Patient's 17-year battle with rare blood cancer won’t dim her spirit
January 12, 2016 | by Letisia Marquez
Cheryl Taylor spent New Year’s Day in a brand new way. The City of Hope patient watched the Rose Parade from the grandstands, surrounded by strangers who quickly became friends after she told them she’s battled a rare, debilitating blood cancer – a myeloproliferative neoplasm – for almost 17 years.
“One woman stated, ‘You’re so amazing. Can I give you a hug?’” Cheryl, 56, said.
Cheryl, a Westlake Village resident, received VIP tickets to the Rose Parade, the Rose Bowl and a tailgate party thanks to Duarte Mayor Samuel Kang. The city’s top official donated the tickets he received from the Tournament of Roses so a City of Hope patient could enjoy the experience.
After years of fighting for her life, Cheryl said she couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a new year that’s filled with so much promise. Among other goals, she's looking forward to joining speakers’ groups because she’d like to start sharing her story. Cheryl also plans to volunteer again with domestic violence and child abuse victims, as she did before she received a bone marrow transplant in 2012.
“I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful,” she said. “To get to go to the Rose Bowl, and to be alive.”
Cheryl lost her husband in 1998 to a rare form of melanoma, and less than a year later, she was diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia. The condition caused her to produce too many blood platelets, which led to pain, blood clots, blurry vision and other health problems. Despite years of chemotherapy and other treatment, the disease developed into myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer of the bone marrow.
On June 27, 2012, Cheryl received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope with stem cells donated by a family member. Unfortunately, the new stem cells attacked Cheryl's tissue, a reaction known as graft-versus-host disease. After being hospitalized several times for treatment at City of Hope, she recovered.
“I’ve almost lost my life several times,” said Cheryl, who also received two neck surgeries at City of Hope to replace neck bones made brittle by years of chemotherapy. “But as you can see, today, I’m up and running."
“I was rebuilt, but my spirit is original, and I’m a walking miracle of science and soul,” she added.
Cheryl also credits the people at City of Hope with helping her get through some bleak moments. Her son, daughter-in-law and a young grandson are her only family members in the area, and they can’t always be with her when she’s been hospitalized. So she regards City of Hope staff, nurses, and doctors, such as Leslie Popplewell, Stephen Forman and Mike Chen, as her second family.
“The doctors always made sure I had someone with me every day,” Cheryl said.
No matter how difficult life may seem, Cheryl never loses her positive outlook.
“Hope has been my word,” Cheryl said. “I have the word hope up everywhere in my house so I don’t forget what it is that gets me through each day.”
If you are looking for a second opinion about your diagnosis or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.