Celebrating a Transplantaversary
A bone marrow recipient shares her story and ideas for marking this important day.
Every summer, Wilma DeRidder celebrates a special type of day that not everyone might be familiar with: a transplantaversary.
A transplantaversary commemorates the anniversary of a transplant, whether stem cell or bone marrow or an organ transplant.
Add this phrase to a growing lexicon of bizarre but meaningful words in the health and cancer community, including cancerversary, scanxiety or even a whippleversary.
For Wilma, she celebrates her transplantaversary every July 3 as one of the most significant days in her life.
“It’s one of those joys that never goes away,” she says. “It’s like the birth of a child. I celebrate it as a new lease on life. It’s worth celebrating and it’s a very happy thing.”
At the time, she was battling a serious form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. And like many people facing a similar diagnosis, doctors said getting a bone marrow transplant was her only viable option. And even then, she only had a 20% chance of living beyond five years.
You can read her full story here.
Like many others awaiting a bone marrow transplant, she had just undergone several rounds of intense chemotherapy to get her body ready. “They wear your body down until it is a clean slate ready to put new cells in,” she says.
A special connection
What’s unique about a transplantaversary is that always involves the help of another person.
“If you know who your donor is, it can be neat to celebrate what they have given you,” says Wilma.
Her donor was her younger sister, Mary. With six siblings in her family, this sister was the only suitable genetic match.
For those whose donors live far away or even in another country, some of the logistical hurdles can be challenging—which is why Wilma was so grateful her sister stepped up.
After she received the transplant, the staff at Mayo clinic gave her a piece of birthday cake and told her, “This is your second birthday. Without this, you wouldn’t have life again.”
After receiving her sister’s cells, Wilma began to recover over the course of the next few months. Like many who receive bone marrow transplants, she faced some issues with graft vs. host disease, but was able to work through it.
A continued bond
Now, more than a decade later, she relishes the opportunity to celebrate another transplantaversary and another year of life.
Her sister remains a key part of the celebration. Though they live in different states, Wilma calls her, sends flowers and sometimes even celebrates with her in person.
The donor-transplant experience has forged an even stronger bond between the two sisters.
“I think it really made us appreciate each other and the gift it is to have life,” says Wilma. “Our health is a gift from God.”
Ideas for celebrating
Wilma shared a few ideas for those seeking to celebrate a transplantaversary:
- Go on a walk in nature
- Journal about what you are grateful for
- Celebrate a special dinner with your loved ones
- If you know your donor, send them a card, flowers or even call them or celebrate with them in person.
- Pray and thank God for the life you have.
Wilma says that getting a transplant is a gift, paralleling the grace, or unearned love that God showers all people with.
“It parallels with grace and salvation,” she says. “Whatever we are facing, God is the one who can ultimately heal us, not just physically, but spiritually.”
To learn more about receiving the gift of having a relationship with God, read Knowing God Personally.
To read Wilma’s full story, see Embracing the Wonder.
For more about living each day with thankfulness, see Every Day is a Gift.
Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.