Shelley Nettesheim (right) of Elkhorn
Shelley Nettesheim is no stranger to Kade’s Klassic.
She participated in the 5K of Kade’s Klassic which started in 2005.
In October 2015, after a routine physical at the doctor’s office, Shelley, a Delavan-Darien High School graduate got the call nobody wants. She was told to immediately get to the emergency room. Still unaware of what exactly was going on, Nettesheim was rushed via ambulance to Mercy hospital in Janesville.
There, she was diagnosed Acute Myeloid Leukemia with a 5q deletion, which is a rare form of the disease. “You’re scared out of your mind,” Nettesheim said. “I thought it was a mistake.” “They said I basically had the blood level of someone who had been in a severe car accident,” she said. “I had no immune system.”
“When they said ‘leukemia,’ I kept it together thanks to being with my friend. In the car, panic attack set in. Nettesheim made the decision to drive to The Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned cancer clinic in Rochester, Minn. When it was confirmed after a second test Nettesheim had AML, she didn’t ask questions about her future. She knew it was a random occurrence. A chromosome in her blood stream “broke,” she said, but the reality was serious. “I later learned once I got home I had a 10 percent chance of getting a stem cell transplant.”
A perfect match
Though the odds were low but Nettesheim found a match for a stem cell transplant. She has four siblings, each which had a 30 percent chance of being a match. “My sister Bobbi was a perfect match,” Nettesheim said. “While my sister started the process to donate her stem cells, I had to endure two more rounds of chemotherapy.”
Nettesheim received one round of chemotherapy when she first got to Mayo Clinic, which proved unsuccessful. The second round was much stronger, and 10 days after, she learned the Leukemia was gone. But she still needed a stem cell transplant. “The first round ran 24/7 for one week,” she said. “I used to sleep with a fan. But at Mayo, I listened to the sound of the IV, of the poison going into me. It was a hum, and all I could think was, ‘They’re poisoning me.’” She said the second round of chemo was like the “world’s biggest hangover.” “You don’t get a lot of sleep,” she said. “They wake you up every four hours. Nobody gets sleep in the hospital.” “Sometimes you’re just wired, thinking about all of the things you’re no longer in control of.”
Keeping the faith
AML is something that is not typical in someone her age. Nettesheim said. “It was my story, and I knew it would be different than anyone else,” she said. “There were a lot of dark days through all of this but I never really let myself believe I was as sick as I was. The stem cell transplant was a success, and I have experienced no signs of rejection.”
After 6 months of being at The Mayo Clinic, she was told she was able to return home to Elkhorn to live with her daughter and Granddaughter. “My faith kept me strong,” she said. “There were signs God gave me that I was going to be OK. I also got lots of cards from people, and I just couldn’t believe the support.” “I prayed a lot, and my family and friends prayed a lot for me. I didn’t want to see anybody, but they came anyways. My sister Bobbi, the one who gave me her stem cells, moved to Minnesota, stayed with me and fed me back to life.” “I look at life totally differently now” Nettesheim said. “The little things you appreciate, waking up and hearing the birds sing, reading books to my granddaughter.” “Now I think it’s all about making memories. That’s what’s important, the time I spend with my family and my kids.