NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 22, 2013

Drive to honor woman in need of bone marrow transplant

(Continued)

When the results were abnormal, Jeffcoat suspected she might have mono and had her continue to come in for tests regularly.

“There really weren’t any symptoms,” Sheehan said. “I was tired.”

After a vacation in Florida, Sheehan came in for her latest tests, which showed that her white blood cell count was “down to nothing.”

She was referred to an oncologist at Coastal Medical Associates, where she had a bone marrow biopsy. Three days later, she found out she had acute myeloid leukemia, which starts inside bone marrow and grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“It was pretty shocking,” said Sheehan, who immediately started chemotherapy and radiation.

But she said it helped that she felt well when she began treatment and credits Jeffcoat for helping her catch it early.

“She wanted to get to the bottom of it and figure out what was going on,” she said. “She was really diligent.”

Now a patient at Dana-Farber, Sheehan is currently on a drug to suppress the leukemia while she waits for a donor. She is on leave from both Latitude, where she has been an instructor for 11 years, and Hewlett-Packard, where she is a senior account manager.

And even if tomorrow’s drive doesn’t produce a donor for her, she’s grateful that it will at least help raise awareness and possibly aid another one of the thousands of patients who need transplants.

“A lot of people want to help, and they don’t know how to help,” she said.

Joining the registry is a simple, painless process that involves a quick swab of cheek cells. Anyone in good health between the ages of 18 and 44 is eligible.

Participants tomorrow will be greeted by representatives from Dana-Farber along with Sheehan’s husband, Tim, and three children, Audrey, 13; Nicole, 11; and Ethan, 7. A number of her friends will also be in attendance, though Sheehan herself is under doctor’s orders to stay home.

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