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‘I want to give back’

Mica and her family

Michelle (Mica) Lechuga is a grateful patient who had a bone marrow transplant at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in October 2020. For what she calls her new first birthday, she and her 7-year-old son decided to collect toys for patients at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge. This is her story in her own words.

I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, in December 2019. A friend of a friend had the same cancer and highly recommended Dr. Jacob Bitran. I had never heard someone speak so highly of their medical care, but I soon found her recommendation was exactly right.

Dr. Bitran and Advocate Lutheran General have exceeded my expectations throughout my journey. Going through a cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, multiple hospitalizations and a bone marrow transplant all in one year – and during COVID – has not been easy. I wouldn’t have made it through this last year without my amazing medical team.

It isn’t just the physical care. It’s also the emotional support I feel every time I walk in. Whether it’s the cancer center, the lab, the infusion center or the hospital, I am greeted with a warm hello from every person I come into contact with. They make me feel like they truly care.

When I am at the infusion center, they always remember me. They talk about how good it feels to see patients on the other side of the transplant process. They remember how sick I was and tell me how wonderful I look. They remind me of how far I have come, and I always leave feeling happy.

My transplant team was incredible. From the social worker to awesome nurses and doctors, I always felt they genuinely cared. Physically, this was the toughest part of my journey, and they made sure I felt the support I needed.

I had wonderful nurses who went above and beyond when I was in the hospital. Those stays were hard and lonely. One of my favorite nurses would sit with me and talk to me. We got to know each other and became friends. She made signs for my son, who was 6 at the time, when he would visit me from across the street.

My chemo nurse, who was there since day one, was a tremendous source of support. She is always asking about my son, and we talk about lots of things other than cancer.

My amazing oncologist, Dr. Bitran, was everything my friend said he would be. I remember her saying he brought her back to life. In some ways I feel the same. Those first days and weeks post-diagnosis were very dark. He has never wavered in his belief that I would respond well to the treatment plan and that I would be around for a long time. He treats his staff with respect and appreciation. He is the very best of the best!

I don’t know if my experience was different because of the pandemic, but I truly made connections with my health care team. I watched so many of them work tirelessly on behalf of patients during a unique and challenging time. It was the reminder the world needed that while plenty of things shut down, health care is never one of them. Cancer and other illnesses do not care that it’s a pandemic.

I had the most amazing care. And with the pandemic, they made sure I never felt alone. That is why I want to give back.

My son is now 7 years old, and we decided together to collect toys for Advocate Children’s Hospital for my “first” birthday. I have seen firsthand with my own son how resilient kids have been this last year, but it is not easy being in the hospital. This is our way to give back to the hospital that has done so much for me on my cancer journey.

You can help celebrate Mica’s “first” birthday by purchasing toys for patients at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge through our Amazon wish list or Target charity registry.