Leukemia survivor pays it forward after receiving nearly 100 transfusions

Hear from Marie on how blood donations helped save her life

Marie Fuesel of Orland Park was leading her regular life as an insurance agent with her husband Jerry and two children when she noticed pain was getting in the way of doing everyday things. Several doctor visits later, she got the news that would change the path her life was on completely. It was October, 2012 when a blood test revealed Marie had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow.

She was immediately admitted to the University of Chicago and was told she’d be there at least 30 days.

“I thought, ‘but I have dishes in the sink at home!’,” Marie said when she realized she wouldn’t be going home that day. Instead, it was 30 days of isolation and her first round of chemotherapy which included a high dose induction to destory the leukemia cells. Marie says she lost all her hair within 5 days of starting the treatment.

Over the next few months, Marie endured fevers, infections and even more severe pain. Chemotherapy not only kills bad cells, but it takes the good ones along with it leaving patients vulnerable to other infections and illnesses. She was diagnosed with Clostridium difficile (C-diff), another life-threatening infection.

She also had 6 bone marrow biopsys over the course of treatment as well which is another highly painful procedure.

During the treatment, Marie often needed transfusions of blood and platelets to help replenish her own supply. Overall, she needed 98 units to help her get through chemo and ultimately beat her cancer.

In May of 2013, her last bone marrow biopsy showed no sign of leukemia cells. Marie says she may never be truly “cured,” she certainly is healed and in remission!

Through the four rounds of chemotherapy, many infections and continous pain, she stayed positive.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer…you could easily go to the dark side. But it’s not going to make it go away…so just listen to your doctor, and…it can’t take away your happiness. It can make you pretty miserable, but if you just keep laughing and have a really good positive attitude know that someday when you’re better you’ll be able to turn around and help people.”

Marie is now focused on health, wellness and helping others with cancer get through their treatments. She is forever a blood donation advocate and active with the Andrew Weishar Foundation as a committee member, ambassador and volunteer helping families with children fighting cancer. She attributes her extensive committment to health and fitness to her gym, Southside Knockout, and how they put her on the path to becoming a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.

She didn’t let cancer take her happiness, and now she’s dedicated her life to spreading positivity even in the darkest of times. To all the people, mostly strangers, who donated the blood that was on the shelf when she needed it- Marie says: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

To sign up to donate blood at an upcoming blood drive near you, visit www.redcrossblood.org to make an appointment.

Story written and video produced by communications manager Holly Baker

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