Robin O’Bier and her family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving last year. The day before the holiday, they learned that her sister had two types of cancer.
“We found out, and (for Thanksgiving dinner) I went to get everyone Chick-fil-A,” Robin said.
Rachel Childress, Robin’s sister, had been feeling ill. She went to the hospital to be checked out. What doctors told her came to a shock to the entire family. Rachel was diagnosed with two types of blood cancer. One of them is fast-growing and had already created a tumor that wrapped around her aorta.
Robin and her two sisters are very close. All of them attended Duncanville ISD’s Hastings Elementary School where Robin is now the music teacher. Robin and Rachel are just a year apart, and through this experience, they learned they share more than just their age.
Doctors knew Rachel needed a bone marrow transplant. They tested her family members looking for a potential donor. They were hoping for someone who was at least a 60-percent match. It turned out that Robin matched Rachel on every element of the test. Doctors said they were like twins.
Just before Halloween, Robin went to the hospital to begin preparing for her marrow to be withdrawn and given to her sister. In the past, the process involved drilling into the bone and extracting the marrow. Doctors opted for a more advanced procedure that involves a series of 25 injections over the course of five days that cause the marrow to enter the bloodstream. Robin then spent five hours hooked up to a machine that took the blood from her body, filtered the stem cells from her marrow and then replaced her blood.
Robin was awake for the procedure. The site where they withdrew her blood was located in her neck.
“It was not pleasant,” Robin said. But being a woman of faith, Robin prayed and said she felt God’s presence with her. “It just was a reminder that I was not in the room alone.”
Rachel received the transplant on Halloween. Both sisters have been recovering in the weeks following the procedures. The marrow removal process left Robin bruised and feeling like she had the flu. But it already appears Robin’s sacrifice has been beneficial for Rachel.
“The doctors say her numbers are better which means the body is accepting the transplant,” Robin said.
The family’s biggest wish, beyond Rachel’s complete healing, was that she would be out of the hospital in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family this year. She was released from the hospital six days before the holiday.
“We were so glad to have a happy Thanksgiving with Rachel not in the hospital,” O’Bier said.
That togetherness meant so much for Robin, Rachel and their family this year. This struggle has given them a true reason to be thankful for what they have and to be generous to others.
“A man I met who had donated one of his kidneys for his brother 15 years ago recently told me, God gives us life so we can give to others. I now have that perspective as well,” Robin said.