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AGAINST THE ODDS

Cindy Rose Keel-White

October 26, 2011
The story of Cindy Rose Keel-White

As a normal fifteen year-old my thoughts revolved around  friends, getting my driver’s license, and wondering whether or not someone was going to ask me to prom. I felt pretty normal. And then I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease.
I spent the next year visiting doctors and receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. That year was also filled with the love and support of a family that never  let me give up on myself, even when I felt my worst. Thanksgiving of 1987 I had so much to be thankful for. I had completed my last round of chemotherapy and was given a diagnosis of remission.  

Cindy and her parents
For 23 years I did very well and had no recurrence of the Hodgkin's.  Then in the summer of 2009, I began suffering symptoms of a heart attack during a family camping trip. Thanks to the "stubbornness" of one family member, we ended up at the local ER. After several tests and blood work it was confirmed; I had had a heart attack and within 24 hours I was in emergency bypass surgery.





I was shocked to learn that the radiation treatment that saved my life as a young girl had caused severe damage to my arteries and heart. It became the family joke that I was going to write a book of hospital reviews because I was in a different hospital at least once a month.  I had been diagnosed with 90% stenosis of the arteries, restrictive cardiomyopathy, constrictive pericarditis and diastolic heart failure. 

Because these conditions were progressively worsening, I was told that my own heart would last another 6 - 18 months, and my only option for survival was to receive a heart transplant. I was put on the bottom of the waiting list and anxiously waited for any news.
The months that followed were difficult as I was often far away from my husband and teenage children. I spent my time in and out of hospitals, visiting with specialists, praying for a much needed miracle. 

I had an appointment scheduled at Cedars-Sinai Los Angeles, a transplant facility 3000 miles away in California, but where I would have a greater chance of receiving a new heart. After much prayer and thoughtful consideration I packed my bags and my parents drove me from Odessa to Los Angeles in their motor home.

On her way to surgery

I’ll never forget the phone call I received on Friday, March 25. They had found a heart for me and I would be going into surgery that very day!  I laughed, I cried, I shook uncontrollably; every emotion that a person can feel went through my body. I immediately began calling family and friends, doctors and nurses, and everyone who had been with me on this journey to share my joyful news. I knew they would be praying for me now more than ever before.





After surgery

The surgery was successful and once I was moved from ICU, life really began to change. I had to adjust to pain, learning new medications and sterile precautions, and even had to relearn how to stand and walk again.  I had been so weak from heart failure before the surgery, all my muscle had atrophied.  I used to mountain bike, swim, and river raft; Now it was a big deal for me to be able to walk 1000 feet and make it up 7 steps!
I hope my story will make other survivors of Lymphoma aware of the possible cardiac damage before it becomes fatal. But this is not just my story; it’s my family’s story.  It is very difficult on everyone when a family member is in need of a transplant.  Emotionally. Physically. Financially.  When I was discharged from the hospital, my sister accepted the invitation to stay with me for the next 6 months while I rehabilitated. For a mother who had spent so many years as a caretaker to her children, it’s quite a humbling thing to need constant care and companionship.

I’m especially grateful to my friends, family, and everyone who has supported me during this difficult time. Above all I am thankful to my Father in Heaven for helping me realize every day of life is precious and for giving me more blessings than I can count.

To learn more about heart disease and funding available for patients and their families, visit
American Heart Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society , and HelpHopeLive.

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