Sandy and Bruce Garthwaite, from Great Valley, New York, stayed in Kevin Guest House’s transplant recovery apartment for nearly three months while Sandy, a leukemia patient at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, was recovering from a blood and marrow transplant.
The couple, married 27 years, has four children: Jennifer (35), Amanda (33), Jason (25) and Josh (16).
Sandy was previously treated for breast cancer by a community practice, and was declared cancer-free in January 2014. But during the winter of 2014, Sandy became ill again. Her doctor thought it was bronchitis. When she continued to get worse, she was sent to Olean General Hospital for tests, and told she had a combination of leukemia and fungal pneumonia.
Sandy was immediately transferred to Roswell Park at 11:00 pm that winter evening, and placed in the transplant wing. Bruce, a truck driver, was in California when Sandy received the diagnosis. He drove home in under three days, parked his truck, and didn’t go back to work so that he could stay by her side.
At Roswell Park, Sandy was treated for her cancer and pneumonia simultaneously, but a transplant match was critically needed. Chemotherapy was administered every 12 weeks for 18 months while Sandy waited.
Finally, a match was found.
Although the risks were great—an expected five- to forty-percent survival rate—Sandy went through with her transplant on September 18, 2014. She was released 18 days later—12 days
sooner than doctors expected.
Like most BMT patients, Sandy would need to stay within 40 minutes of Roswell Park during the first 100 days of her recovery. Sick, weak, and with both spouses out of work for nearly a year, the family was barely getting by on disability benefits and had nowhere to turn.
“It was wonderful having our own apartment with a full kitchen, washer and dryer,” shared Sandy. “Our children and grandchildren could visit, share meals, and even stay overnight.”
The Garthwaites are now home, where Sandy continues her recovery.