Cheryl Heisey was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a type of bone marrow failure, in 2006. Ten years earlier, this busy wife and mother had successfully recovered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma following a bone marrow transplant in which she served as her own donor. The MDS was a late side effect of her lymphoma treatments. Her only chance of surviving MDS was a second transplant, this time an allogeneic transplant from a matched donor. In November 2006 she received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant at Duke University Hospital. She is now learning to live with the chronic Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD) she developed 6 months after this transplant and, while she must take special precautions to avoid infections and manage her GVHD symptoms, she looks forward to many more days with her husband and daughter. Of the care she has received, Cheryl said, "I'm forever grateful for the excellent care and support I receive both from my medical teams and from my family and friends and for the gift of life from my donor."
Since her bone marrow failure diagnosis, Cheryl, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry, has been unable to return to work, but her life is bustling with volunteer opportunities and family activities. An enthusiastic ambassador of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Virginia Chapter, she is immersed in their fundraising and advocacy efforts to raise awareness of blood cancers, fund research, and help patients and their families. BMT InfoNet featured Dr. Heisey as a sponsored transplant survivor in its 2010 calendar, Celebrating Life. She is an ardent supporter of both the National Marrow Donor Program's "Be The Match" Foundation and the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation, championing their efforts to help patients and their families.
Cheryl first learned about the Bone Marrow Failure Research Program (BMFRP) in an online search for information on bone marrow failure. The Virginia Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society contacted her regarding opportunities for consumer reviewers and thus began Cheryl's involvement with the BMFRP. Of this experience Cheryl says, "I am honored to participate in the BMFRP as a consumer reviewer and am very impressed by the quality of the proposals as well as the efficient and fair review process. It is a pleasure to work with the BMFRP and I have great hopes for the research they are funding. The scientific community has many innovative and exciting ideas on the underlying causes of bone marrow failure, better ways to diagnose bone marrow failure, and better treatment options. I greatly appreciate all that is being done to increase awareness of bone marrow failure disorders and to provide patients with a longer life and the best possible quality of life."