September 10, 2012
Avid hiker and marathon walker, Bill, 59, knows a lot about overcoming obstacles and testing his endurance. But when his illness required him to get two or three blood transfusions every month, he had to accept his limitations. It meant cutting short his cherished backpacking adventures or waiting alone at base camp while his buddies climbed to the summit without him.
But, today, just two years after a stem cell transplant, Bill is back on track-;training for the Austin half marathon, planning a trip to Moscow in June for his daughter's wedding and organizing a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon this fall.
In 2002, Bill was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a type of blood disease in which the bone marrow doesn't produce normal blood cells. His MDS was managed with blood transfusions until it worsened four years later. Bill's hematologist referred him to Dr. C.F. LeMaistre, a blood and marrow stem cell transplant physician at Texas Transplant Physician Group in San Antonio, Texas, to see whether Bill was a candidate for a transplant.
Bill, who lives in Austin, Texas, knew there were other places in the state where he could get a stem cell transplant but agreed to meet with Dr. LeMaistre. "I wanted to go to San Antonio-;it was closer and more convenient than Houston. I thought it would be smaller, too, and that I would get to know the staff better and they would get to know me better," Bill says.
Within about three weeks of his initial visit with Dr. LeMaistre they had found an anonymous donor for his transplant. "I thought I was pretty lucky that it happened so fast. No one in my family was a match," he says.
At that point, Bill faced intensive chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system to prepare it for the new stem cells that would rebuild his bone marrow. The six-foot, three-inch tall, 220-pound outdoorsman was undaunted by the treatment. "It wasn't too bad, really. I didn't feel real good, but it was not that bad," Bill says.
And he's glad he chose to get his transplant in San Antonio, because of Dr. LeMaistre and the entire transplant team. "They were absolutely wonderful. Very attentive. Personable," Bill says.
Bill lost almost 40 pounds and a lot of muscle after the transplant, but, now, weighing in at 180 pounds, and training regularly, he's feeling strong. "My goal always was to get back to hiking and events like this half marathon in Austin," he says. "Life gives all of us bumps in the road and living is all about how you handle those bumps."
Undoubtedly, soon after the half marathon in February, Bill will be busy setting new goals and planning more adventures to discover nature's spectacular views, overcome the physical challenges of the Grand Canyon and enjoy the camaraderie with his fellow hikers who are so proud of his recovery and his strength.
AN UPDATE: Bill recently completed the 2011 Austin Half Marathon--his second since his transplant--in 2 hours 42 minutes and 03 seconds. As well, he just returned from a trip to Denmark, Sweden and England with his sister, daughter and son-in-law. In Sweden, they visited relatives, toured their ancestors' farms and houses and learned about local customs, including the maypole dance!
The Adult Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Program of Texas Transplant Physician Group serves patients at Texas Transplant Institute on the campus of Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.