It’s often hard to find the good in a situation when someone you know or love is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
UAB Medical Technologist Susan Evans, left, with Nurse Clinician Lydia Deivanayagam, is battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia and underwent a bone-marrow transplant in September 2006. She is encouraging others to help fight leukemia and lymphoma by being a part of the Light the Night Walk, Thursday, Sept. 13.
Imagine how hard it is to be positive when that someone is you.
Susan Evans knows firsthand the feeling of hearing such a diagnosis. The medical technologist has been on leave from her position in the hematology lab at UAB Hospital for more than a year following a bone marrow transplant.
Evans still is struggling with some health issues since her transplant in September 2006. However, she believes there are many positive things that have come from her situation.
“There have been positives to come out of this, there’s no doubt,” Evans says. “I’ve been able to talk to other people going through chemotherapy and let them know what my experiences were like. When my hair started to grow back, I passed my caps on to a nurse at UAB who was going through chemotherapy and losing her hair.
“There are many people going through similar things. I don’t look at it as an obligation to be a positive influence or help others, but this is part of the good that can come out of this – to help other people who have similar problems,” she says.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is asking others to help fight the disease by joining the group for its Light the Night Walk, Thursday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. at Regions Park Stadium (formerly Hoover Metropolitan Stadium).
“Light the Night brings awareness to people and raises money that is desperately needed,” says Evans, who participated in the walk three years ago. “Raising awareness of the disease is one of the most important things we can do.”
To join the UAB Health System Team, contact Cam Sabo (firstname.lastname@example.org), Diana Tate (email@example.com) or Kristie Heath (firstname.lastname@example.org), or register online at www.lightthenight.org.
Cash, checks (written to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and online donations are welcome and can be made by visiting www.lightthenight.org. Click “Search” on the left-hand side of the page, type in a UAB Health System Team captain’s name and click “Search” again.
Light the Night Walk festivities begin at 5 p.m. that evening. All cancer survivors participate in the walk with a lighted, helium-filled white balloon. Supporters of cancer survivors walk with lighted red balloons. Anyone can be a part of the event.
Evans participated in the Light the Night Walk three years ago. That was three years after she first had a small-cell lymphoma removed from her neck. She underwent radiation treatment after her 2001 diagnosis and did well until 2004 when tests showed she had chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
“It had gone to my bone marrow,” Evans says. “I had high white-blood-cell counts, and they decided to do chemotherapy then. I did chemo for two years.”
On Aug. 12, 2006, Evans was working the hematology/oncology lab when she noticed a rash on her arm. She went from her second floor lab to the ninth floor oncology unit that afternoon.
She hasn’t been back to work since.
Her body was destroying her platelets and blood cells, a complication for some patients battling CLL. A little more than a month later, after she had stabilized, Evans had the transplant.
Evans says she continues to persevere in part by helping others and relying on her large support group.
“My faith in God and my family and friends have meant so much to me,” Evans says. “Their support has just been wonderful. There have just been so many positives to come of this in my life.”
James Evans, one of her sons, has been affected by his mom’s disease. He’s a fourth-year medical student at UAB now in rotation on the hematology ward working closely for a few weeks with Randall Davis, M.D., his mom’s oncologist. He’s also contemplating hematology and oncology as his profession.
“I saw the relationship between my mom and her oncologist and I really was impressed,” he says. “I saw the way she related to her doctor and it got me thinking about what I want to do. I thought it looked like a rewarding field.”
There’s nothing Evans would like more than to join her son at work again.
“I haven’t come back to work at UAB yet,” she says, “but I still hope to.”