of your loved one.
Never stop learning...keep your spirit young.
Live your new life to the best of your ability.
If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!
Laugh more. Children laugh on average 200 times a day. Adults...30-40 times a week.
There are four kinds of people in the world:  current caregivers, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who need a caregiver. (Rosalyn Carter - Helping Yourself Help Others)

A wonderful buffet awaited us, which made everyone chuckle since transplant patients are often told to steer clear of buffets! I guess this could be an exception since there were no children at the event who might be prone to touching everything. Of course I had to take some pictures of the desserts...

A special moment occured when 47 year old Linda Davis, fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia three years ago, met her donor, 26 year old Ryan Dunham. Ryan was an Air National Guardsman who joined the registry in 2007, getting the call just one year later that he was a match. He said his family always taught him that if you have something, give it! It was said that 60 percent of patients who need a transplant can't get one and will most likely die. Willing donors are critical as 70 percent of patients do not have a tissue match in their family. Though Ernie was able to have a transplant using his own filtered stem cells, many don't have that option. If you are healthy, please take the time to register with Be The Match and perhaps you could give someone else the gift of life. 

Various baskets and items were raffled off throughout the day, and our ticket proved to be one of the lucky numbers. We received a $20 gift card to Jason's Deli (one of the sponsors for the reunion), and look forward to trying it for the first time! Any recommendations?

Many thanks to the staff from the Clinic for a wonderful reunion. We are forever connected, and indebted! 


  1. Linda!!!! What a small world! Also, God is just too cool - the Grays are the family I was telling you about way back at Leah's baby shower! Kyle and my sister are great friends - they met while both being on staff at Windy Gap (a place I know is close to your heart!) we followed WWBE (your blog) so closely while Kyle was sick and I was able to recognize so much of what my sister would relay back to us after her visits with him. Praise the Lord for his blessings, his sense of humor, and his healing hand...

  2. I loved reading this post Mom thank you so much for writing out all the details for us. I'm so glad you all recognized faces and were able to catch up with old friends. The pictures of Dad and Rick that you posted are really cool. Both DOMINATED that MM!

  3. Wow! I loved reading your recap and seeing the pictures of such a special day! I'm so glad that you saw so many friends and fellow survivors from your time at Duke, and I cannot get over how much healthier they all look today!!! Yay for blood cancers in remission!!!!! So glad that you all were able to go!!!! And so glad that Dad is on that wall of survivors!!!! Love you both!!!!

  4. I loved reading this post and what a blessing that such a time of celebration and sharing is done for those with MM. The pictures of before and now are so encouraging and proof of the many prayers for Ernie and others!
    Also, Jason's Deli is one of our favorite places to eat and we have had nothing bad. Their sandwiches are plentiful in meat and such and the soup/salads are always fresh and yummy! Enjoy the gift card!
    Love you both and thanks again for sharing this milestone and celebration!