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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Franklin County native searching for donor match
Michele Hundley Mann needs a bone marrow transplant
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Courtesy Photo: Michele Mann’s husband, Scott, shows his support after Mann lost her hair to cancer treatments. Mann was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January.

Monday, April 21, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

"It's cancer."

The life-altering news was delivered to Henry native Michele Hundley Mann in January, and it has completely changed her life.

Mann, 31, is a 2001 graduate of Franklin County High School and a 2005 graduate of Radford University.

"I am very blessed with great friends and extended family in Franklin County," she said.

She and her husband of four years, Scott, moved to Florida in 2006 to expand her hair and makeup business, M3 Makeup Services.

"Scott and I were floating along in life and we were doing so good," she said. "We had just gotten a new car and were about to try for a baby, and then, out of nowhere, everything changed."

Mann began to notice random bruising on her body weeks before her diagnosis.

"I hadn't fallen," she said. "There was no reason for the bruises."

Following the bruising came the small red spots on her legs that progressively worsened and started to spread.

"When my feet started swelling, my heart sank," she said. "I knew something was wrong."

The next morning, Mann awoke to extreme pain in her right leg from the knee up.

A doctor, and friend of her husband, suggested she "run, not walk" to the nearest emergency room.

Mann's husband took her to the emergency room where she learned her diagnosis.

Mann has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rare cancer in which only 2,000 cases a year are diagnosed in the United States.

Even more uncommon is the fact that Mann also has Philadelphia translocation, a rare chromosome anomaly that causes the cancer to become more aggressive.

"I was told by my doctor that I probably had no cancer in my body a couple weeks prior to my diagnosis," said Mann. "That's how fast and aggressive this cancer is. It can be fatal in a matter of weeks if not found and treatment started."

Florida Hospital Celebration correctly diagnosed Mann and she started treatment immediately.

"That I was diagnosed so fast may be one of the things that saves my life," said Mann. "Less than a week after my diagnosis, I was undergoing some of the most advanced chemotherapy treatment in the world at Florida Hospital Orlando with the Florida Center for Cellular Therapy, getting dozens of sonograms, MRIs, x-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, transfusions and the list goes on."

Mann was told she would need a bone marrow transplant even if the treatments successfully resulted in a remission because of the Philadelphia chromosome, which lies dormant and is subject to emerge at any time.

So far, Mann has received two rounds of chemotherapy and is currently at home and on oral medications to keep the cancer at bay.

"My body is taking to treatments very well," said Mann.

Mann is taking five different medications, with the most expensive one costing $10,000 a month. She said she and her husband currently have unpaid bills for an ambulance ride, seven weeks of hospital stays, weekly doctors visits, x-rays, sonograms, CAT scans, biopsies, chemotherapy, various medications and numerous spinal taps.

A search for a bone marrow donor will begin May 1, the day her new insurance becomes effective.

"I had to switch insurances because the previous one had a deductible that was way too high and it didn't cover all the needed procedures," Mann said.

Mann's brother, and only sibling, is not a match for donation.

"It's a waiting game for me right now," said Mann. "I'm feeling the best I can possibly feel at this point, and I'm trying to enjoy life as much as possible."

Mann said doctors have no idea what caused her illness.

"It's not genetic," said Mann. "And I don't fit any of the criteria to have the disease."

In fact, Mann said she was extremely healthy and active before her cancer diagnosis.

Cancer treatments have also diminished the Manns' hopes and chances of one day starting a family. So the decision was made to start fertility treatments. The couple has managed to harvest two viable embryos for possible children in the future.

"Doctors have given me little chance of becoming pregnant," she said. "Coming to the realization that your cancer will most certainly have an effect on your chances of having a baby is enough to leave anyone speechless and heartbroken."

In addition to the stress of Mann's illness, the couple is also working to keep her hair and makeup business and his web design business afloat.

"Two weeks after chemo started, I tearfully said goodbye to my hair," she said. "My life is in the beauty industry and revolves around hair and makeup, so the shock was traumatic, to say the least. But a few of my friends joined me for moral support."

Even harder, she said, was getting used to her new self and not being able to do all the things she used to do with such ease, she said.

"I used to be so physically active before, and now, I get winded easily and can't do what I used to," Mann said. "But we are hanging on right now. Without me being at work, monthly income is lower than usual, even as the bills are higher. But I have an amazing husband and staff who are keeping things running while I'm out, and the business is doing as well as can be expected."

Mann started a blog that details her experience with cancer in all its elements. To learn more about Mann's battle, visit michelemann.blogspot.com.

On the right sidebar of the blog is a fundraising link for those wanting to contribute financially.

"Tragedy and health issues do not discriminate," said Mann. "They hit everyone equally. It's always good to be prepared and take nothing for granted."

To find out if you are a bone marrow match for Mann or anyone else needing a bone marrow transplant, visit bethematch.org and sign up to receive a testing kit.

"Regardless of everything that we are facing right now, this is just a speed bump," said Mann. "A very big speed bump that you need a truck with huge tires to get over. But we will make it. You can't ever lose faith, hope or a positive attitude. Failure isn't an option."

 
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