Gwen was five years old in 1990 when she was diagnosed with a rare and especially difficult form of leukemia. She received aggressive treatment at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center that included a Bone Marrow Transplant from her brother, Greg.
Gwen's mom, Karen, says, "Transplant day came on Greg's 16th Birthday - we prayed it would be the gift of life Gwen needed." Her treatment went reasonably well, but it wasn't to be the end of Gwen's ordeal.
"We celebrated her transplant anniversary with family and friends. Only to find less than three weeks later she had relapsed in her bone marrow. We were back to square one."
This time Gwen needed an especially aggressive form of treatment to attack the cancer. The doctors at the Cancer Center held what they call a food fight - a meeting to toss around ideas for treatment, getting input from many perspectives. They decided Gwen needed a second bone marrow transplant. In addition, Gwen would receive experimental chemotherapy and total body radiation.
Almost two years after being diagnosed, Gwen received a second transplant. Karen says, "The second time was more scary as we knew what the experience was like on the transplant unit, and we had seen so many children die from this dreadful disease." Gwen's treatment was very difficult and presented several problems along the way. She was in the hospital for nine months. Gwen says, "My motto in the hospital was, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can! Sometimes I was scared that I may die, but I knew God would give the doctors wisdom, so they could do their best."
Despite the challenges, Gwen made it through her treatment and was able to go home again. Her doctors say she is a miracle, as she is now 11 years out from her second bone marrow transplant. "I thank the Lord every day for being alive!" Gwen says.
Her prayers for life answered, Gwen now has a dream to work at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital with kids, since she knows how they feel, and can offer them hope against all odds.