20 Years and Counting

 Pat Bearnson BMT Cancer Survivor
Pat Bearnson, Cancer Survivor

"I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world," says cancer survivor Pat Bearnson. Diagnosed with a rare peripheral nerve sheath sarcoma in the summer of 1991, she wondered if she'd ever live to see snow again. "I've seen snow now for 20 seasons," Pat says.

After initial rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor from her leg, a chest X-ray revealed masses on her lungs. Her primary oncologist consulted with Patrick Beatty, MD, at the University of Utah's then newly opened BMT unit, and the doctors decided a bone marrow transplant would be the best course. Pat was the unit's thirteenth patient to receive a transplant. "I'm so thankful that I got that treatment when I did—that it was available for me. I think if [the cancer] had happened much earlier, I wouldn't have survived."

After recovering in the hospital for five weeks, Pat returned home. The cancer, however, never returned. She felt lucky to be alive, but was also sad that the chemotherapy had left her menopausal before she'd had a chance to have children.

About a year after the transplant, Pat had earned her medical degree and was working as a gynecologist. Soon after, she started experiencing the same symptoms she heard about from her pregnant patients. She took a pregnancy test at her clinic, and after the results turned up positive, she immediately had an ultrasound. It revealed she was nine weeks along. "It was just amazing," she says. "I had thought I would never be able to get pregnant." Her son, now 18, is in his first year of college.

"I'm blessed in so many ways," Pat says. "I'm so happy to be here and to get to be a mom and to have this gift of a son who is just such a joy. It's a really great life."


Bearnson addresses the crowd at the hospital expansion dedication ceremony