By Elaina Thomakos
Care Communication Liaison
A cancer diagnosis is something no one ever anticipates.
When given the life-changing news, so many questions and scenarios rapidly come to mind. The ultimate answer will unfold in due course, but in the process, each small step will impact you and those around you.
In recognition of National Cancer Survivor’s Day, we are sharing a message of hope from a cancer survivor, Erik Sauer.
Erik’s Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) diagnosis came at a time he least expected: he had just formed the executive coaching and consulting firm On3 Strategies, and his wife was about to give birth to their second son. A typically happy and exciting time in a person’s life was suddenly changed in an instant.
AML is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells. After the diagnosis, he spent months in the hospital receiving treatments and battling the effects of the chemotherapy and cancer. He suffered a relapse and entered a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His compromised immune system also put him at risk for infections. Fortunately, Erik was able to receive a bone marrow transplant, ultimately allowing him to make a full recovery from leukemia. One of the many amazing things about Erik’s journey is that his bone marrow donor match was from a young woman in Germany.
As a result of his experience, Erik was inspired to form the non-profit There Goes My Hero.
His goal is to raise awareness about blood cancer and the importance of bone marrow donations. When people are diagnosed with cancer, friends and family often feel helpless and that there is nothing they can do to help their loved ones. With a leukemia diagnosis, friends and family have a way to help by signing up to be bone marrow donors. Erik’s mission through There Goes My Hero is to make people aware that they potentially have the cure for cancer in their bodies. The organization conducts outreach to people of eligible donation age, 18-55, to spread awareness about the bone marrow donor registry. Bone marrow registry drives are conducted at places such as high schools, colleges, businesses, and anywhere with a large number of people within the donation age range.
Education and awareness are a key part of what There Goes My Hero does because there are often misconceptions about what it means to donate bone marrow, making people hesitant to sign up to be donors. Pain is often associated with the process of donating bone marrow, but there are new procedures that are less painful and less invasive to the donor. A practice called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation involves the injection of a drug into the donor’s system to increase the number of blood stem cells in the body, which are the cells that are also found in the bone marrow. A few days later those cells are collected in a process that takes around 6-8 hours. This is the more common and less invasive of the ways to collect bone marrow, but sometimes an outpatient surgical procedure is still needed to collect the bone marrow. This procedure takes the bone marrow from the pelvic bone, and donors feel soreness in the lower back for a short duration after surgery. Despite some discomfort, both methods allow donors to save a life if they are a match with someone that needs a bone marrow transplant.
Erik’s takeaway after his leukemia diagnosis is to “endure the battle [treatment and illness] to get to the other side”. He was able to see the other side of a battle with cancer because of the bone marrow donation registry, and through There Goes My Hero, he hopes to help others see the other side too. Erik’s experience is an example of hope. As he states, “life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality”.
There Goes My Hero has a mission to fulfill: Save Lives. Provide Hope. Help those impacted by blood cancer. To learn more about Erik’s story and how to register today to be a bone marrow donor, visit There Goes My Hero.
If you or someone you care about needs additional support to help cope, The Option Group is here to help. Please contact our professional care management team for assistance.
About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Their skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899 / 215-896-6756 (PA) or 302-858-6449 (DE).