Wellesley native Annie McNamara turned 27 this week, and it’s hard to imagine her getting any birthday present that will ever top a gift from her sister Molly last year — a bone marrow match that has enabled Annie to beat off an unusual sort of cancer in someone so young.
McNamara will share her story with attendees of the Friends of Dana-Farber’s spring gala on April 7 at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston (you can register to attend the Dinner and Late Night with Friends event here). In February 2016, McNamara was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a blood cell disorder that is also referred to as “pre-leukemia.” McNamara first realized she was sick after experiencing extreme and constant fatigue as well as having a strong reaction to bug bites after being in Puerto Rico with her family. As it turned out, her immune system was very weak.
“I had never heard of MDS before,” says McNamara, who notes that it’s a disease more typically found in older people.
McNamara did three rounds of chemo from March to May of last year and then began the bone marrow transplant process in June. She had a 50% chance of a marrow match with one of her siblings, and sister Molly turned out to be perfectly matched with her.
“For my bone marrow match, I got super lucky,” says McNamara, whose MDS now in remission.
“My team at Dana Farber was and is amazing, and every time I am there I am reminded of how lucky I am that such great hospitals are located in Boston,” says McNamara, who attended Bowdoin College and now lives in South Boston.
McNamara also appreciates her team at Island Creek Oysters, where she works in the marketing and consumer sales department. Island Creek co-owner and chef Jeremy Sewall — a Wellesley resident — will celebrate McNamara’s return to health and work, as well as Dana-Farber’s overall efforts, at the spring gala at Hotel Commonwealth, where an Island Creek Oysters restaurant is located. The evening will feature chef demonstrations, dinner, cocktails and more, including McNamara’s talk.
“I am planning on telling my story through the eyes of a young adult whose life was disrupted pretty quickly — some of the tougher parts of the journey, as well as some of the grace, joy, and gratitude that I also felt through the process,” she says.