BHS Alumna Vanessa Yeste Sandy Facing Leukemia Relapse with Positive, Hopeful Attitude

By Julie Perine on May 05, 2018 via

Vanessa Yeste Sandy has two teenage daughters, a 12-year-old son, two young foster children, two rescue dogs and three cats. She’s working on a bachelor’s degree in human services in youth/family service through an online course with Purdue University Global.
She already had a full plate before she learned a couple months ago that she had relapsed. The acute myeloid leukemia she was diagnosed with about a year ago had returned. Having already undergone extensive chemotherapy for the aggressive cancer, the next course of treatment was a stem cell transplant.
The week of Mother’s Day – May 17, to be exact – she will be admitted to Ruby Memorial Hospital where she will undergo the procedure May 24.
“I have to have some pretty serious chemo to completely wipe out my immune system for a few days before the transplant,” Sandy said.
She isn’t worried.
“Honestly, the procedure doesn’t scare me. I think it is a little intimidating, but I know I’ll be OK,” Sandy said. “I have an amazing medical team, amazing support system and more than anything, faith in God that no matter what happens, everything is going to be OK.”
The most difficult part, she said, is being away from her family: Boyfriend Joshua, daughters Lyda and Lyza, son Justin, Jr. and her 5-year-old and 5-month-old foster children. And, of course, she will miss her schnauzer, Mia, and beagle, Rusty, in addition to the family’s three felines.
Sandy said she’ll be at Ruby Memorial Hospital for about a month and following that, she will stay at the Rosenbaum House in Morgantown for 100 days so she can be close to the hospital for any post-procedure emergency medical attention needed. Her mom and sister will rotate to give Sandy 24/7 care during that time.
She loves to read – especially mysteries crime stories. That and the homework from her online college courses will help her pass the time while she is recovering. She’ll also likely reflect upon her thankfulness to a woman she does not know, but who has provided this lifesaving opportunity.
“I know my donor is from another country and that she is a female, but that’s about all I know,” Sandy said. “I feel that her being led to serve as a donor has literally saved my life.”
Finding a match for stem cell transplant can be difficult. In Sandy’s case, it was a little more difficult.
“That’s because of my ethnic background. My father was Cuban,” she said. “Family wasn’t really an option. Sometimes full siblings are the best match, but only one in four full siblings are usually a match.”
Sandy looks forward to one day being able to thank her donor.
“In two years, we’re allowed to find out each other’s contact information,” she said.
When she gets better, Sandy plans to advocate for donorship, educating people about its process – and importance.
“This donor has given me an opportunity to continue to care for my children and continue to live my life – doing things I want to do – and hopefully have the opportunity to help more people,” she said.
Until just a few months ago, Sandy was in remission. It was late-February when signs started to appear, indicating problems.
“I started getting sick a little easier, getting bronchitis and just couldn’t shake it,” she said. “I was more tired than usual and also got cold sores around my mouth – several, all over.”
Sandy’s physician sent her to follow up with her hemotologist and oncologist, who ordered bloodwork, which indicated she had, in fact, relapsed.
With all she has faced and is still facing, Sandy said she, in some ways, considers her journey a blessing.
“Going through this has been difficult for me and my family, but it has been an amazing journey,” she said. “I’ve met some amazing people in the medical care field. I could not be more pleased with the doctors, nurses, social workers and everyone involved in my care. They have been so helpful.”
Sandy said she has always been sympathetic to anyone going through cancer, but her eyes have been opened to so much more.
“I know what it’s actually like – the appointments and finding child care, places to stay and being away from your family,” she said. “It makes you a lot more humble and a lot more appreciative. It’s been a blessing in a lot of ways.”
It is her hope that one day, she will have opportunity help someone going through a similar situation.
“I would absolutely love to have that opportunity. So many people have supported me and want to do that for me. I would love to pay it forward. That would do my heart a lot of good,” she said.
Sandy is a Bridgeport resident and member of the 2004 graduating class of Bridgeport High School. She formerly worked as a veterinarian assistant at Harrison Central Veterinarian Clinic and also was employed by Burger King. Sandy is also a volunteer with Pet Helpers and until she got sick, fostered dogs in her home. 
There are a few ways members of the community can support Sandy. A Go Fund Me page has been established to help with medical, travel and miscellaneous expenses. Nearly $3,000 of the $10,000 goal has been met. Her family has also planned a Vera Bradley bingo, 2 p.m. May 13 at Anmoore Fire Department. Tickets are $20 each. 
Those who would like to send her a card can do so by mailing them to Vanessa Sandy, 198 Giraffe Hills Drive, Bridgeport, WV 26330.  

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