Growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, Kya embodied an active lifestyle, playing year-round sports like tennis, hockey, and baseball, and working through farm chores and tossing hay bales.
But at the age of 16, a routine laboratory test showed the self-proclaimed social butterfly had abnormally low blood counts, putting her at a higher risk for bleeding—and putting a hold on her beloved activities.
“After I was diagnosed, I had to change my lifestyle from very active to very sedentary,” Kya says. “This wasn’t by choice, but as my body gradually got weaker, I couldn’t keep up with my preferred lifestyle.” Physical activities became arduous, she says, and simple things she once took for granted, like walking up a flight of stairs, became impossible. And when she moved to be closer to her specialist, keeping up her active social life also became more trying. “My world was flipped upside down,” she says.
Kya was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition that is often fatal without a bone marrow transplant. At first Kya was in denial, certain that aplastic anemia was not what she had. But when she came to terms with her diagnosis, and watched as her body slowly failed her, she ran the gamut of emotions, angry and sad, and eventually, acceptance. “It was like I went through a grieving process for the life I loved so much.”
Thankfully, one of Kya’s sisters was a perfect match, and Kya received a bone marrow transplant in 2010 at the age of 17. Before her diagnosis, Kya had a positive view of the laboratory—her mother is a laboratory professional and often shared her love of her job with her family, and Kya has fond memories of begging to go to work with her mom so she could peer into the microscopes. After her diagnosis, Kya realized just how big of a role the laboratory played in patient care.
“A patient’s care plan cannot be devised until the team knows what is happening in that person’s body,” she says. “I was amazed and incredibly grateful to learn how intricate and precise these lab results are that made my care plan successful in saving my life.”
Kya says that keeping track of your lab results is important to see how different levels are improving or changing. And while the lab results and tests may be intimidating, you can always ask questions: Why was this test done? What does this test mean? What does this change in results mean?
Thanks in part to her post-transplant monitoring, Kya recovered and enrolled in college in 2011. After laboratory tests showed that the first transplant was failing, she underwent a second transplant in 2013. Today, Kya is healthy and keeps her ever-positive outlook on life.
“Part of my aplastic anemia journey was having the opportunity to ask myself what I am truly passionate about and not just what seemed like a logical career path,” Kya says. “My passion? Television! I admire every part of it, and every person in every position that comes together to create a masterpiece.” Working toward her passion, Kya is excited to start her career in the television industry, knowing that her Aplastic Anemia diagnosis is only one piece of her story.
“It was hard, I won’t pretend it wasn’t,” Kya says of her diagnosis and battle with aplastic anemia. “It was very hard getting healthy again and getting used to all of my ‘new normals’ that go with it. But I have learned so much about myself and how to take on challenges that I can’t imagine my life without this piece of my story.”