In April 2010, 67-year-old Constance Cole of Roseville, found herself easily exhausted. After several tests, Cole was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a condition that occurs when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow are damaged.
"I was taken by surprise, I had never been sick before this," Cole says. She started biweekly treatments that helped her until the summer of 2013 when her exhaustion left her unable to walk.
In March 2014, her MDS had developed into acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and her hematologist referred her to Michael P. Carroll, M.D., a specialist in hematology, medical oncology and blood and marrow transplant with Sutter Health. Soon, Cole started chemotherapy. Her treatment required multiple hospital stays and appointments, but she remained upbeat. Dr. Carroll and his team, as well as the staff at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, provided "wonderful support, with a capital 'W,' exclamation point!," Cole says.
"Dr. Carroll visited me daily, he was thorough and explained everything to me in a way that I could easily understand," she says.
While fighting for her life, Cole drew strength from her husband, Cliff, as well as the thought of her grandson, who recently lost his mother. Her grandson gave her the courage to endure the difficult treatments and conquer her cancer. He visited her often in the hospital and even shaved her head for her when her hair began falling out.
In August 2014, Dr. Carroll called with life-changing news—a perfect match had been identified, and Cole was a candidate to receive a bone marrow transplant. Bethany Stennett, a 27-year-old graduate student from Gainesville, Fla., was an ideal donor for the transplant. In April 2016, Cole and Stennett met for the first time in person and spent time with the Blood and Marrow Transplant team that brought the match together to save Cole's life.
"Bethany is an angel, and bringing her here to California to meet my family and Dr. Carroll and his team is the least we can do to thank her," Cole says.
Today, Cole is a great-grandmother to two great-grandsons and maintains a close relationship with her grandson, who lives in Fresno. Constance credits her remission to the support of her family, her faith and the dedication of Dr. Carroll and his team.