Alisha Doege’s Story
The only reason that I’m at Mary Crowley Cancer Research today is because of Hallie Bea, my spunky niece. When Hallie was born in our home state of Virginia, she was very tiny (although full-term) and didn’t grow as fast as other babies. When she was 13 months old, she stopped breathing. Thankfully, some well-trained dogs barked to let my brother know that something wasn’t right with their baby. They saved her life.
This incident alerted the doctors that something wasn’t right. She wasn’t growing, and she wasn’t getting enough oxygen because her red blood cell count was so low. After many blood transfusions and visiting many specialists, we learned that it was a rare blood disorder called Diamond Blackfan Anemia. My brother moved his family to Dallas, TX, where there was a specialist for her disorder.
I was only in high school at the time of her diagnosis. But from that moment on, I started researching. I was obsessed and found that while Hallie didn’t have cancer, her alteration was closely related to how blood cancers worked. When I made it to college, I studied Health Sciences and excelled at all my research courses. When I graduated, I knew I needed to find something that would help further research in this field. I knew that if we could find a cure for cancer, we could find a cure for Hallie and other kids like her.
I moved to Dallas, TX shortly after they did and helped to raise Hallie as well as her 2 siblings. In fact, I lived with them for the first few months until I found a job. That job was at Mary Crowley Cancer Research. I’ve been with Mary Crowley now for 5 years, and I’ve never loved a job more. I know this is my passion. My job allows me to work with the science behind all the drugs we test here. I get to be one of the first to hear about a cutting-edge treatment. It’s perfect for me!
And where is Hallie now? Well, in 2018, she had a bone marrow transplant that completely cured her of her Diamond Blackfan Anemia!
If you remember though, I mentioned that she didn’t have cancer, but had a very similar disorder that is related to cancer. Well, unfortunately, it can also cause someone to have cancer. And that’s just what happened. About 1 month after the doctors declared her cured of DBA, she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.
This gave me another reason to keep fighting for a cure. We may have won a battle, but the war wasn’t over, and this time, my family needed me and my expertise more than ever. I helped my family navigate the crazy healthcare system that all patients with cancer know is a scary ordeal to face alone. I gave them peace of mind when they were worried about Hallie’s survival.
Mary Crowley Cancer Research allowed me to do all of this. Not only did they educate me on the job to better understand cancer and it’s complexities, but they also supported me when I needed to take off work a week at a time to be there during Hallie’s amputation. They let me work from her hospital room while I cared for Hallie. They also made sure that I took personal days for my mental health because all caregivers know that it’s tough for not only the cancer patient, but their loved ones as well. My family at Mary Crowley Cancer Research gave me hugs and supported me through this.
Now I can say that Hallie is done with all of her cancer treatments and has no evidence of disease! She’s learning to walk again, and plans to walk with me down the aisle as one of my bridesmaids in my upcoming wedding.
I plan on continuing to research and putting my heart and soul into finding a treatment for all the patients at Mary Crowley because I want them to have the same outcome as Hallie and I’s story – a happy ending!