Well it’s officially official.  My bone marrow transplant, formerly known as my stem cell transplant, is a go.  In exactly twelve days, I shall be “re-born”.  I’m not trying to sound deep or all metaphoric.  Scientifically and medically speaking, I will be a whole new person.  Everything in my bones and in my DNA that says I’m Cristina will be gone.  I am my father’s daughter but come November 16, I will be much more than that.  It’s an overwhelming thought and come to think of it, it is metaphoric.

In case you didn’t know yet, my father is going to be my bone marrow donor.  After my only sister did not turn out to be a match, an extensive search by the national bone marrow registry turned up nothing.  Not even one potential match.  In a world where the average white person has 10-15 potential matches, this Hispanic had not a one.  This hard reality sparked a new-found passion for me.  If this is my reality, how many other Hispanics and minorities is this happening to?  Apparently, too many are facing my same reality.  A fire within me for this need to be filled began to grow inside me.  As I voiced my concern to the media and the media began to validate my voice, my father was being tested as a potential half-match for my much needed transplant.  This fire within me was about to have gasoline poured on it.

As my biological father, it was a scientific inevitability that he would be a half-match.  We all get half of our DNA from our fathers and the other half from our mothers.  My father was preferred by doctors over my mother because he’s never had children and that’s a bigger plus for his immune system that he would be passing onto me.  My mother didn’t hide her disdain at the fact that she would not be my hero but that my father would be the one to save my life.  A beloved church family member one day told my mother, “Don’t be upset!  You already had the privilege of giving life to this wonderful creature.  Now her father gets to experience the same!”  My mother gave in instantly to that thought and had to admit to the intense significance of the situation.  I’ll admit, it struck me too.

WARNING:  If you are prone to crying while reading, please grab a tissue.  Or two.  This is about to get intense.

My dad owes me.  I’m not an ungrateful child.  He has done everything and anything for me but despite all that, the man just plain owes me.  Big time.

In the summer of 2009, my parents, niece, and my husband and I, decided to take a weekend trip to a water park here in Texas a mere three hours away.  A hint?  It starts with ‘S’ and ends with ‘bahn’.  My mother and my husband banded together in order to stay off the rides.  They’re not big fans of bodies of water and slides that spit you out as they don’t know how to swim.  They used my then 6 year old niece as an excuse to stay by the kiddie pools.  My father and I, on the other hand, took the opportunity to partner up and get on every single ride the park had to offer.  As the day began to come to an end and we prepared to leave, I asked my dad if we could get on one last ride.  He of course said yes and we headed off, inner tube in tow, to the last ride of the day.

It was supposed to be the most relaxing ride in the whole park but it turned out to be our worst nightmare.  The self-propelled river took us on a tour of the park and the signs indicated that the ride ends in the actual natural river from which the park gets it’s water.  I told my dad we needed to get off before the end of the ride because the river is deep and he can’t swim.  I know you know where this is going.

There was one last exit before the end of the ride and, you guessed it, we missed it.  It wasn’t marked and it didn’t look like a very ‘official’ exit, so we kept going.  I saw the end of the ride up ahead and my dad floating toward it in his tube ahead of me.  We’d been separated a little ways back and I wasn’t able to remind him about the deep river at the end.  I didn’t think twice about it and thought, “Oh, he’ll remember what I told him about the river being deep and he’ll just stay on his tube.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I came off the ride in my tube backward not even a minute after my father.  As my tube turned to face forward slowly, I began to scan the crowd that was walking up the exit stairs to the left out of the river.  No Dad.  Hmm.  I scanned the people in their tubes floating out ahead of me.  Still no Dad.  HMMMM.  And then I saw it.  A lonely tube out in the water about 10 yards away.  There was violent splashing a few feet away from it.  The lifeguards at the exit of the ride were chatting away with each other, completely oblivious to what was going on right in front of them.

