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Jo's Story
Jo & Family

Six years ago my husband Tim and I were thrilled to find out we were expecting a baby!  Our joy soon turned to fear at my 8-week check-up when my blood test turned out to be critically low.  Within two weeks, I was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder "Aplastic Anemia".  My bone marrow was no longer producing blood. 

Since I was pregnant, any treatment would affect the baby, so I was supported through weekly blood and platelet transfusions until she was born - a perfectly healthy baby girl named Anna!  At that time, the doctors said the only cure was a bone marrow transplant and we found out that my brother, Eddie, was a perfect match.  However, being away from my new-born baby for 4 months was more than I could bare.  Instead, I chose an immunosuppressive drug therapy that put me into remission for 3 1/2 years.  Gradually my blood counts started to come back up and I needed fewer and fewer transfusions.  That was the good news!  

The bad news was that I developed a side-effect that caused damage to my joints.  I had Avascular Necrosis in both hips, both shoulders and both knees and was no longer able to dance or lift anything over 5 pounds.  For a year and a half I walked with crutches and couldn't lift or carry Anna.  Thank goodness for grandmothers Rita and Colleen!!  Over the next 2 years, I had a total of 8 surgeries to replace both hips, repair both shoulders and one knee.  Gradually, I was able to move and finally dance again!  I truly believe the prayers from the dance community played a big role in my healing!  Thank you!  I was back on the dance floor, doing choreography, traveling to teach at events and feeling great.  

May 2010 my annual check up showed that my bone marrow disease had returned and was morphing into Myelodysplastic Syndrome which was not good as the next step is Leukemia!  The doctors all agreed that it was "time to go to transplant" which we did.  Starting November 4, 2010 at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas I was given chemo to kill my diseased bone marrow and then on November 10, 2010 I received a transfusion of stem cells that had been collected from my brother Eddie's blood through an IV machine.  Eddie's stem cells found their way to my bone marrow, grafted and started producing blood.  Now, my bone marrow is 100% healthy and disease free!  It will take my new immune system up to two years to fully recover.  But, in the meantime, life is good!!  

Thank you so much to my friends all over the world for the support, encouragement and prayers while I have been on this journey.  I couldn't have done it without you!  Thanks to everyone who generously contributed to the Dancing For The Dream Fund (thank you Scooter Lee) to cover the expenses associated with having my transplant.  I am so grateful!  Thank you to the Smith family for taking Anna into your home.  Thank you to Carol and my mother-in-law Colleen for being loving and dedicated caregivers.  Thank you to all our family members and especially to my brother for giving me the gift of life.  Thank you to my husband Tim for being with me every step of the way.  I love you all!  God bless! 

My journey continues at jothompson.blogspot.com

 

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