Cancer free and having a positive outlook on life
Susan Sagrera

Susan Sagrera

In the past three years, Kaplan native Susan Sagrera has suffered through breast cancer, a right side mastectomy, leukemia, and a stem cell transplant. Despite it all, she has kept a positive outlook and is now cancer free.

In the early fall of 2009, Susan noticed a visible lump in her right breast. At first, she paid it no attention. Upon closer examination and after it was still visible a couple of weeks later, Sagrera discovered a second lump.

At the persistence of her husband Scott, she saw a doctor in October of ’09 and it was determined the two tumors were malignant. This was a shock since there was no family history of cancer. Within days of the initial diagnosis, the 45 year-old mother of two was admitted to surgery for a right side mastectomy. The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and 11 of them had to be removed. Even though Susan was technically in remission after her surgery, she was still advised to take chemotherapy as added insurance against further spreading.

Between December of 2009 and May of 2010, Sagrera underwent 11 rounds of chemo. The treatment made her extremely ill and she would spend almost an entire week in bed after each one.

After finishing chemotherapy, everything went well until October of the same year when she began to experience different symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats, bruising, and nodules on her chest and on her head.

In January of 2011, a biopsy of the lumps confirmed the doctor’s suspicions: Susan had leukemia, a likely result of the chemo treatments after her mastectomy.

Sagrera’s only option at this point was to seek help from MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. Upon arrival, five days of chemo were endured which put her leukemia into remission.

However, in order to stay in remission, she would need a stem cell transplant. While waiting for a donor match, Sagrera had to stay in Houston and monitor her white blood cell count. Her time outside of MD Anderson was spent in an apartment nearby.

Back home, her mother had moved in to the Sagrera home to care for the two young daughters, then aged nine and 13. Susan’s husband, Scott, stayed with her in Houston, but returned home every other week. In the alternating weeks, Susan’s aunt stayed with her. On the weekends before the transplant, when able, Susan’s sister brought the girls to see their mother.

In April of ’11, a donor was found. In order to prepare for the transplant, a week of invasive chemotherapy which was designed to kill off all of her own marrow had to be endured.

Susan recalls, “Physically, the chemo for transplant was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I thought I was dying. And I thought breast cancer was bad, but it was nothing compared to this.”

In May, Susan received the transplant. The procedure only took a total of three hours, but her recovery was a long and hard journey. Due to risk of exposure to germs, the Sagrera daughters weren’t able to visit their mother for an entire month. Susan spent three weeks in the hospital before being released in June; however, she wasn’t able to return home until mid-August.

“The hardest part mentally,” Susan speaks of her ordeal, “was leaving my family.”

As of August of 2011, Susan is in full remission. Thankfully her body never rejected the transplant. Today, she is no longer on any medication directly related to her cancers, but she still sees her oncologist regularly for checkups.

Overall, Susan considers herself blessed by the overwhelming support from her family and friends during her time of distress.

In addition, she credits MD Anderson as being the incredible facility that helped save her life. Since it has been more than a year after her transplant, she was able to find out that her donor is a female from Colorado. Susan has contacted the woman, thankful for her life saving donation, and eagerly awaits return correspondence.

Formerly a Frith, Susan is married to Scott Sagrera, and the couple has two daughters Taylor and Londyn. The Sagrera’s are originally from Kaplan, but currently reside in Abbeville.

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