“DADDY!!!,” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I jumped off my tube and swam furiously toward my drowning father.  I swam up behind him, hooked my arms under his arms, and pulled him up enough out of the water so that he could finally breathe.  He couldn’t say anything as he was coughing and gasping for air but his eyes said it all.  He was happy to see me.  The lifeguards finally swam up to us and helped my dad to the safe edge of the river.  I was angry, scared, and grateful all at the same time.  I’d almost lost my dad that day.

After yelling at the lifeguards for not doing their job and fuming at the management, all I wanted to do was go home with my family intact and forget about the whole thing.  My worst nightmare had almost come true and I wanted to get as far away from that place as possible.  I buried it deep and put it out of my mind and even got angry anytime my mother would bring it up.  And I did make myself forget about it.  But my father never forgot.  He would only tell me now and again how I’d saved him and how he owed me his life.  I would brush it off and tell him that I only did what any child would do for their parent.  He would never reply but the disagreement on his face told me different.

I never thought about that day again until the day we were told that my father had been chosen as my bone marrow donor.  I later asked my father if he was sure he wanted to go through with the surgery required for a bone marrow donation.  He looked me square in the eyes and said, “You saved my life once.  Now I get to save yours.”

I felt the air leave my lungs as I began to comprehend what he’d just said.  He’d felt indebted to me for three years and I’d brushed it off like it was nothing.  Now that my own life needed saving, I inherently understood how he felt about the day I’d saved his.  As much as I had wanted to forget about that day, he hadn’t.

Whenever my dad had talked about that day at the water park, he would say it was the day he’d been reborn from the water.  His brush with death had made him value his life and blessings on a much, much deeper level.  I could never fully understand the immense value he had placed on what I had done for him until my own face-off with death.  I can now say that I understand the magnitude of saving a life and the preciosity of preserving it.  And now, in an irony that I’m sure is not lost on you, his rebirth has made mine possible.  Had I lost my father on that fateful day, my life now on this earth would most assuredly be coming to an end.  While my mother is also a half-match, she would not be the best candidate for me as a donor.  I came from her womb and so her cells would be the same ones doctors are now trying to change.

And so, come November 16th, I too shall be reborn.  My doctor tells me it will be my second birthday and should be celebrated with the same significance as my original birthday.  My own bone marrow production, in which lies my DNA and immune system that has failed me, will be shut down by chemotherapy in the days leading up to the transplant.  It will be replaced with two pints of my father’s healthy bone marrow, drawn out with surgery from his hip bones in his back that same day.  He’ll be in pain for about a week while doctors keep a close eye on me in the hospital for about three weeks to make sure my body doesn’t reject his marrow.  His immune system will slowly become my immune system.  His blood type will be my new blood type.  His DNA will be my full DNA, not just half.  Future blood tests will show no more DNA traces of Cristina.  But I get to live.  My father’s debt will be cancelled out.

I’ll always be me in my heart, mind, and spirit even though on paper, I’ll actually be my father.  I’m my father’s daughter and now he’ll also be the biggest part of me.  So one day, even when he’s long gone from this earth, he will still in essence live on through me.  I couldn’t ask for more noble blood to be running through my veins.

And who wouldn’t want a second birthday?

I’ll still be me. (Photo courtesy Diva Dulce Photography)

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96 thoughts on “Rebirth

  1. Andrew says:

    Best wishes for the transplant. Long and hard journey ahead, and the best advice I received from my medical team was take it day-by-day.

    • Thank you Andrew!! That’s the only way I’m getting through all this now…just one day at a time or I’d go crazy!

    • Sister. Learn how to breath deeper than deep, slower than slow. identify the source of evil. Then the connection is real, how to through “energy of thoughts”, redirect, eliminate the sick cells. It works. Invest in quality, slow time, to gain a life time./Stay Healthy

  2. Letty says:

    Hi Cristina, I’m so happy to hear the news of your upcoming transplant. I do have a couple of tissues at hand as I’m through your story, living once again my own story….I know your dad is very proud of what he is about to do as my own father did the same for my sister. I pray for those cells to engraft quickly and for your body to be strong to keep fighting. I look forward to your updates. Bendiciones!

