By Mike Brue
Three-year-old Kiera Truedson cannot comprehend the intricacies of either her mother and father’s month-long absence this fall or her mother’s lack of hair upon their return.
Still, Cristy Truedson’s younger daughter seems to have accepted a simple explanation.
“Mommy’s blood is sick.”
The 31-year-old Grand Forks native and East Grand Forks (Minn.) resident didn’t expect two months ago to learn from a biopsy that the acute myeloid leukemia she so successfully battled in 2010 had come out of remission. Neither did her husband, Ryan.
“It was pretty shocking,” Truedson recalled, “because . . . I hadn’t had any symptoms.”
Her other reaction: “a lot of anger.”
Cristy was feeling well, and the family was “just starting to recover” financially from 2010’s medical woes and job leaves of absence, she said. Ryan has been a truck driver for CHS Transportation since; Cristy, a former bookkeeper for Drees Farming Association who more recently had provided daycare for two other children, was preparing to become a full-time daycare provider. The couple had started remodeling portions of their home to accommodate the home business.
Now, she said, dealing with leukemia again almost puts their lives ‘on hold.’ ”
Leukemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. The acute myeloid variety starts in the bone marrow, from which blood cells grow, and quickly develops as the abnormal cells replace healthy ones. That makes the body more vulnerable to easy bleeding, anemia and infections. Unless stopped, the cancer can spread beyond the blood to a person’s gums, skin, spinal cord or brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s one of the most common leukemia types among adults and is more prevalent among men than women. It’s more common in older adults than younger ones.
Several years ago, Cristy found herself easily getting extremely tired. “Like, I would be carrying her to her crib,” she said, referring to Kiera, “and would run out of energy just doing that.” With a doctor’s visit, she learned that the level of oxygen carried in her blood was well below normal. A subsequent bone marrow biopsy revealed the number of immature, unhealthy blood cells nearly had overwhelmed her healthy ones.
Treatment, including several stages of chemotherapy, helped Truedson push her leukemia into remission – for good, she had hoped.
Tests showed this resurfacing of Truedson’s leukemia was discovered at a much earlier level of progression than before.
“We were glad that it was caught early, but the fact that it comes back. . . . We knew right away we were going to be doing a stem cell transplant,” she said. The Truedsons were advised as much during a consultation with a Mayo Clinic specialist in Rochester, Minn., after her first bout with leukemia.
Unlike 2010, when all of Cristy’s treatments occurred at Grand Forks’ Altru Health System, this new battle with cancer already has taken the Truedsons to the Mayo Complex, from mid-October to Nov. 20, for Cristy’s in- and outpatient chemotherapy. They made a follow-up trip last week for more tests. Ryan Truedson has been on family medical leave once again to be with his wife.
While the Truedsons were at Mayo Clinic, Kiera and her sister Kendra, 8, stayed behind with Cristy’s parents, Cathy and Paul Dilling of Grand Forks.
“Kendra went through it the first time, so, she kind of understands the sickness and stuff. But it’s been harder with us being so far away,” Cristy said. During the Altru hospital treatments two years ago, at least, the girls “came out daily to see me—as long as they were feeling good and I was feeling good.”
During the Mayo treatments, Cristy said, “It helped once they were able to come and see where I was at one weekend.” The parents also talked regularly on the phone and via computers with their daughters, which also helped, Cristy said.
Now the couple will be gone again, starting in either early January or mid-February, with the stem cell transplant at the Mayo complex – and a minimum 100-day stay post-transplant – in Cristy’s future. A tentative cord blood match has been found. The Truedsons will learn by mid-month whether she’ll undergo yet another round of chemotherapy before the transplant takes place, Cristy said.
She’s been told to plan for the possibility of Christmas in a hospital.
Ryan said his wife has “done very well for the circumstances” she faces.
“She’s done a lot better than I thought, knowing Cristy,” added Cristy’s younger sister, Katie Dilling. “She’s more emotional than I am. . . . But she’s been very strong through this.”
Katie says her sister is “very family oriented and very compassionate about everything. And whenever someone needs her, she’s there.”
Now that Cristy is battling leukemia again, she’s thankful family and friends have been there when she’s needed them.
The writer, Mike Brue, is NDAD communications director.
About NDAD Community Fundraisers
NDAD-sponsored community fundraisers are conducted by friends and families of a person with a disability or a serious health challenge.
NDAD acts as custodian of the funds raised, which can be used to help the individual with medical and other urgent needs and expenses, including helping with doctor, clinic or hospital bills and paying pre-existing bills. NDAD allows the client to use the bank of his or her choice to hold all funds that are raised.
The community fundraiser service is offered free of charge by NDAD. All funds raised are spent on the client’s needs – in Cristy Truedson’s case, medical-related bills and essential day-to-day expenses.
It’s a service NDAD has provided across North Dakota for the majority of its 37 years. References are available.
The service offers benefits in several ways. NDAD is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, meaning any funds donated to NDAD qualify for a charitable donation and are deductible for donors who itemize. Funds donated to bank accounts that are not under 501(c)(3) status are not deductible funds.
Donations directly to a needy individual also may cause that person to lose eligibility for various public assistance programs that are based on income. With NDAD as fund custodian, the funds should protect eligibility for public programs. NDAD tracks all funds raised and expenses paid. The client, family member or representative can bring in the donation, and NDAD will provide the necessary accounting functions.
Approved bills must be submitted to NDAD, where they will be paid with donated funds — a service that can be of great relief to individuals or families dealing with overwhelming situations. If clients are at medical facilities out of town for long periods of time, it also can be a great convenience.
NDAD’s long reputable service in North Dakota also is a factor sometimes when potential donors consider a fundraiser sponsored by the organization.
Also, NDAD provides marketing and consulting expertise to help with fundraisers, including creation and copying of posters, letters or any other advertising items necessary for fundraisers.
Learn more about NDAD’s Community Fundraisers program by calling (701) 775-5577 or toll free 1 (800) 532-NDAD. Learn about other NDAD-sponsored fundraisers at www.NDAD.org/fundraisers.asp.