Dear Donor — Letters of Hope

Dear Donor — Letters of Hope

Read powerful and inspiring letters written to donors by those impacted by cancer. Private support from generous donors makes our lifesaving research possible.

 

Sunshine P., Seattle, WA

Dear Donor,

First and foremost I would like to thank you for your support of a world-class organization — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. My name is Sunshine Pegues and I have stage 4 lung cancer.

Read the rest of Sunshine's letter

I received the dreaded diagnosis in March 2011 while in Florida. After the traditional treatment (including radiation that burned the skin off my neck) my company relocated me to my home town of Seattle, Washington so I could receive treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).

I was one of the first participants in an immunotherapy drug trial for lung cancer at SCCA. The drug trial I participated in lasted almost 2 years and like many folks, I came down to SCCA for treatment every 2 weeks. During the spring and summer I would see Obliteride signs everywhere and I told myself when my treatment ended, with God's help, I would ride to raise funds — to pay it forward so others could have the same opportunities to benefit from the latest breakthroughs.

Now, for someone with lung cancer to tackle the hills in Seattle on a bike was no easy task. Who would have thought when I was given the dreaded diagnosis of having inoperable lung cancer with a 15% chance of living 5 years that 6 years later with 3 tumors still in my lungs, I would have participated in 3 Obliterides, training for and riding a total of 175 miles while raising over $17K.

We all thank you for your commitment to help Fred Hutch find a cure for the dreaded disease of cancer. A number of us would not be here without the great advancements research has made. Please remember that what you are giving us are options that come from research that so many of us rely on. There are people living wonderful lives because of the advancements that you provide funds for.

So I thank you for all of us — thanks for supporting and believing in Fred Hutch.

Sunshine P.,
Seattle, WA

 

Crystal

 

Crystal D., Seattle, WA

Dear Donor,

I was a perfectly happy and healthy 26 year old when it happened. Over the course of a few weeks, I began feeling extremely tired, I started getting frequent nose bleeds, and my body was covered in bruises.

Read the rest of Crystal's letter

I became too weak to even walk across a room. A simple blood test at the doctor revealed some terrifying news: I had acute myeloid leukemia, a rare blood cancer with a very low survival rate. Calling my parents to tell them I had cancer was one of the hardest phone calls I ever had to make.

I was so sick, I was sent directly to the cancer clinic to receive blood transfusions and chemo before my organs would start to fail. My condition was so serious that the doctors wouldn't even let me go home first to get my belongings.

Over the course of 6 months, I had hundreds of blood transfusions, dozens of bone marrow biopsies, and the most toxic types of chemo that existed. After all of this, I was finally cancer-free … but only for a few years.

The cancer returned and my doctors told me that my only chance for survival was a blood stem cell transplant. Even then, there would only be a 50-50 chance that it would work. Normally, being a young adult is about getting on your feet, moving up in your career, and starting a family. All of that was put on hold, while I just focused on staying alive.

Being mixed race meant that the chances of finding a bone marrow match were minimal. For months, we searched for someone who could donate healthy blood stem cells for my transplant. Until one day when the doctors told me that there were no matches in the database — no one in the entire world had the type of cells that I needed. My family and I were devastated.

That's where Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center came in. Fortunately, I qualified for one of their clinical trials; a blood stem cell transplant using cells from a donated umbilical cord. Cord blood cells don't require the strict genetic matching that adult blood stem cells do, which meant that I finally had an option for transplant to save my life. Even better, the trial I was on was testing "expanded" cord blood cells created in a lab that gave the transplanted cells a boost.

After enduring more dosages of heavy chemo and several rounds of total body irradiation, I received my new cord blood cells through an IV. I was in the hospital for about a month, completely wiped out, while my old stem cells died off and my new, healthy leukemia-fighting stem cells took over.