  3. Mo says:

    Prayers and best wishes for your BMT. May it help you to know my sister celebrated her SIXTH post-BMT birthday on October 24th. Look forward to the years ahead when you celebrate your two birthdays!

  4. Isabel Richter says:

    Thanks for sharing this incredible story. It did touch my heart deeply since I too am a parent & would do anything to help one of my children. Your dad must feel wonderful to be able to help you! Tell him I’ll pray for him too. Read to him Psalm 54 to encourage him & you dear Christina! So, you will be born of the flesh twice but once in the spirit as Jesus said in John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him(Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verse 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. ~~Stand on His promise in Isaiah 53:5 But He WAS wounded for our transgressions, he WAS bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our Peace WAS upon Him; and with His stripes we ARE HEALED. ~~Just believe this promise & receive it. It is His will for you to be healed just like it is His will for your salvation! Jesus already PAID the price for your healing, deliverance, and salvation over 2000 years ago. In Luke 4:18 is Jesus’ outline to His ministry & we should follow those steps to bring others to salvation, deliverance & healing. This is what me & my family are taught at Tabernacle of Holiness Church. 🙂 Have a lovely day in the Lord Jesus.

  5. wow… that’s a lot to think on. It’s a beautiful story and will no doubt bring you and your family even closer. Wishing you and yours all the best before, during, and after the surgery.

  6. Pippa says:

    I wish you the
    best of life after the intervention 🙂

  7. Wishing you the very best of luck with the transplant!

  8. Jamie says:

    You are an inspiration as well as a great writer. A good friend of mine had a successful bone marrow transplant and has since become a mother. That was 11 years ago! I know you’re in for a tough ride and I wish you all the best! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Awww, a miracle baby! That is definitely my heart’s desire after this nightmare is over. I pray that God grants me the honor of being a mother just like your friend. Tell her I said congrats!!

  9. started crying three sentences before your warning…very best wishes for your rebirth 🙂

  10. Eva De La Garza says:

    this is so awesome….I did get several tissues in the process….what an amazing story and your DAD AND YOU can be so proud of each other and your family as well….GOD BLESS AND i will continue to keep you in my daily prayers for your new Birthday….and for you and your Dad….blessings…EVA

  11. Soumyadeep B says:

    “Future blood tests will show no more DNA traces of Cristina”

    is not medically correct …is it ??? your DNA is not going to be replaced. The BM part will be replaced

    • My blood DNA will be completely changed. As a female, we only have X chromosomes, but future blood tests will show X and Y chromosomes like male DNA. But I will still be ME! 😉

  12. Beautiful and touching. The best of wishes sent your way as you get your new DNA. 🙂

  13. projectlola says:

    Congrats! Glad they found you a match, no matter the sex – so hard to find a match even harder to find a donor. I guess you got your Christmas wish early this year.

  14. May you have a happy and healthy re-birthday! This post is such a significant reminder of why we should all march ourselves over to that bone marrow registry. ~ Kat

    • Yes definitely! That’s exactly what I’m hoping to accomplish by sharing my story! I want everyone who reads my blog to feel compelled to become a registered donor. This is my hope!

  15. maidreamsbig says:

    God bless you on your rebirth! 🙂

  16. haleymg12 says:

    How amazing. Best wishes for you & your father.

  17. A beautiful story written by a courageous woman.

  18. segmation says:

    Good luck to you. This had to be a hard blog story to write!

  19. vyvacious says:

    I have to admit I did cry while reading this. Thanks for the beautiful story. You have no idea how much it touched me.

    Also, completely random but you’re absolutely stunning!

  20. cartoonmick says:

    Good luck with it all, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for you.

    Our family had a close call a couple of years ago and pulled through it, and I’m sure you will.

    You sound like you have the underlying strength to do it.

