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Lymphoma and Pets
A Brother's Gift to His Sister
One brother gives his sister his own stem cells to help save her:
"It's the season of giving. It's the time of year when we pause to think of those we love and reach out to help someone we might not even know. For Michelle Salerno, a Lombard, Ill., resident the perfect gift came early this year. On March 9, her brother Joey gave her 5 million of his own stem cells, a gift that has given Michelle hope, a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream and an opportunity to help others with their cancer struggles.
"Growing up, Joey and I really weren't that close," said Michelle. "He was the oldest, so he left for college when I was still young, and he was in the military so distance made it difficult. When he found out I had cancer, everything changed. He's my best friend, whether he knows it or not."
In 2002 Michelle Salerno's life came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The prognosis wasn't good, but Michelle was ready to fight and so were the staff of the Loyola Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, led by her oncologist Dr. Tulio Rodriguez.
"Dr. Rodriguez would always tell me that I'm not dying any sooner than the rest of the people living. He never gave up on me. There was always a Plan B, something else to try," said Michelle.
For Michelle, Plan B was a series of stem cell transplants, rigorous chemotherapy and clinical trials. When a transplant of her own cells failed, she was told she needed a donor.
"I will never forget the expression on Dr. Rodriguez's face when he told me my oldest brother was a match. Joey was a 10 out of 10 match!" exclaimed Salerno. "Joey never even hesitated when he learned he could help. He was happy, relieved knowing there was something he could do."
But the joy was short-lived. The first transplant in 2004 didn't work. After 100 days of isolation, a CT scan revealed her btother's cells worked with the cancer instead of against it."