Today, I am three years post–transplant, and am considered a success story. I became a licensed architect last year and have designed several research laboratories, including one at Fred Hutch. I also get to enjoy life's simple pleasures … travelling with my husband and going for walks with my dog. I am healthy again, thanks to the umbilical cord-blood cells I received as a result of pioneering research at Fred Hutch..

Because of donors like you, Fred Hutch can continue to develop new, lifesaving treatments like the one I received. Because of donors like you, I am alive today … thank you so much for your support.

Sincerely,

Crystal D.,
Seattle, WA

 

 

Michael R., Seattle, WA

Dear Donor,

Cancer?!? No way — there must be a mistake! I’m in college! I have a girlfriend! My life is just beginning! That’s not the plan! The terror was real and at age 19, my life was derailed.

Read the rest of Michael's letter

"You'll go to the Fred Hutchinson," my New York doctor assured me. "The Fred Whatchinson?" I replied. It was 1987. Bone marrow transplant was transitioning from experimental to the standard of care. I'd be on a number of clinical trials in support of research to improve the treatment for others. What are my odds? everybody asks. "We've done nine with your disease, eight are still alive." Yikes! Frightening and reassuring, all at the same time …

Bone marrow transplant was grueling, but it provided hope for a cure. Not ongoing treatment — a CURE! But it required lethal doses of radiation plus chemo. A central line leading right into my heart for drug delivery and daily blood draws. Countless supportive drugs and therapies to carry me through until my new immune system was fully functioning. I was brought near to death and then slowly brought back, but function it did. After not eating for many weeks, I can remember the first time I craved a hamburger — ahh, that smell! Those first steps outside the hospital as an outpatient, the first breaths of fresh air — those simple pleasures now smacked me in the face and a new appreciation for life was born.

Thirty years later, I have experienced all the normal things that were in jeopardy in 1987: travel, education, career, marriage, parenthood. All precious gifts given to me by caring people — not just the doctors, nurses and support staff, but also by people like you who support Fred Hutch research. My mom said we're part of a constellation. I'm grateful you're one of my stars.

Gratefully,

Michael R.,
Seattle, WA

 

 

Debbie K., Seattle, WA

Dear Donor,

The year is 1986. Our son is diagnosed with leukemia, and our world becomes a vortex of treatments.

Read the rest of Debbie's letter

As a mother, there is such helplessness as you hold your son who is 21 months old, then 2 years old, then 3 years old, through years of blood draws, spinal chemotherapy injections and bone marrow aspirations only to have your heart seize once again when at 4 years of age he is diagnosed with a relapse of his ALL.

Help and hope came in the resources and groundbreaking work of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and bone marrow transplants.

The year is 1989. We are informed, encouraged and nurtured as a family at every level of preparation toward a bone marrow transplant. My husband and I are not a match; our 3-year-old son, a brother, is not a match; our 7-year-old daughters are.

Fred Hutch has been relentless in their pursuit of cures and our son's transplant had its own experimental component.

Christmas 1989. Thanks to this drive to save lives, our gift this day is to see our son's white count begin to rise and lead ultimately to his recovery and survival.

It is the financial gifts of donors that make these leaps in experiment and research possible. Without generous donors, my life, our family life and our son's life would have been very different.

The year is 2017. It has been a joy, a gift to watch our son play soccer, tennis, tease his siblings, wolf down dinner, leave a messy room, graduate college, obtain a postgraduate degree and launch himself into the world.

Thank you donors!

Debbie Kwik,
Seattle, WA


Share Your Letter

We would love to hear your personal stories and how research at Fred Hutch has impacted your life, or the life of a loved one. We encourage you to share your own 'Dear Donor' letters on your social channels using #DearDonor, or email them to us at communications@fredhutch.org.

Every Donor, and Every Dollar, Matters

Fred Hutch is working relentlessly to deliver curative therapies for most if not all cancers by 2025. Private support plays an increasingly important role in this effort. We are grateful to our community of supporters because every gift to Fred Hutch, regardless of size or type, powers our research.

Learn more about why every gift counts.