    • Thank you so much! Too many families like yours and mine are having close calls…too many for my taste. So glad your family came out on the other side and hope to join you there soon!

  21. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. Best wishes on your recovery and rebirth

  22. May you and your father both revel in your new lives after this is all over! My husband survived lymphoma to the astonishment of doctors, forty years ago and he’s still going strong, so may the same be true for you. Many will be praying for you. Oh yes, bald IS beautiful and you are just stunning and really suit the “hairdo”.

  23. Bridget says:

    Wow! Great post. You do look wonderful. As I always say, “Long hair’s for boys” I’, always drawn to short-haired women. All the best for the future.

  24. Who Am I? says:

    By all my heart I wish you a healthy, happy, and long life. God bless your father. May he live long enough to see you growing old happily.

  25. Good luck and God bless! Good read. My throat ached the whole time.

  26. mobysugar says:

    All the best….keep u in my prayers!

  27. Jacqui says:

    Wow. What an amazing story. Good luck for the transplant. I know everything will be okay. Your dad sounds like an amazing person, as do you. Keep on smiling 😀

  28. You Still Look Beautiful, and you will survive and overcome this, May God Give YOU The Strength You Need To Be Healed, Recovered And Restored.

  29. cuppaqueen says:

    Wow, what a phenomenal post. I will think of you on the 16th 🎈 Best wishes from Sydney, Australia xx

  30. Kris F says:

    What a tribute! Thanksgiving in life. Blessings with you and your father throughout this transplant and ever after. The need for donors is a critical issue as you know. I’m hoping to hear of your successful recovery and the beginning of a rally among Hispanics to help with bone marrow transplants. Bon chance.

  31. What an incredible family. Best wishes for you and your father.
    PS. That photo.. my gosh, lady. You are just stunning.

  32. Poppy says:

    I wish you good luck with the operation! My Mum survived cancer twice(!), so every cancer story is a little heartbreak for me, bringing back that terrible feeling I had in my stomach before her surgeries.
    Your Dad is a great person, and so you are, best wishes for both of you!

    • Yes, when a family member suffers from cancer, the WHOLE family suffers from cancer. I’m so happy to hear your mother is still with us and I hope to join her in her victory soon!

  33. Thanks for sharing your powerful, life-affirming story. All the best to you, your brave, loving father, and your entire family.

  34. What a beautiful and touching story! Good luck with everything!

  35. Mlle B says:

    Just found your blog! Wish you all the best for the transplant! I admire your strength and am sure your father is relieved he can be doing something for your recovery! All the best to you! Love the picture by the way! ( I kept my head shaved for many years… just liked it better that way!)

  36. Victor Ordu says:

    God be with you… You’re spirit is amazing and challenging to people who keep complaining about mundane issues whilst others battle for life. I believe it shall be well and your entire family!

    • You hit the nail on the head. My top pet peeve are complainers. I say, “suck it up, so what if it’s Monday or so what if you got a flat tire?? You’re ALIVE and WELL!” Thank you for reading!!

  37. rheath40 says:

    You ARE incredibly strong and beautiful. Good luck my dear.

  38. Jim says:

    You are strong, I don’t know you but I can tell. God bless and best wishes.

  39. jmgoyder says:

    I hardly ever go to Freshly Pressed so I am so glad I did tonight. Please be okay – I will follow your progress.

  40. beadstork says:

    I have been a registered marrow donor since 1992. They haven’t called me yet, but the day they do, I’m gettin’ on a plane! As a physician I know the road ahead of you will be hard but with your great and strong attitude I am sure you will do great! I have a patient who is already 15 years out from her stem cell transplant and doing great!

  41. A story to tell to the world. Amazingly heart-moving!

  42. I ran two marathons this year raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Every time I see a blog about cancer I read it. I am so grateful for the research that goes into finding a cure. Your story is personal and thank you for sharing. Your photo shows a vibrant woman who looks like she can conquer anything she sets her mind too.

