My Sister’s a Survivor: Celebrating Life and Liberty

My 34-year-old sister was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) in February 2010 and underwent chemo and full body radiation in an effort to put her cancer into remission to allow for a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant. While I wasn’t a match, an unrelated donor was found through the Be The Match Registry, and she underwent a transplant on July 1, 2010.

Today, my sister, nephew, and I spent the day celebrating her successful treatment at an annual event hosted by the John Theurer Cancer Center of Hackensack, NJ.  Under a cerulean blue sky, more than 1,000 survivors, children, and family/caregivers came together at Liberty State Park, overlooking Lower Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

Our day didn’t start off on the best foot, but the understanding police officer let me off with a warning about (my sister’s!) overdue inspection sticker.  My mom’s only been nagging her to take her car to inspection for the last three weeks.

Super way to start our day! Thankfully we received only a warning.

We arrived at the park and were awed by the huge tent and crowds.  There were some lovely tribute speeches to the doctors, nurses, and staff, followed by performances by a band and a Broadway singer.  The backdrop of New York Harbor made for beautiful photos.

The Statue of Liberty keeps a steady eye on those coming in and out of the harbor.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch, games, art therapy, hand massages, and interaction with other survivors and family members.  It was a beautiful day, and we were so happy to be a part of it.  It was inspiring to meet survivors who are four and five years out from transplant, living active, cancer-free lives.

I’m so thankful to all of the doctors, nurses, and support staff who treated my sister (and our family) with such kindness, professionalism, and top-notch care and compassion, and we look forward to celebrating with them all again next September.

34 Comments

  • At 2011.09.19 05:32, Sandy said:

    This is such an uplifting story (even the police…they gave you a pass!). I imagine that a diagnosis like this, at such a young age, was devastating for all of you. It is so encouraging when you hear about the advancement of treatments for things like this. I will keep your sister and all of her loved ones in my prayers, that she stays cancer-free!!!!

    • At 2011.09.20 22:45, Natalie said:

      thanks, sandy. we did have a terrible time after learning the news but my sis was a real trooper. i honestly didn’t think i could handle it but with the help of our family and friends, we did. we are so thankful for the doctors, nurses, and staff but especially for the anonymous, unrelated bone marrow donor. 🙂

    • At 2011.09.19 07:31, Marg said:

      Sounds like a fabulous way to celebrate a year of good health. Long may it continue.

      • At 2011.09.19 08:28, Mary said:

        Wonderful! I’m celebrating for you all!

        • At 2011.09.19 12:06, rhapsodyinbooks said:

          Yay! So wonderful to hear!

          • At 2011.09.19 12:19, Wendy said:

            Thank you for sharing this, Natalie. My sister underwent treatment for colon cancer (Stage IV), so I understand the emotions behind something like this all too well (she is doing really well now and coming for a visit in October!). I am so happy that your sister’s treatment has been successful….

            • At 2011.09.20 22:47, Natalie said:

              so glad to hear your sister is doing well! i hope you both enjoy the visit and wish her the best of health.

            • At 2011.09.19 12:28, Jac @ For Love And Books said:

              It sounds like a wonderful day! (Minus the start to your day with a warning!)

              I am glad to hear that your sister is doing well and thriving! I lost a good friend to Leukemia when I was younger, so I hold a special place in my heart for all who go through that battle.

              • At 2011.09.20 22:48, Natalie said:

                thanks, jac. even though she’s doing well, i have to tell you that i never really relax about it. i fear complications and all the other horrible stuff that comes along with cancer. i try not to get too bogged down with that thinking, though. my blog is such a great outlet and network of friends and support. i’m so thankful to have you guys! 🙂

              • At 2011.09.19 13:00, Steph said:

                Yay! Police run-in aside, it sounds like you spent a wonderful day with your sister and nephew! So glad to hear that everyone is doing well!

                • At 2011.09.19 13:39, Ti said:

                  Every time you post we celebrate along with you!

                  So glad the cop let you off. What a downer that would have been!

                  • At 2011.09.19 13:59, Jody said:

                    That is so amazing Natalie. It’s so nice to hear lovely stories amongst so many that didn’t turn out so nice. TFS and congrats to your sister!

                    • At 2011.09.19 16:36, A Southern Cousin said:

                      Brings tears to my eyes. . . Wonderful, uplifting, inspiring!

