Mia Hamm has been a passionate advocate for the bone marrow transplant (BMT) community since she lost her brother due to complications following a BMT more than 25 years ago. She understands that for many people, their fight doesn’t stop after the transplant. Serious complications like GVHD could follow. That's why she is urging people to watch out for signs of GVHD and its progression.
GVHD is a serious condition that occurs when the new donor cells attack the recipient’s organs and tissues after a BMT. Symptoms may be difficult to spot but can quickly worsen and cause irreversible organ damage. However, early action could help prevent long-term consequences. That’s why it’s important to be proactive and talk to your healthcare team as soon as you notice any new or changing GVHD symptoms.
Loriana’s number one fan is her son, but she has a tight group of super
fans to keep her motivated every
step of the way.
Like so many who have had cancer, Loriana’s battle is a long and complex one. Though she has faced many unforeseen obstacles, her loved ones—or her “fans,” as she calls them—have been by her side the whole time.
In 2014, she received a BMT to treat her leukemia. At the time, she knew there was a chance she could develop GVHD post-transplant. Not long after surgery, she began to notice rashes and started to experience stomach issues—both potential signs of GVHD.
Loriana was diagnosed with acute GVHD, which ultimately progressed to chronic GVHD. At the time of diagnosis, her everyday life changed dramatically. It became consumed by a maze of doctors’ visits and specialist appointments. Her work and interests in life fell by the wayside. Yet through it all, she struggled the most when seeing the impact her GVHD had on her husband and son.
It wasn’t until Loriana found a healthcare team who knew how to address GVHD and her physical and emotional symptoms that she started to feel like she had a path forward that gave her hope. She became empowered to educate herself about GVHD, ask questions, and proactively discuss and track symptoms.
I needed to continue to push for more answers to my questions. And there were so many days I just wanted to give up. But my son—my biggest fan— would lift me up and inspire me to stay in the game. He really gave me purpose.
No matter where Loriana’s GVHD journey leads her, she will always find strength through the support of her fans.
Rollin's GVHD is monitored by his
healthcare team. He draws strength
every day from his wife, Brigid, and his dependable fan club of friends and family.
In 2017, Rollin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood and bone marrow cancer that turned his life upside down. Only a few months after his diagnosis, Rollin saw a light at the end of the tunnel—a BMT, an operation that would rid him of his ALL. While Rollin was prepared for side effects from the surgery, like hair loss and exhaustion, he never imagined it would lead to a different chronic condition that he’d be managing years later.
After surgery, Rollin brushed off his persistent cough and dry eyes as nothing more than minor nuisances. But he was missing warning signs of something more serious. A lung infection finally led him to visit his doctor, and he was ultimately diagnosed with chronic GVHD.
Rollin walked out of that visit with little information, a few prescriptions, and a myriad of questions. His wife, Brigid, a nurse and his biggest fan, did all she could to learn more about how to best support him.
Over time, lung damage, peripheral neuropathy, and impaired vision forced Rollin to be less active, making it difficult to hike, bike, and kayak like he used to. Early retirement left Rollin looking for new outlets and ways to keep himself busy and positive.
When I first developed GVHD, I had a hard time figuring out what my purpose was. My life changed so much, and there's so many things that I couldn't do that I used to do before.
While chronic GVHD has made a great impact on Rollin’s life, he has learned to be his own advocate and to take charge of his journey. Rollin wants to encourage others living with GVHD to do their own research and not wait for others to tell them what is right.
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