"I've been through so much. I feel stronger and I feel different. God has given me an opportunity to see life in a different way and to appreciate things and to serve others, to help other people."
- Wanda Pagan-Diaz
Wanda Pagan-Diaz received an autologous stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma in October 2008. Here's her story.
"I started to limp back in October 2007 and I went to my internist crying. I couldn't even walk. They did some blood work and couldn't pinpoint what was wrong. The next step was to see a rheumatologist but it didn't happen because in January 2008, on my way to work, I fell on the ice and I couldn't get up. I ended up in the hospital with a full hip replacement and a broken shoulder.
"I was in the hospital for 14 days and they thought I had osteoporosis. But they kept saying, 'She's too young. Why did she break so many bones?' Ten days later I was diagonosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that lives in my bone marrow. I had cancer for four years at least but I didn't know.
"I'd never heard of myeloma. I thought it wasn't really serious but then when they said cancer ... it's treatable but not curable.
"I went through a lot of testing, a lot of x-rays, a lot of CT scans, a lot of blood work. I went through a lot. Dr. Callendar put me on a treatment of steroids and medication for six months prior to my transplant. I came in for chemo about a month before the transplant, for one night. I came three days before the transplant and got more chemo. It was very bad. I didn't think I was going to make it. I became dehydrated. I didn't eat. But look at me. It's been almost two years and I feel great.
"It was very difficult, especially on my youngest one. She was 6 years old at the time. She was really close to me but when she saw her mom was different she didn't was to kiss me or hug me. She said this isn't my mommy. So it was really hard. We talked to the social worker at school and got some books, and we got help and support from our church, getting meals and helping with the laundry. My mother-in-law was here for a month. I had great support.
"It took time. I didn't have any taste buds. I couldn't taste anything. I also was on a diet. I couldn't eat fresh salads and things like cold cuts, because I could get bacteria. I had to wear a mask. Everything had to be very sanitized.
"Now I feel stronger. I've been through so much. I feel stronger and I feel different. God has given me an opportunity to see life in a different way and to appreciate things and to serve others, to help other people. I feel I appreciate things more than before. You don't know what other people are going through, so I try not to be judgmental. I'm more positive. I've been in remission since the transplant and I have so much faith."