Mark Howard was one of the first two dozen or so patients to receive autologous stem cell transplants as part of OhioHealth’s new blood and marrow transplant program.

HAHANNA, Ohio – Mark Howard still doesn’t like needles. And that’s saying a lot considering how many of them he’s had to deal with over the past couple of years.

He deals with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells. He was on medication and undergoing chemotherapy. But he needed a stem cell transplant.

“You can’t give up in any situation you’re going through,” Howard said.

And he didn’t give up, thanks to the constant support of his longtime love Sonny Grant.

“You hear about cancer, no matter what form of cancer it is, you hear about it, but when it hits someone you love and care about and you’re planning to live with it for the rest of your life, it’s exhausting to watch them lie there or watching their physical changes that they have to go through every day, seeing them change right in front of your eyes,” she said. “And there’s literally nothing you can do but support.”

10TV was the first to share the story of Howard’s struggles last spring. He was preparing to be one of the first patients to receive an autologous stem cell transplant as part of OhioHealth’s new Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. In such a transplant, the patient’s own cells are used.

“We destroy the bone marrow, and then we infuse the stem cells, and then those stem cells really magically go into your bone marrow, into the bone marrow, and start making new cells,” said Dr. Yvonne Efebera, medical director of the Blood Transplant Program and of Bone Marrow and Cell Therapy at OhioHealth.

Since the first patient was admitted to the Bing Cancer Center program in October, Dr. Efebera said nearly 30 patients have received autologous stem cell transplants.

Howard received it on December 30th.

“I hope and pray that things go exactly the way they were supposed to,” he said. “But regardless, I have to be here, things have to go on, this thing called life.”

Howard will be back in a couple of months for a follow-up to see if the procedure has cleared up the multiple myeloma.

In the meantime, he and Grant say they will trust the process and their medical team.

“If we have to move on, we’ll just move on,” Grant said. “I mean we can bear it.”

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