Spreading hope when being home for the holidays isn’t an option
Wrapping gifts. Lining tins with festive baking. Taking children to holiday concerts. Getting diagnosed with leukemia.
Diana Stephens’ December activities were much like those of other moms, until her phone rang on December 17, 2014. “My world came to a crashing halt,” says Stephens. “I received a call at lunch from my doctor that began with, ‘I hate to give you this news over the phone… you have leukemia’.”
Earlier that month, Stephens had visited her family doctor, puzzled by a cough that wouldn’t go away, even after antibiotics. Now, on that unforgettable day in December, the diagnosis was clear, and she needed to start chemotherapy at the Health Sciences Centre immediately. Moments after Stephens received the life-altering news, she got a call from HSC saying they had a bed for her as soon as she could arrive at HSC.
“My world turned upside down,” she says. It was indeed a new reality for Stephens, a nurse at a personal care home and an entrepreneur who ran her own foot care business in Pilot Mound, Manitoba.
Within hours of the call from HSC, Stephens arrived at the hospital.
“HSC had the bed covers pulled down, ready for me. I started chemo the next morning.”
Stephens met the challenge of chemotherapy head-on and asked her long-time friend, a hairdresser, to shave her head within the first few days of treatment.
Unfortunately, Stephens had to spend the holidays on GD6 at HSC, but she reflects positively on the experience: “GD6 is such a special unit. They were exceptional. I couldn’t have asked for better care.”
After her one-month stay on GD6, it was recommended to Stephens that she get a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, Stephens’ brother was a 100% match, and, in April 2015, she received her transplant. “He gave me my life back.”
That following December, Stephens and a fellow former GD6 patient, returned to the unit to spread cheer for patients spending the holidays where they once were.
Along with bringing presents, Stephens and her friend shared their stories.
“We were there to tell patients our stories and let them know there’s hope,” she says.
Stephens is now leukemia-free and is celebrating her five-year transplant anniversary by travelling to Mexico and Las Vegas with family.