Erica Harris is an inspiration. Her story about Mother’s Day is fit to be shared with our 365give readers. There are lists and lists of things to get “Mom” for Mother’s Day but this story is truly the #1 greatest gift any Mom could ask for – her life. This is the story of a Mother’s life that was saved by love, hard work, hope and one big miracle. A few months ago I shared a story of a Mother in desperate need of help from the world. (One Match to Save a Mother’s Life) Myy dear friend Erica needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She had been diagnosed with a deadly case of leukaemia and was told she only had only months to live unless a bone marrow donor could be found.
“Sometimes the strength of Motherhood is greater than natural laws” – Barbara Kingsoliver
This is her story. A story of being a Mom with two beautiful boys, a remarkable husband, a story of community, a story of hope and a story of the greatest gift a Mom could ever want.
The gift of life.
Guest Post by Erica Harris
When I was asked by Jacqueline (founder of 365give) to write a little synopsis of my journey in honour of this very special Mother’s Day, my mind instantly brought me back to my Mother’s Day celebration last year. The day started with a wonderful wake up, spoiled by drawings and wee surprises. And after a fun filled family brunch with the in laws, my oldest son, then 4, then took me on a “date” – we rode the bus in absolute glee and smiled away at an afternoon kids concert. Beautiful day, beautiful memories. Not once did I then consider what would arise in the weeks to come as even a distant possibility.
Last spring as I spent a fun morning at the aquarium with my boys, I picked up an urgent message regarding a relatively routine lab I had done hours earlier. Thinking there must be some confusion as my results couldn’t be in that quickly, I then learned I was to avoid all public places as my immune system was so comprised. My final diagnosis of acute leukemia came within a few short days. Hours following this, a bed was made available for me in the province’s Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant unit at Vancouver General Hospital.
I had no time to prepare myself, or my family for this huge upheaval. I embarked on my new path in shock and disbelief. For one so passionate about life, health and wellness this was just not within the realms of possibilities. My heart simply ached at the thought of being separated from my angels and not having any idea where to start explaining what had transpired and why mama would not be home.
I had no idea what was to lie ahead- the tubes, the machines, the surgeries, the days of isolation as a result of life threatening septic infections, the endless gut retching nausea, the frequent bone marrow biopsies, the exhausting night sweats, the ongoing blood transfusions, etc. What was assumed to be an original 3-4 week stay resulted in a full 2 month stay as the original chemotherapy proved unsuccessful. After I did not respond to what is referred to as “salvage” chemotherapy, I given a 2 month diagnosis, perhaps 6 months at best and offered no further treatment aside from palliative care. A second opinion in Seattle at one of the leading US leukaemia treatment centers confirmed the prognosis. So despite having had just received the amazing news that perfect 10/10 bone marrow donor was found on my behalf (after great efforts on behalf of One Match, the VGH team, my incredible husband and our amazing team of support who started their own missions to spread awareness), I learned the very next day it was an unattainable goal as I first had to be in remission to be eligible for transplant. After hearing this prognosis, I knew I just needed to be home with my family. I did just that- the team at VGH reluctantly discharged me the next morning. And with the strength of my 3 handsome loves by my side, I gained strength and “our fight” began.
On every step of this road, our family has been embraced by an amazing circle of love and support. Friends, family and and complete strangers sent messages of love and inspiration, devoted hours on our behalf to prayer, meditation, research on alternative approaches and leading health care providers in the field, cared for our babes, donated blood, prepared meals, shopped, and helped in any/every way possible. All of this paved the way to a very unexpected victory in ‘our fight”….and by the grace of God, the healing hands of my beautiful angel babes, the world’s best husband by my side, and our incredible team of support, my labs started to reflect some change and very slight optimism that at least the disease was not progressing at a rate that was originally anticipated. Another biopsy was scheduled and we learned I had attained remission.
Our head Doc said there was absolutely no explanation he could offer aside from saying it was a true miracle.
I was then eligible for transplant, which I had at the end of October. Although I am still on a rather bumpy road while adapting an entirely new immune system from an unrelated superstar donor, I am now moving full steam ahead and getting stronger every day. I am not yet off this big detour but I get to be here to be the first to greet my angels when they wake and the last to kiss them goodnight.
I am over the moon to be able to conquer most of my mama routines on most days.
As I picked up my oldest from kindergarten the other day, I stood from a far as I approached the field. He was running about laughing away with his friends, so enthralled in their game and so incredibly happy. I had tears of joy just being able to see this moment. As I stood there thinking how difficult it may soon be to tug him away from this fun for our trek home, he saw me from across the playground. Instantly, he sprinted towards me shouting to all with such excitement “there is MY Mom!” with his arms outstretched to dive into mine. My now 3 year old sets out on his daily missions to find mama treasured rocks, pine cones, or the prettiest weed of the day and shares them with me in the sweetest, highest pitched voice as he tells says he loves me soooo much. These slower days have welcomed so many quiet simple moments on the home front and these moments are true bliss. I thank God every day for my incredible blessings. My heart shines in ways I never imagined possible simply to hold their hands in mine.
This road has obviously been an unexpected lofty toll- from my husband not working for months on end to be my side, to additional child care costs, to the cost of uncovered medications and the countless supplements, to ensuring every nutrient consumed is of the highest quality, and the many expenses of fees incurred from professionals we sought along the way for many consults/treatments.
Jacqueline’s mission with 365give and her amazing compassion for those experiencing difficult times exemplifies such heartfelt surprises and blessings that have helped ease our path by so many ways. Further, Jacqueline spread the word about One Match registration instantly upon hearing the urgent need. The love, generosity, time and kindness that have been extended to us along the way will remain in our hearts on this very special upcoming mother’s day, and every day.
Happy, happy Mother’s Day to all!