Celebrating Lifesavers Before, During and After Cancer


Throughout my cancer experience — and my entire life — there were many people who came in and saved my life.

Cartoon drawing of blogger and AML survivor, Mary Sansone

I have a lot of lifesavers to thank. I played a part in my recoveries, and God performed miracles, but my life was saved by many people.

I survived leukemia twice, and an ugly spell of alcoholism among other things.

Before Cancer

Twenty years before cancer, I survived alcoholism. Repeatedly. We’re talking five 30-day rehabs and a hospital stay in the psych ward in just one year. I would drink the day I got out. I even had a blood alcohol level of .592 recorded at Highland Park, Illinois ER once. I looked hideous and acted deplorably. They took the test twice. The year 1997 was not great for me.

It was God to the rescue.

In 1998, I drank just enough to be sober before the four interviews for a new job. I accepted the offer. On the first day, I went in drunk with a bottle of open wine sticking out of my briefcase. The director said, “Do you know where you are?” And I replied – “Of course! I’m at Hazelden Chicago – part of the world-renowned alcohol and drug rehabilitation institution, to be your assistant!”

I Know. Cry for help, right?

That director sent me to the main campus in Minnesota that same day. This time, I stayed for nine months. He helped save my life.

My husband-to-be got sober at home while I was in treatment, and in so doing, helped save my life. I was co-dependent and allowed this psyche problem to work in my favor; I wanted to be sober so I could stay with Charlie and receive his love. It worked.

There were many other incidents in my youth and later in active addiction years where my life was saved.

During Cancer

Eighteen sober years later in 2016, I got cancer. My primary care doctor saw me when I was complaining about a weird neck pain below my jawline that was making me talk funny, and a strange crampy lower back.

Once again, God to the rescue.

My doctor instructed me to immediately go to the emergency room, thinking that my throat was closing. There, the ER clinicians took a blood test (among other things) and found that I had acute myeloid leukemia. A biopsy confirmed the news. Treatment immediately ensued.

My primary care doctor, the ER doctors, the oncologists and nurses, and all those who donated blood saved my life. That’s a lot of people.

After Cancer

I relapsed on alcohol in 2019 after a brutal and strange depression, breaking 20 years of sobriety.

God to the rescue.

My brother and sister-in-law came to liberate me from a downward spiral just when I was nearly expired. They went way out of their way to get me into a great treatment center, and they continued to go above and beyond, getting my affairs in order while I was in recovery. And these were some big affairs. They saved my life along with the help of therapists and AA fellowship.

Cancer Again

I had a bone marrow transplant in 2020 to tackle a recurrence of my acute myeloid leukemia.

God to the rescue.

My heart with forever be grateful and in debt to Shay, my much-loved bone marrow donor from Israel. She is now a part of me! She directly saved my life. Words do no justice.

All the blood donors and my doctors helped save my life. The pilots who transported the marrow donation saved my life. 

My two brothers and two sisters got tested to see if they could be a match for a bone marrow transplant. Even though they were not matches, they wanted badly to save my life. Their love and support helped me get the will to live. Ergo, they saved my life.

Thank You

It’s possible that throughout my life, hundreds if not thousands contributed to my continuing consciousness on this planet.

Some of my lifesavers had to work very hard and go through intense emotions, including severe disappointments.

The two biggest lifesavers were my mom and dad. They gave me life and saved my life. Their remarkable unconditional love, forgiveness, faith, mind-blowing generosity and prayers fed my spirit. Their love transcended nature’s course.

In addition to the vast medical team members, I thank to the anonymous blood donors, bone marrow donors, transporters, behind-the-scenes researchers, charitable donors to these researchers, and so many others that provided me and others with effective treatment that saved our lives.

I hope these lifesavers find time to acknowledge and feel good about what they’ve done. 

It is humbling to be the recipient of life-saving measures. Self-love and compassion for others must persevere or massive guilt can cripple progress. Instead of feeling the weight of the world on my back, I honor these generous lifesavers by trying to be the best version of myself. (Emphasis on try.)

After all, I,too, am a miracle.

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