August 29, 2011
By Samantha EckertThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Kathy Haynes survives the odds with a stem cell transplant to show at the 2011 Adequan Select World Championship Show. Journal photo.
In 2008, Kathy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a form of leukemia that is always fatal. A doctor gave Kathy only three months to live if there was not a perfect match for a stem cell transplant.
Thankfully, her youngest brother was that match. Kathy and her husband, Sandy, moved to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, for six months.
The cure for her disease was the highest and strongest form of radiation that requires patients to be under the age of 50, which Kathy just met.
Doctors dropped her white blood cell counts down to zero. Kathy explains it as erasing everything off of your computer and “rebooting” it. “That’s what they did to me,” Kathy says.
The doctors explained to her that it was only a 30 percent chance of the transplant working, which meant a 70 percent chance of it not working.
“I looked at the chart and said I want to be in the 30 percent, and I never thought about anything else.”
With Sandy’s strong support, she made it through the first 19 days not knowing whether the transplant was going to work and being incredibly susceptible to any kind of infection. After the first 19 days, Kathy got the good news that the transplant was working and was increasing her white blood cells to healthier levels.
“My husband did not leave my room for weeks at a time, not even to go to the cafeteria.” September 12 will be their 30-year anniversary.
“I would not have made it without his support. Also, the support of my friends and family. We made it by just taking it day by day.”
“I just went for my three-year check-up, and when you hit the three-year mark, your chances go way up.”
Kathy left her youngest child, Austin, and horse, A Bold Artifact, behind her at home with her brother and sister-in-law during her six months of treatment. She is the mother of three children, Randall, Justin, and Austin. She also considers herself the mother of her horse.
“I picked this mare (River Cam) out just to breed to Indian Artifacts. I sent her up there (to be bred.) I am the breeder (of A Bold Artifact). I literally had to pull his feet out myself,” Kathy says.
She also owns and shows her horse in hunt seat equitation, hunter under saddle and showmanship, and made the hunter under saddle finals at her first Adequan Select World.
While Kathy was recovering from her treatment she was not allowed to ride, to go the barn, or be around horses for a year, a hardship for a horse enthusiast who has been in the saddle since she was 6 months old.
“I couldn’t live without it (riding).”
Kathy’s first time back in the saddle was at a show more than a year after her treatment aboard her good friend, Sandy Slocum’s gelding Shifty Lynx. Kathy’s friends burst into applause as she made it around the arena the first time, some of them tearing up.
“God is the only reason why I am here. He left me here, and I am happy,” Kathy says. “I’m not only lucky to be here at the Select World. I am lucky to just be here.”