In the fall of 1999, Amy Hinderks-Soderberg was exhausted. By December, the usually high-energy power shopper couldn’t buy Christmas gifts without sitting down to rest.
A month later, she could barely carry her young sons into daycare without collapsing. Her short walk from the parking lot into work might as well have been a 5K run.
Amy’s family doctor referred her to The University of Kansas Health System, where she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the bone marrow in which blood cells develop abnormally, crowding out normal blood cells and platelets needed for survival.
She began chemotherapy immediately, followed by an autologous blood stem-cell transplant, a procedure in which her own harvested cells were placed back in her body. The transplant was successful, and she went home in two weeks.
The doctors and nurses worked as a team. They understood the need to treat the whole person - body, mind and spirit. – Amy Hinderks-Soderberg
But 18 months later, a routine checkup indicated the disease had returned.
In August 2002, Amy underwent another blood stem-cell transplant, this time with cells from a donor. Although the transplant went well, her lack of white blood cells had left her unable to fight infection. She developed pneumonia, leading to the failure of internal organs, and was moved to intensive care and put on life support. Her chance of survival faded.
But slowly, Amy began to recover. After 25 days, she came off of life support. She started physical therapy, learning to stand and walk again. Two months after her second transplant, she finally went home.
Amy believes she survived because of her own determined will to live, her family’s tremendous support and the phenomenal care she received at the hospital.
“The doctors and nurses worked as a team, and they understood the need to treat the whole person – body, mind and spirit,” she said.
Today, four years after her transplant, Amy is healthy, happy and thankful for every moment she has. She has returned to work as a special education teacher and spends as much time with her sons as possible.
Amy willingly shares her story. Her oncologist invited her to speak to first year medical students, introducing her as his “true miracle patient.” She also spoke to more than 250 guests at the hospital’s “Celebration of Life” event honoring bone marrow and stem-cell transplant patients.
“The biggest message I conveyed is to never give up hope,” she said. “I am living proof.”
Amy Hinderks-Soderberg’s sons Jameson, left, and Andrew kept her spirits up during her recovery. “Our family is a source of strength and love,” she said.