Michigan mom on road to recovery after bone marrow transplant

Tara Revyn was diagnosed with a disease called myelodysplastic syndrome more than ten years ago.  It's a type of cancer in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells, and it can develop into leukemia.

From the start, doctors knew a bone marrow transplant was Revyn's only shot at a cure.  But the journey to find that match took far longer than anyone could have expected. 

"I remember sitting with Channel 4 10 years ago at my parents' house saying, 'I just want to be a mom, and I don't want my son to grow up without a mom,'" said Revyn. 

Her son "J" was just 7 years old at the time, and his mother was just beginning her fight against the life-threatening disease.

Revyn is Korean and adopted. With no blood relatives, she turned to the Be The Match registry, but as too often happens for minorities, she was unable to find a bone marrow match.

Over the next decade, she never gave up looking, helping to organize countless bone marrow drives.

Then last year, with her health deteriorating, Revyn and her doctor went back to the registry.

"We found a donor," said Revyn.  "It's huge, it's huge, especially after waiting for 10 years."

Previous story: Metro Detroit mom gets gift of life, waited 10 years for it

On July 19, 2013, Revyn finally received the bone marrow transplant she had prayed for all those years. 

The road to recovery hasn't been easy. 

Revyn said her family, friends and the staff at the Karmanos Cancer Institute have kept her going.

"But there are those nights where you're laying in bed and I think to myself, 'I don't know if I'm going to make it.  I have so much pain, I feel so weak.' So it was very scary for me," said Revyn.  "In those dark times, you have to just call on God and have faith that there still is a plan, and you can get through this."

Karmanos oncologist Dr. Joseph Uberti is one of Revyn's longtime doctors.

"She's doing extremely well," said Uberti. "Her counts are recovered, she has no signs of her disease coming back.  She's really made a great step to the road to recovery."

One stop on that road -- celebrating the new year in a big way by attending the Winter Classic at the "Big House" with her son.

"It was awesome," said Revyn. 

Not so awesome was asking her doctor if she could go. 

"I was like, 'Should I tell him?  Should I ask him?  What if he says no?'" said Revyn. 

Not a chance, according to Uberti. 

"Tara's her own person. Regardless of what I say, she's gonna do whatever she wants, so I let her go," said Uberti.  "She was doing fine. She was going to have fun, so I said, 'Go have fun. Just be careful.'" 

Revyn has kept a blog, marrowmovement.com,to detail her recovery. 

"January 20th. It's funny, I've had a lot of people tell me, 'I am so inspired by you! I could never go through what you did.'  I feel honored that I am an inspiration to others...I am not a hero. I am a woman who for some reason was given this life to live. I am touched that sharing my story has inspired others, but this is something we all can do." 

Revyn's once seemingly impossible dream of seeing her son grow up and graduate is now within reach. 

"To me, my son is my life, and that's why I did all of this, so I could be a mom," said Revyn.  "I'm able to do that.  He's a senior this year, and he's going to go into the Marine Corps, and I couldn't be more proud." 

She plans to keep encouraging others to join the Be The Match registry and hopes to one day thank her hero in person. 

"I think about my donor all the time.  I think about who this person is.  All I know is he is a 35-year-old male somewhere.  I don't know where he lives, and I hope to someday meet him and say 'Thank you for giving me my life back.'"

  • To find out how to join the Be The Match registry, click here
  • To visit the Karmanos Cancer Institute website, click here
  • To find out more about the Karmanos Cancer Institute's 32nd Annual Dinner, click here. The fundraising event will raise funds to help renovate the Institute's infusion center where so many patients receive lifesaving chemotherapy treatments. 

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