                      • At 2011.09.20 22:49, Natalie said:

                        our family should only know good things. miss you. xo

                        • At 2011.09.21 06:52, A Southern Cousin said:

                          miss you, too . . . hugs to all.

                      • At 2011.09.19 16:40, Belle Wong said:

                        What a beautiful post, Natalie. So inspiring and uplifting!

                        • At 2011.09.19 18:35, Amy said:

                          This is a wonderful, inspiring post, Natalie. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us. It’s great to read that your sister is doiung so well and got a match off the registry. It’s really nice that the Center has a celebration day and in such a beautiful, inspirational spot.
                          Your nepher is adorable, too!
                          Good to know even the police have a heart!

                          • At 2011.09.20 22:50, Natalie said:

                            the police officer was laughing at us because as he approached the car he heard me freaking out at her. i said we were sisters and he knew i was the older one. lol. thanks for your kind words. 🙂

                          • At 2011.09.19 20:30, toothybooks said:

                            I’m so happy to hear that your sister is doing well after treatment and everything! Looks like ya’ll had a great day celebrating and you have every reason to celebrate! Here’s to many more years filled with health and happiness!

                            • At 2011.09.20 22:53, Natalie said:

                              thanks so much! we did have a really nice day and look forward to spending many more healthy years bickering with and nagging each other. 🙂 hahah

                            • At 2011.09.19 21:58, Dishy said:

                              SO, so sooo happy!!! to read this!! Your sister’s story is an inspiration. I think about you all so often. Thank God for the kindness of strangers and the strength of the human spirit. Oh, and miracles !!

                              • At 2011.09.20 11:00, vivienne said:

                                What wonderful news! I want to celebrate alongside your family.

                                • At 2011.09.20 11:13, Jenners said:

                                  I’m so happy for your and your family. Your sister looks great … and what a wonderful way to celebrate. I love the shot of the police car in the mirror too.

                                  • At 2011.09.20 22:52, Natalie said:

                                    thanks! i took two photos–one on my phone and one on the camera. you KNOW i had to text message my mom a photo, right? she was FREAKING out about the whole ordeal. yesterday my sister texted me a photo of her new sticker. 🙂

                                  • At 2011.09.21 09:15, Natalie ~ Coffee and a Book Chick said:

                                    I love to read these updates and am so thankful and happy for you all that your sister is healthy! What a fantastic support system you all have, and a hug and thank you to the silent donor as well.

                                    • At 2011.09.22 21:49, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                                      How incredible! It is so nice to see that she is doing so well (of course how could she not with a superhero like Batman by her side) and that such wonderful events like this exist for survivors and their families.

                                      It’s also nice to know that I’m not the only one who takes pictures while being pulled over (although it was actually my friend who took the pictures and it was only a fix-it ticket).

                                      • At 2011.09.23 03:04, Michelle @ The True Book Addict said:

                                        Looks like you had a great time, despite the minor bump at the beginning! I’m so glad to hear that your sister is a survivor. I know you must be so relieved. I wish her continued health and happiness. 🙂

                                        • At 2011.09.23 22:10, Erin said:

                                          I’m so happy to hear your sister is doing well and that you guys got to celebrate together 🙂

                                          • At 2011.09.24 07:57, Beth F said:

                                            Wow — and here’s to many, many, many more such celebrations.

                                            • At 2011.09.25 22:09, Meg said:

                                              Love and warmest wishes to your sister and family, Nat. Looks like a wonderful day, and what a wonderful blessing that you could all be there together. xoxo
                                              Meg´s last blog post ..Borders lives on with us

                                              • At 2011.09.25 23:02, stacybuckeye said:

                                                Thank you for this hopeful and inspirational post. It looks like it was a beautiful day. Congratulations to your sister and family!
                                                stacybuckeye´s last blog post ..Sundays with Gage -Walking with Grandpa

                                                • At 2011.09.26 09:02, Care said:

                                                  YIPPEE!!!
                                                  Care´s last blog post ..The Hunger Games

                                                  • At 2011.09.26 15:38, Kathleen said:

                                                    What a wonderful, life-affirming day. I hope you and your family will celebrate many more!
                                                    Kathleen´s last blog post ..A Little Bit of Non-Fiction but Good Fiction on the Way

                                                    • At 2011.09.27 13:27, KKBMOM said:

                                                      Hey Girl,
                                                      We must talk soon. You are an amazing person!! miss you!

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