November 27, 2017 | Patient Stories
Be Joyful Like Mya
Ne’Mya Sullivan is a happy spirit. Never mind that she is 9 years old and has been battling T-cell leukemia. She likes animals, loves music and despite her condition, she always has energy to sing a song or do a dance. Ne’Mya, (or as her parents call her, Mya) is positive, has a contagious smile, and is currently in recovery from cancer.
Mya lives with her parents and four brothers in Chicago Heights. In the beginning, Mya had fevers, and for several weeks the doctors thought it was infection and attempted to treat it with antibiotics. She was so tired and weak that her brothers would often take turns carrying her home from school.
After the diagnosis with leukemia, Mya went through blood transfusions, chemo treatments, spinal treatments and spent far more time in the hospital than any little girl ever should. Despite the challenges that life has put in front of her, Mya knows that she is fortunate to have the love and support of her family. When she lost her hair, her mother Nekisha cut her own hair off. With so many days and weeks spent in the hospital, the family began to feel the financial burden of illness. Nekisha was focused on her daughter and her family, and was forced to forego work. As time progressed, it became so difficult to make ends meet that keeping up with utility bills and filling the car with gas were constant struggles.
Throughout the entire process, Mya was a beautiful, positive, joyful spirit. The staff at the hospital treats every patient with the utmost care, but many remarked that Mya’s spirit and energy was truly amazing. She was the energizer bunny. For a little girl to have so much spunk after going through four chemo treatments a week is genuinely unique. Mya’s spirit kept everyone hopeful.
After many months, the doctors let the family know that the chemo treatments weren’t working. Their only chance for a cure was through a matching bone marrow transplant. Since the African American community makes up only 6% of the bone marrow registry, the family understood the challenges of finding a potential match. When a patient is told that they need a marrow transplant, doctors will first test their siblings to see if they are a match. For 80% of patients, there is no match in their family. Fortunately for Mya, one of her brothers was a 100% match, and he was able to give his sister the gift of life through his marrow.
When Nekisha found out that her daughter would need a marrow transplant, she reached out to the Icla da Silva Foundation. She spoke with members of the staff about patient support. That’s when Terri, one of Icla’s Community Engagement Representatives in Chicago, got involved. Terri helped Nekisha apply for a grant from the Foundation, and checked in with the family to make sure the transplant was going well. Nekisha said that “Terri has been like a social worker, a friend, and a ray of sunshine all-in-one during our difficult situation.”
Mya is currently in recovery. We are hopeful that her health will continue to improve and we predict that she will never lose her spunk. Her entire treatment is expected to last 2-5 years. With healthcare costs mounting, and continued financial pressure, it has been difficult for them.
The Icla da Silva Foundation was able to work with the family to provide additional resources during Mya’s bone marrow transplant, but it’s never enough. We would like to be able to provide more families with additional resources while they work to get through challenging times.
Our hope is to never turn away emotional, logistical and financial support to a patient in need of a bone marrow transplant, but we can’t do that without you.
As we celebrate 25 years recruiting bone marrow donors and supporting patients in need of a bone marrow transplant, we ask you to consider making a financial contribution to the Icla da Silva Foundation. Even $25 brings us towards our goal of $25,000. Can we count on you?