Meghan Healy’s experience with leukemia began with a visit to the emergency room for a paper cut. There was pain and extreme swelling but no thought of anything worse. Two months later, she went to the doctor.
“I was in a lot of pain and was feeling tired all the time before I went to see a doctor for the first time. My main symptom was an extremely sore throat. I was diagnosed with fungal esophagitis and fungal laryngitis. The antibiotics just weren’t working and nothing would relieve the pain. After about a month, I went to the emergency room again. I was admitted to room seven at the hospital and that is where I was diagnosed with leukemia. The next day I was moved to a bigger hospital where I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and also found out that I needed a stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy started immediately.
In the months leading up to my stem cell transplant, I went through five rounds of chemo, during which I suffered every rare side effect my doctors had known. After much anticipation, I was lucky to find a stem cell match in a 27-year-old man from Germany, same age as I was, who was more than willing to follow through with the procedure. The transplant went fine and I was sent home for a month. And then the pneumonia set in. Treatment for the pneumonia required a medically-induced coma, during which time I came down with two more strains of pneumonia. I spent a total of two months in the coma. There was a month of recovery from the medically-induced coma in the ICU, followed by a month at a rehabilitation facility in Chicago, where I had physical, occupational and speech therapy before I could go home for good.”
How did you become aware of the LRF?
“One of my friends from high school has an uncle who works for the LRF. We got in contact with the LRF right away and they were very helpful from the start. I signed up for the Patient Financial Assistance Program (PFAP) and that program has been wonderful. I’m currently taking 26 medications per day. The LRF’s PFAP has been extremely helpful with that.
With the help of our dear friends at our two favorite local restaurants, my mother and father, John and Moe (Maureen) Healy, have held several events to help raise funds and awareness. So far we’ve done a golf outing and a Super Bowl party with help from the Valley Lodge Restaurant and Tavern and a couple of celebrity bartender events at the Hackney’s on Harms restaurant, both in Glenview, Ill. We’ve also done a bone marrow drive and we found six matches for other patients in that one drive.”
Would you recommend the LRF to others?
“Absolutely and I have already done so. I’m part of a discussion group of social workers, nurses, and patients who are dealing with graft versus host disease and I’ve told them all about the LRF and how helpful they’ve been to me and my family and made sure they know about resources available at the LRF. Most of them were already aware of the LRF but it’s still good to spread the word. I was really touched when I got a call from the LRF one day just to check up on me and see how I was doing. It’s nice to know that an organization that helps patients really does care for them.”
Are there any other insights you would like to share?
“Yes. I don’t want people to think that cancer has been all bad. In fact I think that the experience has been one of the more enriching parts of my life in a peculiar way. I had much love and support around me. My whole family rallied around me and my friends have been there for me. I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude throughout the journey. I had great support from the doctors and nurses around me and though painful, it really has been enlightening. I learned how strong I am by going through this.
My advice to others would be to stay positive. It can save your life. And always say thank you to your nurses.”