"When you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." ~Paulo Coelho
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
One of Kathy's favorite quotes was out of the book, "The Alchemist", "When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true."On March 28, 2011, I received a text message from Kathy's sister which read, "Kathy needs prayers now more than ever. Please pray that she has not relapsed. Docs think the cancer may have come back; her transplant doc has been notified and we are waiting to hear back. Please pray for her. God bless you all." Our worst fears came true as the results confirmed that she did relapse and there weren't any more options for her. I was in denial and refused to accept that her life would be cut short. Kathy had overcome so many obstacles, scares, and grim prognosis. I kept thinking, "But it's Kathy..she'll fight it and prove the doctors wrong again." Later that night, my sister called me and told me that we had to go see her because the doctors were not giving her much time, she was not a candidate for chemo and there was nothing to do but make her as comfortable as possible. The following day, we packed our bags to spend that last few days with Kathy. She refused for anybody to cry for her. She accepted her fate, and she told her sister that she wasn't going to go so easy. She lived up to those words and as she continued fighting, we promised her that we would continue her work and make her wish come true. Kathy's Wish is about helping other patients, and spreading the word for the need of a diverse group of blood donors. This is about The Kathy Soliz Patient Assistance Fund and how we are making her wish come true.
Some of you are not familiar with Kathy, but know her story. She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 15. While most of us were having fun at that age, Kathy had to start taking life seriously. Kathy had a long 91/2 years battling leukemia, and we all learned from each other, most of all from Kathy. I put together Kathy's Wish, in order to keep her legacy alive. We promised Kathy we would continue her work, so I emailed Yvonne, Director for the Blood Marrow Program and a very close and dear friend to Kathy. I asked her for some things Kathy told her she wanted to do to help others. She emailed me back an incredible story and I want to share Kathy's Wish with you..here is her story, told by Yvonne:
The first time I met Kathy she was on a mission to educate the community about the need for more Hispanic donors. Through her own experience, she had learned about the lack of minority donors on the Registry and because of her Hispanic heritage it would be difficult to find a match for her. Her goal was to bring awareness to the need for Hispanic/Latino donors not only for herself but for all the patients who were going through the same thing. A short time later, she found out that she had a few potential matches and as donors went in for testing less and less matched her well enough for transplant. Eventually, two donors did match however; both donors declined to help. She was heart broken and a little upset for just a moment because she immediately turned her focus to the kids who in her own words “haven’t had a chance.” She felt compelled to do something so she decided to go to the media. She did media interviews and speaking engagements. Her thought was if she could put a face to the need maybe people wouldn’t say no. She was right, calls poured in to our center with people wanting to update their contact information in the Registry and others had changed their minds because when they had gotten ‘the call’ had said no and now wanted to know if their patient still needed help. Some people called to become marrow donors but most people wanted to know how they could help ‘Kathy’. Kathy became a well known name in the community; at marrow drives, people would walk up to us and say “I hope I match Kathy.” It was amazing.
As time went on, Kathy was in and out of remission battling infections, viruses and other complications. She would fight each bravely and always asked, “How are we doing? Are we getting a lot of donors?” Whenever she could, she would speak publicly about her experience to help people understand the truth about leukemia, the need for donors and how they could save a life.
No other adult donor match was ever found again so Kathy’s only option was a cord blood transplant. Kathy received two cord blood transplants her first in April 2008 and second in May 2010. During these times, Kathy’s concern was for her family as they lived in Austin while Kathy had to stay in San Antonio for her transplant care. She would talk about how when she got out of the hospital she was going to help families with funds to travel, hotel stays and meals. She said, “I would love to grant these families at least $500 to help them. I know it’s not much but when you have nothing it is a lot! It’s hard enough for families to leave their home and the rest of their loved ones in another town. Knowing that someone understands what they’re going through and offers them money would make things a little better, don’t you think?” I would simply say to her, “Just meeting you would make things better for them, Kathy!” She was always thinking of others.
Just two weeks before her passing, Kathy talked to me about coming to work as an advocate for our mission. She said, “When I get out of here I’m going to go work with you. It is what I was meant to do. I want people to know that they can beat this. I want donors to know they can save a life. Mothers need to stop throwing their cord blood away because their babies can save a life. Doctors need to know that they shouldn’t take hope away by telling patients they won’t make it. I have my work cut out for me.” I responded, “When you get out of here I will write a position for you. You have a home at South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.” She smiled and said. “Ok, I’ll do my PT.” A week later when her leukemia came back she looked at me and said, “I guess I won’t be able to do that job after all but you keep it going for me, ok?” As my heart broke I said, “OK.”
Kathy wanted to grant money to families to help them and that is exactly what we intend to do. Once we have enough money, we will start asking families to fill out a grant application and they will be awarded a $500 Kathy Grant. My team and I will continue to register donors and bring awareness to the need for Hispanic donors. Our cord blood bank will continue to educate mothers and ask them to donate their baby’s cord blood. We will carry her message with us every day.