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Bethematch.org saves Sellhorst's life

Gerardo Osorio

April 24, 2019

Over the last couple of years, West Point-Beemer High School’s band has blossomed into something completely new, and many students attribute their talent to Cindy Sellhorst, WPBHS band director. However, none of the current high school band members have had Sellhorst for the entirety of their music careers. This is because during the 2014-15 school year, Sellhorst was ill.

            At the end of the 2014 school year, Sellhorst noticed frequent bruises on her body and was extremely fatigued. When Sellhorst went in for monthly labs in June 2014, she received devastating news. Her platelets dropped, and she was rushed to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with leukemia.

            Sellhorst was admitted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and immediately began treatment. She was also informed that her best chance for survival was a bone marrow transplant.

Sellhorst’s return would have been almost impossible without the help of bethematch.org which is an international database of eligible bone marrow donors. Sellhorst said her donor who is from Poland and his wife signed up for Be the Match when their friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Sellhorst also explained how she believes her journey could help someone else, “My son and his friends signed up for Be the Match in college, and later a friend of his was called to be a donor.” Sellhorst expressed how she believes bethematch.org is a great organization and thinks everyone that can should sign up.

            Although many people at WPBHS only know of Sellhorst’s cancer during her time at the school, her journey with the disease started long before.

In 1999, she was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She went to her doctor for a regular check-up when he noticed a bump on her neck. Fortunately, Sellhorst only needed half of her thyroid taken out, and she didn’t need any treatment.

            Later in 2004, she went back to her doctor, and he saw a new lump, but this time on the other side of her neck. He removed this lump and the rest of her thyroid as he had the last one.

In 2005, she went through her third bout of cancer. She developed a thymoma, which is a cancerous tumor behind her chest bone. For the thymoma, she had surgery to remove it. She also received radiation for six weeks to kill the cancer cells still behind her chest.

            Until her fourth week of treatment in 2014, everything was going according to plan. Then, she suddenly ran a high fever, and she had trouble breathing. It was then that she was put into a medically induced coma for a month.  

            When she woke up in August, she stayed in the hospital for another two weeks and then was released and put into rehabilitation. In September, Sellhorst went to live with her sister, and said she finally “started to feel human again.”

            On October 1, Sellhorst went back to the hospital for a round of chemo. For a week, she received chemotherapy to level out her numbers before her transplant. On October 10, she received the stem cell transplant.

            After about 3 days, her cell numbers started to go back again. Sellhorst remembers being let out of the hospital a couple days before Halloween. She went to live with her sister for 100 days after the transplant.

            To be eligible for a transplant, the donor and the receiver must match criteria. Luckily for Sellhorst, she and her donor were 100%.  

            Sellhorst spent the next couple months resting and gaining the strength so she could go back to school. She returned March 23, 2015, almost nine months after her diagnosis, working half the day.

During her absence, Andrea Liekhus, a long-time friend of Sellhorst took over as a long time substitute in the band department.   

            Sellhorst remembers, “As I got stronger, my desire to regain my life back was my driving force. I wanted to resume teaching, and living independently, and doing all the things I loved to do.”

            Five years into remission, Sellhorst still remains grateful for everyone who helped her. Through her experience, she learned not to take anything for granted and a great motto to live by, “A positive attitude can get you through the largest obstacles that life can throw at you.”

 

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