Long-Term Follow-Up

Mark Minson

'What if the transplant hadn't worked?'

As Mark Minson celebrated the 24th anniversary of his transplant earlier this year, he could have reminisced about many things.

With his wife, Karen, and his two lovely daughters by his side, he chose to think about those closest to him, all the people who stood by him as he fought leukemia nearly a quarter century ago, when he was only 21.

"You look at all the people around you, the ones who have influenced you, and those you have personally affected, and sometimes I ask myself this question: What if the transplant hadn't worked?"

"I'm a very spiritual person, and I'm grateful to my maker for giving me all these years. I'm very mindful of that," Mark said.

He will be the first one to tell you that he was not alone on this journey. "My wife knew I had leukemia and she married me anyway. She took that risk.

"The news of my leukemia devastated my mom. She really wanted me to take care of myself, to do everything in my power to get better," he said.

He managed to keep his CML at bay for a number of years, but eventually, his doctors said only a transplant would save his life.

"One day, I'm healthy, I'm happy, I'm fit. I feel invincible. And then, I'm fighting for my life."

With five siblings in all—and all wanting to help—it was his sister, Suzanne, who proved to be the best match as a donor.

"I was blessed with my response to the transplant and recovery, and I was one of the lucky few who didn't have severe GVHD that could have affected my healing," he said.

Life didn't change just for him. Karen, who was a flight attendant at the time, became his full-time attendant on his way to recovery.

The experience was so deeply affecting that she became an oncology nurse. These days, she is the one who keeps reminding him to stay healthy.

"Karen has been very key to ensuring that I get all of my follow-up work. She doesn't let me slip," he said.

"it's been a great, great blessing for me to have done so well these past few years."

Among these blessings are their two daughters, Bailey, 17, and Rebekah, 14. They were adopted after his transplant. "They look so much like their mom," Mark said. "They're amazing and wonderful."

These days, all of the Minsons are busy living their lives in a small town in Utah. Mark runs a math tutoring business that has grown to 150 regular students.

Sure he is busy, but he is mindful about what it took to get him here—a blessing, he says, he will never forget.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.