  43. Best wishes to you. I worked at M.D. Anderson for a few years and know the dedication of those who are helping you, wherever you are receiving your treatment. You and your father are equally lucky to have each other. Congrats on a well-deserved Fresh Press.

  44. G says:

    TRULY…I haven’t read more POWERFUL a blog post everrrrrr. AND this… “Don’t be upset! You already had the privilege of giving life to this wonderful creature. Now her father gets to experience the same!” OMG….

    What a family bond. A father is re-born to give another birth to a person (you), Loads of love and hugsssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

    God, you are so kind.

  45. This post has given me goosebumps! Talk about how the world turns.
    Good luck with the transplant. I wish you nothing but the best for you and your father.

    Take care

  46. epilepsymeandneurology says:

    well i am gasping and there are tears! This is a very moving story and i really hopey your rebirth is successful. I will have my fingers and toes crossed for you on the 16th!

  47. Alan says:

    Good luck to you and you Dad, on your second ‘birthday’!! I hope it all turns out for the best, hang in there and stay positive! B-)

  48. helencripps63 says:

    Wishing you all the best for your forth coming rebirth, I’m also running a cancer blog having been touched three times personally by this dreaded disease, and having lost family members.
    Take one day at a time is also my main philosophy now.
    I’m things will work out fine.

  49. I can’t tell if this is a story about sacrifice or a new lease on existence. Powerful stuff.

  50. Tracy says:

    We dont know each other but I feel I’m getting to know you through your writing, its touching and beautiful. You’re an amazing lady with an awesome Dad. I know the fight is a tough one so I send you wishes from across the sea for strength, courage, perseverance, laughs and love along the way. Everyone is rooting for you.

  51. WOW – you’ll rock the ‘new’ you, I’m sure! All the best to you and your family. WOW!

  52. Jeni says:

    Feliz Cumpleaños — and may it be the first of many, many, many more.

  53. Such a great story. 🙂 Thank you for posting. I’ll be praying for your full recovery. Blessing to you.

  54. MzDezy says:

    You’re a beautiful woman. I learned some new things from this post. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish the best for you and your family.

  55. Thank you for sharing your story and wish you will. Congrats on your rebirth, wish you a full recovery. -CAT

  56. Beautiful story and good luck. Happy re-birthday!

    – Alice

  57. smartnsassy says:

    Sending you best wishes on your second birthday and warm fuzzies for the journey!
    Keep smiling – you are beautiful and your words are inspiring.
    ~ sassy ~

  58. you sound like a very strong woman 🙂 i wish you the very, very best of luck with your transplant.

  59. lsurrett2 says:

    Seriously awesome post. Also, you are absolutely gorgeous, rocking your ‘do.

  60. ohlisa says:

    This is really beautiful–thanks for sharing such a touching and personal part of your life. Good luck with everything. I hope everything goes smoothly for you and your dad.

  61. munich says:

    You are Amazing! The courage and determination in you tops it all. i was in tears while reading your post,i pray that you have a successfull surgery and wishing you an earlier HBD.,,no matter what you go through Always smile on this beautifull journey of life.,wishing you quick recovery.

  62. Anita Mac says:

    Wow. What an amazing story…so amazing that you have each saved each other in such a life altering way! I hope the transplant is a huge success and you will look back on this for years to come. Thanks for sharing something so deeply personal – we have all been enriched by your experience. Such a great reminder of the value of family – makes me want to call my dad back again to tell him I love him.

  63. diarydilemma says:

    You are absoutely stunning, your story touched my heart. I wish you luck on your endevours to the new you. Cheers to new beginnings!

  64. How can one respond to this? Blessings to you and your family, Cristina. You come from brave stock. Tell your dad a lot of people think he is awesome. You will both be in my thoughts and prayers.

  65. Lou Schwarz says:

    You are a brave and beautiful woman Cristina. I am humbled by reading your story, and I thank you for being brave enough to share it.
    I am wishing you all the positive happy thoughts to get through this difficult time.

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