You never expect to hear the words YOU HAVE CANCER.
Hi, my name is Jessica Lopez and this is my story.
I am a 29 year-old mother of 2 beautiful boys. Just over a year ago, I was working full time and was nearly finished completing my Bachelor’s degree. Little did I know I had cancer running all throughout my blood. Although I had been in pain for several months I ignored it because I was so busy with life. The pain ultimately became unbearable, my heart was racing, my temperature was high, and I knew something was very wrong. I finally decided to go to John Muir Health in Concord where my sister works as an Oncology Nurse. Within four hours I would receive words no one ever wants to hear, including “You have cancer” and “you can’t leave the hospital” and “you will be here for at least 1 month.” I began to cry and ask questions like, “Am I was going to die?” Luckily, I had two of the most incredible nurses I have ever met, Hailey and Regina. They comforted and prayed with me. I was scared for my life as I waited for an oncologist to come talk to me. After patiently waiting, I met one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever come across, Dr. Shoba Kankipati. She told me I had leukemia and that I needed a bone marrow biopsy to determine the specific type. She performed my first of many bone marrow biopsies and that night I had a PICC line inserted into my arm.
My boys gave me a reason to fight—I promised them I would be okay. On August 17th, 2017 I started my first round of intensive chemotherapy which lasted 10 days. My blood counts began to drop drastically. I became neutropenic and needed frequent blood transfusions.. I began feeling weak—I was too tired to even walk or get out of bed. After being in the hospital for almost a month and fighting off severe infections, I was able to finally go home for 2 weeks. Soon after, however, I was back in the hospital for more chemotherapy.
After finishing the initial chemotherapy, I was told I needed a bone marrow transplant to increase my chance of cure. My family and I traveled to UCSF and I met my next oncologist, Dr. Gabriel Mannis who cared for me during the sickest and most important part of my journey. All three of my siblings were tested and by the Grace of God one of my siblings was a 10/10 match. I was admitted to UCSF to receive my bone marrow transplant. For the first 10 days at UCSF, I received the strongest chemotherapy I had ever received. On day 12, I received a life-saving bone marrow transplant and December 7, 2017 became my new birthday. Two days before Christmas I was released home. The hardest part of this process was not being able to see my kids because I was too immunocompromised.
For the first 100 days post-transplant I couldn’t leave home and my parents and siblings took care of me. I was taking close to 40 pills a day, traveled to UCSF twice a week, and felt sick and tired with no energy. Six months post-transplant I received another painful biopsy but by the Grace of God I am still in remission. I am thankful every day that I wake up. Life is precious and tomorrow is never promised. I had no idea how important self-care was until now but am now 8 months post-transplant, in remission, and living my best life. I am so fortunate and grateful every day to have had the best team of nurses and oncologists including Dr. Kankapati at John Muir Concord and the best team at UCSF, including Dr. Mannis who provided me with the best treatment post-transplant. I am thankful and appreciative to all my friends and family for their love and support, Wild 94.9 and Light the Night for sharing my story.