On February 17th, for the first time in history, world-renowned health and cancer organizations joined forces to raise awareness for GVHD during the now-annual “GVHD Day.” It was hugely impactful, and we’re incredibly proud of the work that both our team and our partners put into making it a success.
“We want people to know that whether they have personal experience with the disease or not, their voice matters,” says Meredith Cowden. “That’s what GVHD Day was all about…spreading awareness. The more people who know about this disease and the challenges we face, the more help we can rally around supporting survivors with better resources and treatments.”
As part of the efforts to spread the word far and wide, Cowden and Dr. Corey Cutler, president-elect of the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, carried out over 20 interviews with news and radio stations across the country ahead of GVHD Day. The duo didn’t leave any stone unturned, talking about everything from what GVHD is to how survivors are coping and what kind of research is being conducted to combat the disease.
During a conversation with reporter Mark Hiller of Eyewitness News in Pennsylvania, Cowden recalled her optimism after receiving her bone marrow transplant from her sister at age 19.
“That was the expectation, that everything would be great…smooth sailing from there,” she shared. Unfortunately her experience — and the experience of thousands of other stem cell transplant survivors — has been anything but smooth following the life-saving procedure.
Soon after her transplant, Cowden developed a burning rash…it would be just the first of many troubling symptoms that continue to follow her 20+ years later. Nearly every system of her body, in fact, has been affected in some way by the disease. “We’re transplanting an immune system,” said Dr. Cutler during the interview.
It’s that grafted immune system that the host’s body mounts a response against, causing the debilitating symptoms of GVHD.
“There are so many ways to support yourself,” adds Cowden, if you’re suffering from GVHD. “A lot of that is about gathering information so you know what signs and symptoms to look for, and you can provide that information to your treatment team.”
To watch the full interview, visit https://www.pahomepage.com/lifestyle/healthbeat/gvhd-and-the-complications-it-can-cause/?fbclid=IwAR3xBZD1P7BuzN3T7mZAkPWpsVrY4TIP52L99ZT8nKABq-AX35sXUgZ7Pf4&mibextid=Zxz2cZ.