MAYWOOD, IL – Twenty years after undergoing a life-saving treatment at Loyola University Medical Center, cancer survivor Carolyn Gatenby returned to Loyola to donate 20 handmade quilts.
Mrs. Gatenby gave the cotton-fabric quilts to 20 patients who are undergoing stem cell transplants for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. The treatments are similar to the stem cell transplant that saved Mrs. Gatenby’s life.
“I wanted to give back,” Mrs. Gatenby said. “I’ve had 20 good years that I didn’t think I’d have.”
Mrs. Gatenby recently delivered the quilts to Loyola patients. A card attached to each quilt told how Mrs. Gatenby survived a deadly blood cancer called multiple myeloma.
“Her visit was very emotional,” said Heather Hedlund, RN, nurse manager of Loyola’s stem cell transplant unit. “There were hugs and tears. Many patients said it gave them hope.”
In 1997, Mrs. Gatenby underwent a stem cell transplant at Loyola for multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. First, immature stem cells were extracted from Mrs. Gatenby. Then she was treated with high-dose chemotherapy. While killing her cancer cells, the chemotherapy also killed critical immune system cells. So Mrs. Gatenby was infused with the stem cells that had been removed earlier. The stem cells matured into new immune cells, replacing those killed by the chemotherapy.
The stem cell transplant was performed by Patrick Stiff, MD, who now is director of Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. Dr. Stiff has developed groundbreaking new treatments for blood cancers and built one of the largest and most successful stem cell and bone marrow transplant programs in the world.
Mrs. Gatenby, who lives in Normal, Illinois, is a dedicated quilter. She has made more than 100 quilts and is incoming president of the Hands All Around Quilt Guild of Central Illinois. “I love taking fabrics and putting them together,” she said. “I also love working with other quilters. There is a lot of camaraderie.”
Loyola offers a full spectrum of stem cell transplant options. Care is provided by an interdisciplinary transplant team, which includes physicians, an advanced practice nurse, professional nursing staff, dietitians, social workers, chaplains and a clinical psychologist.
Loyola’s program conducts extensive research, offering patients access to clinical trials of the latest treatments.