Project Birthday Bags

I have literally beat every thing doctors said I couldn’t and I have lived longer than they said I would.

I have been chronically ill since the age of 10, which means I’ve practically been sick most of my life. In 2012, I was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). HLH is a rare autoimmune disorder where the body forms too many activated immune cells. The illness can cause patients to develop a number of neurological abnormalities, which may also cause fevers, rashes, heart and breathing complications, along with an increased risk of certain cancers. Two years later, on August 1, 2014, I received an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow or cord blood transplant allows unhealthy blood cells to be replaced and restored. During my recovery time at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I spent a few months on their oncology floor. While there, I met some great people who were willing to stay up late and talk with me about my problems. I have always suffered with expressing how my illness makes me feel. I never had a problem telling my story but actually saying, “hey this is hard for me and I need help” was a challenge. It’s a great feeling to know I’m not being judged and it’s amazing to know that people are willing to listen; and even more shocked to know they would help. I’m more expressive and less worried about what people think of me and now I feel empowered to give back to others I can relate to.

As it’s approaching my born day, it occurred to me that I will be able to do whatever I want, wherever I want, and when I want. Whereas some children have to spend their birthdays and holidays in the hospital. I remember being in the hospital on Thanksgiving and Christmas and although the doctors treated me well, it wasn’t like being home surrounded by family. So on my twenty-fourth birthday, I’ve decided to visit the oncology floor at Johns Hopkins to give gifts to strong children.

I remember doctors and others telling me that I wouldn’t make it. I can only imagine what the children are being told, so I hope to give them a reason to smile and show them that I am proof that things can get better for those with cancer! The best part is that I am better and I did it all with a smile. I’d tell anyone living with a chronic illness to control it, don’t let it control you. The mind is a powerful thing and if you believe you can do it, there’s no one who can stop you!

If you’re interested, please contribute to Project Birthday Bags here. All donations will go to a fund dedicated to purchasing gifts bags for the children at Johns Hopkins Hospital on the oncology floor of Bloomberg Children’s Hospital. The last date of this campaign is April 8, 2017.

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Bi’Ja Thatch

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