Giving your sister a second chance

Families are complicated.

Theirs is no different. For years, Jamie Patterson was estranged from her family. She eventually reconciled, after her sister, Jennifer Carey, had been battling chronic myeloid leukemia.

The sisters, from the Adirondack region of New York State, were back together. Which was good on so many levels.

But neither could predict just how vital their reconnection would be.

Diagnosed in April of 2010, Jennifer battled not just the disease, but the treatments. The side effects were severe and led to multiple hospitalizations.

“This last chemo I was on, all of my blood counts, my red blood counts and my white blood counts, bottomed out to nothing,” Jennifer said. “I was in the hospital from Dec. 13, 2018 until Jan. 9, 2019. They actually transferred me from local hospital to (Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center) on New Year’s Day. And that was the last straw for me. We’re not doing any more chemo. We’re either going to do the transplant or I’m just done.”

The blood and marrow transplant required a donor. Family and friends were tested by the organization Be The Match. Jennifer and her husband are volunteer firefighters and reached out to their department to encourage people to get tested.

Jamie kept saying they were wasting their time.

She was going to be her sister’s match.

Jennifer kept telling her not to get her hopes up. Jamie kept insisting.

Then came the day Jamie got her results.

“She gets to my house and said we need to FaceTime mom,” Jennifer said. “So we got on FaceTime with my mom and she handed me a piece of paper and on the piece of paper was a question mark and a puzzle piece. And of course I knew right away that she was the match and I started screaming and crying.”

Jamie knew she was the missing puzzle piece for her sister.

“Me and Jamie had been estranged for a little bit and that was Jamie’s choice,” Jennifer said. “Jamie had decided that she wanted to walk away from her family for a little while. And she regrets it. She tells us all the time that she regrets the choice she made and she’ll never do it again. I believe firmly that it’s made the bond between us so much stronger. We would both do anything for each other.”

Including donating blood and marrow for each other.

“She had no hesitation. Not an ounce of hesitation,” Jennifer said. “And she has a family of her own. She has two boys who are 11 and 13 and she’s leaving them to come here for two weeks. It’s a huge sacrifice for her. I tell her every day I can’t thank you enough. This is the best gift that I could ever receive from anybody. It’s amazing. Just amazing to me.”

Jennifer has a family of her own. She understands the sacrifice. And she knows the risks for both of them. But she’s willing to face the fear for a chance to have her life back.

“I’m a little nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Jennifer said. “There’s a lot that could go wrong. They tell you it’s a long process. It’s a long road. But I’ve fought. I’ve fought through so much. I’m not one to give up easily. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to get through this. I want my life back.

“I’m a very active person. Before I got sick, I had two boys and I was the football team mom and I was very involved with both my boys. Cancer has taken my life away, especially my quality of life. I want that back. I want myself back. That’s my goal is to get myself back and enjoy my kids. I have a new grandbaby and I want to enjoy her. So, that’s my goal.”

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