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I am Alive because of Donated Blood

February 10, marked the start of the Give Blood to Give Time partnership. The American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society have joined forces to raise awareness about how giving blood can help give patients more time, strength and support to battle cancer.

This movement is especially close to my heart because I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on April 28, 2015—exactly ten days before the commencement ceremony for my Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Unknowingly, I had been exhibiting symptoms for a few months—but finally made an appointment with the University Health Center after I noticed lumps around my neck. That entire next month was filled with tests and procedures.

Then, it was official. I had cancer

Stephanie at her University of Georgia graduate ceremony.

Almost immediately everything started piling up. How would I finish my finals? Would I still graduate? It was overwhelming, stressful and scary.

My professors were great and worked with me to make sure I finished my exams. Then, my medical team and I got ready to begin chemotherapy. Before graduation, a chemo-port was put into my chest – complete with a catheter to a central line that went into my neck. In fact, the bandage over the catheter was quite visible in most of my graduation photos. One week after receiving my diploma, my treatments began.

Here’s the thing you need to know about chemotherapy: it makes your red blood cell count go way down. So, because of my chemotherapy treatments, I needed blood transfusions. A lot of them.

I also went through two stem cell transplants and you guessed it—I needed blood transfusions and platelets for those procedures, as well. During certain types of cancer treatments, like many of mine, your immune system just gets so low that doctors have to feed you with healthy red blood cells and platelets – until it starts to bounce back.

Stephanie and Justin after her first stem cell transplant.

I don’t even know how many units of blood I’ve received—but I know all of that blood came from selfless individuals who made the decision to make an appointment and donate.

During the evening of February 8, 2018, Justin and I got the good news: my cancer was in remission! The very next day (and unbeknownst to me) Justin told his boss he had something to do, left work early, and went to the jewelry store. That evening, as soon as he walked through our front door, he got down on one knee and proposed. And you guessed it—I said yes!

Stephanie and Justin with engagement ring and a sign about her remission.

I still have bouts when my red blood cell count gets low. When that happens, those times when I feel more than tired, when I feel like my blood is tired, I go in for another blood transfusion. During these visits I usually receive two units of blood. The procedure alone takes about four hours; but during those four hours I count my blessings because I know how much better life feels after I am replenished with healthy blood from kindhearted donors.

So, I think it’s safe to say that my successful battle with cancer largely depended upon the generosity of complete strangers and their donated blood. For this, I am grateful! Justin and I were married last September and recently spent our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple.

Sometimes I hear stories from friends about people who are scared of needles or afraid to donate blood. I wish I could stand face-to-face with those people and tell them there is nothing scary about saving a life—a life like mine.

Stephenie and Justin holding a sign that says "Give Blood"

Give Blood to Give Time

Together, we can all support patients battling cancer. When you donate blood to the Red Cross or make a financial gift to the American Cancer Society or Red Cross from Feb.10-29, you’re helping to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope they need to fight back. To schedule a blood donation appointment or make a financial gift, visit GiveBloodToGiveTime.org.