When Sherry Wilbur was diagnosed with acute myelogenic leukemia (AML) in 1987, the 28-year-old wife and mother of three young children could only feel sorrow that she might not live to raise her own children.
While she began chemotherapy at the local hospital where her illness was diagnosed, Sherry’s father urged her to transfer to City of Hope, which he learned about through a co-worker. Sherry recalls her oncologist’s dissuasion, “He urged me not to transfer to City of Hope, insisting that it was too far from my home and that I would not receive consistent care at a research hospital. Thankfully, my father’s strong feelings prevailed.”
At City of Hope, Sherry’s physician Anthony Stein, M.D., believed that her best chance for survival would be a bone marrow transplant (BMT). When her family members failed to yield a marrow donor match for Sherry, Stein suggested that she participate in what was, at the time, an experimental treatment, an autologous transplantation in which Sherry’s own healthy marrow would be reinfused after the leukemia was eliminated with high dose chemotherapy. Sherry agreed, believing it might be her only hope for a future.
During the seven months that Sherry was an inpatient at City of Hope, her faith in community and God’s grace deepened. Her family received enormous support from her church, and Sherry came to know that the only thing that matters in her life is the people with whom she shares the journey.
Sherry remains City of Hope’s longest living recipient of an autologous BMT for treatment of AML. Her children are young adults and Sherry is enjoying her first grandchild. While her illness is long behind her, she remains grateful for the strength she discovered through the experience. In service to others who are suffering through the fear she once knew, Sherry founded a bimonthly support group for cancer patients at her church.