May 08, 2013 - Former south county resident Amanda Trybula began the fight of her life on March 24, 2010 — the day she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 24.
Amanda Trybula, who grew up in south county, is pictured with Bernd Lang, left, her bone-marrow donor from Freimersheim, Germany, and Lang's son Joshua. Bill Milligan. (click for larger version)
Her fight against the disease was a long and difficult journey that ultimately led Trybula to receive a bone-marrow transplant from a German donor.
"All I could think about when I was diagnosed was that I don't want to die. I want to live," said Trybula, a former Call Newspapers employee.
Due to a rare genetic mutation, her leukemia was hard to treat and she needed a bone-marrow donor. Trybula's sister, Justine Pope, was not a match and her medical team searched the international registry for a match.
Trybula was treated at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis-Barnes Jewish Hospital under the care of Dr. Amanda Cashen. She spent six months living in the hospital during treatment.
"My mother lived with me on a cot next to my bed and was my saving grace," Trybula said.
Trybula's mother, Cathy Pope, is a longtime Call Newspapers employee.
"There were many dark days in the hospital. I have had my share of sickness and pain for a lifetime, but I had amazing support from my family, friends and even strangers," Trybula recalled. "It is the faith and love, combined with excellent care from my doctors and nurses, that helped me in this battle."
Trybula received a bone-marrow transplant from an unrelated donor from Germany on July 20, 2010.
The International Bone Marrow Registry keeps all international donor contact information private for two years, but Trybula's donor wrote a letter to her in August 2010 and they began writing letters through the registry until they could finally exchange contact information last November.
"I wanted to write to tell her she had strong stem cells and that to keep fighting," said Bernd Lang, her bone-marrow donor from Freimersheim, Germany.
Lang, a sportsman who has competed in Ironman challenges and triathlons, joined the registry more than 15 years ago.
"It is wonderful to see what is going on with Amanda with such a little part from me. I run marathons, but it is Amanda that ran the ultimate race. Amanda and her family told me I was the star, but it is Amanda and her family that are the stars," Lang said.
On March 19, three years after her diagnosis, Trybula met her donor.
Lang and his son Joshua visited Trybula and her family in south county.
"This is a long and difficult battle that has forever changed my life, but meeting my donor is an experience that is part of a new chapter," Trybula said.
This was Lang and his son Joshua's first trip to the United States.
"The trip was great," Trybula said. "We hosted an open house, visited the Arch, took a boat ride at the Lake of the Ozarks and enjoyed a lot of American cuisine. We traveled to Chicago because they wanted to see skyscrapers.
"I felt blessed to have a donor that wanted to travel across the world to meet me. It was incredible to introduce Bernd to my family, friends, nurses, doctors and hospital staff," she added.
Trybula's mother, Pope, said, "Bernd is an amazing man with an amazing family. We are so grateful to him. Meeting him was a joy.
"I am so proud of Amanda. She is a strong, beautiful, inspiring young woman. I am in awe of her faith and strength on this journey. We are so blessed."
Since the transplant, Trybula received her master of business administration degree, was married, moved to Philadelphia with her husband, Bob, and started her own company.
"Cancer has made me realize that I want to live life to the fullest, cherish my blessings and embrace opportunities," she said. "I don't want to miss anything. This is my second chance at life."
To join the Bone Marrow Registry, visit www.marrow.org.