Steve on Christmas 2022, feeling wonderful after his bone marrow transplant
For blood stem cell transplant recipient Steve Wills, some might say the odds, well—they weren’t exactly stacked in his favor.
He wasn’t young (67, to be precise). His diagnosis? Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)—one of the worst cases his doctors had seen. His transplant was also huge: Nearly two liters of donated blood stem cells were transplanted into him. “It was the biggest [donation] the nurses had ever seen,” Steve recalled.
Doctors gave him a 15-20% chance of surviving five years post-transplant.
Yet, despite these odds, Steve did have a few things in his corner. First, he was in excellent physical shape before the transplant, thanks to hiring a personal trainer a year-and-a-half before his diagnosis. He also has a loving and supportive wife—and a (perhaps surprisingly) positive attitude.
Recovery and resilience
Before transplant, Steve proudly states he could do 40-50 pushups in one sitting. Leaving the hospital post-transplant, he could barely walk and had absolutely no energy. But little by little, he strengthened his body over the next 15 months.
“The body can be gradually trained to do just about anything, but it doesn’t do well with sudden change,” he said.
One month after transplant, he could barely do one pushup. Three months later, he was up to 25 at a time. Now 72 and nearly five years post-transplant, Steve is happy to report he’s back to crushing it at the local YMCA. “I can outwork most people that are half my age,” he boasts, as he should. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and four grandchildren (another one is on the way).
An anonymous hero
While Steve’s mental and physical fortitude certainly helped him along the journey, he also credits much of his success to his anonymous hero—the selfless donor from the Be The Match Registry®. While doctors actually found an incredible 36 matches for Steve, he believes a big factor in his recovery comes from picking just the right donor.
He’s never heard from his hero, but he remains forever grateful for the gift he was given: a second chance at life. “Without the resources of Be The Match® to find this person, I would be dead,” Steve said.
Inspired to give back
Steve’s transplant journey has inspired him to become a Be The Match monthly sustainer.
“What Be The Match does is pretty incredible,” he said. “I can’t thank you guys and the medical community enough—especially the nurses who helped me through four very challenging rounds of chemo.”
You can be one of our reliable supporters just like Steve—and you never have to think about it. Start a monthly gift and you’ll receive a special monthly story, plus a thank you gift at different levels.
Steve receiving his bone marrow transplant May 2018