Denisse at her first ABC7 Gibbons 5K
“I am running to become the runner I used to be before my diagnosis! The year I got diagnosed, I was training and registered to run my first Chicago Marathon, however cancer didn’t let that happen.
When I was 25 years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Never in a million years do you ever think this can happen to you. An eye specialist found I had a hemorrhage in my eye, which is abnormal for a 25 year old, so she ordered some blood work to be done. Late in the evening, she called me, explained my abnormal results and suggested I immediately see my doctor. The next morning, a nurse from Rush University Hospital called me and asked I check myself into the ER immediately! On April 25th, 2012, I was diagnosed with ALL and began treatment immediately. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t reach remission after my first chemo regimen. We began a second, different regimen, only to result in a bad reaction, leaving me immobile, unable to speak, suffering from seizures and in the ICU for a couple of weeks. These were the worst moments for my family and friends, not knowing if I would make it out okay.
After waking up from sedation, there was a lot of work to be done. I was transferred to the rehabilitation part of the hospital in order for me to regain all of my skills again. I took months and months of physical, occupational and speech therapy. I knew how to do all of those things, I just couldn’t do them. It made me very appreciative of the things we take for granted everyday, the things we do without having to think about it, like tying your shoe. I wasn’t receiving treatment for the leukemia, because doctors said I had to become stronger before they can give me the necessary treatment. There were many times I thought I would never be able to run again, let alone walk again, and running a marathon would only be in my dreams.
My doctors at Rush University were working to get me into a clinical trial at The University of Chicago Hospital, but I had to become stronger first. Once I got admitted into the clinical trial, I began treatment and a short month later I reached remission! My doctors at the University of Chicago began to prep me for a stem cell transplant, a haplo-cord transplant to be exact. They found a partial match in my younger brother, Michael (who was also running the marathon that year). So they used his stem cells and an umbilical cord stem cells to give me a new immune system! Fun fact: I have the immune system of a two year old, and I had to receive all of my shots again! I am proud to say that today I remain in remission, and I’m running again! I will run that marathon, and it won’t be in my dreams!
Team D is our running group registered at the Gibbons 5k. This is our 3rd year running, and it is formed out of my family and friends- the people who were there for me through my battle and continue to be there for me as a survivor. We are running to support everyone else in their battle and to finally find a cure for this disease that took so much from me! #TogetherItsPossible” Love- Denisse M