Thankful leukemia patient recovering after treatments

Katie (Gourley) McLain is thankful to the community for its support during her battle with leukemia.

McLain was diagnosed in January with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Since then, she has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, which is pretty much a weeklong drug treatment; one week of full-body radiation therapy; and a bone marrow transplant at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital.

“I’m on the road to recovery,” McLain said. “I’m not in remission yet but heading the right way. At this point, the treatments are over.”

She remains on immunity suppression medication right now, so she must keep her distance from people with colds or the flu.

She goes back about once a month for checkups, she said, and she doesn’t know at what point the doctors will call it remission.

Even when the cancer is in remission, she will always run the risk that her body will reject the bone marrow she received from the non-related donor, she said.

She said she looks forward to meeting the donor, a 23-year-old man from outside the United States. She thinks he lives somewhere in Europe.

She cannot meet him for 18 months following the transplant, she said. That gives patients a chance to get past possible complications from rejection and the possible related emotional distress.

She is thankful to him, but she also was impressed with the inspiration to her coworkers at the International Paper Albany Paper Mill, where she has been an administrative assistant in human resources. The mill is scheduled to close later this month.

A coworker started a donor drive, helping expand the list of potential donors for leukemia victims.

After the transplant, McLain had to stay in Portland during her recovery through October, she said. Her husband, Eric McLain would close his business, where he repairs ATVs and motorcycles, on Mondays to be with her. Her mother was with her most of the time with help from her two sisters.

That’s where the donations from the people of Sweet Home, a t-shirt sale from the Oregon Jamboree and her job helped most, helping pay for the rental and close the gap on her share of an astronomical medical bill.

“I definitely want to thank everyone,” McLain said. “I’m just very thankful to have the support to pay for the hotel, food and (transportation). It was fantastic.”

The McLains have two daughters, Lindsey, 14, and Whitney, 13.

The illness shocked McLain, she said. “I was never sick before this. I was very healthy, never had any issues.”

She is the daughter of Patty and Larry Gourley, who owned Pacific Crest Electrical. They retired just before McClain was diagnosed with leukemia.

McLain said her family is doing OK financially, but they haven’t seen all of the medical bills yet.

An account to assist her remains open in her name at Umpqua Bank for those who wish to donate.

Cheryl Bricco and Wendy Yoounger also are raffling a holiday quilt in an effort to raise donations for McLain.

The drawing will be held on Dec. 14.

Tickets are six for $5 or 25 for $20.

For information or to purchase tickets, call Bricco at 367-5079 or Younger at 401-3444.

All of the funds will be deposited in McLain’s Umpqua Bank account.

Anyone interested in seeing the quilt can see it displayed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.