Living life to the fullest after cancer

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

Dawn Payne Klein remembers being sick only once before 2004. At that time she bruised easily and all she wanted to do was sleep. When she fell out of the bed and couldn’t talk, she was taken to Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Klein (contributed)

Klein (contributed)

“When Dr. Lowenthal said thyroid disease, an unknown disease or cancer, I knew it was cancer,” Klein said, her voice choking with emotion. “She said my blood count was so low I shouldn’t be alive. She didn’t want to release me, but I wanted to spend Christmas with my family. I wasn’t worried about me. I wanted to protect everybody and make sure they were OK.”

Klein was sent to UAB where learned she had acute myeloid leukemia. She gave no thought to dying and told her doctors she would beat the cancer, it wouldn’t beat her. She asked God to let her raise her sons Justin and Stetson.

A week-long chemotherapy treatment in January 2005 turned into a two-month stay. Klein’s brother Lee was a perfect bone marrow match and she was re-admitted in May to receive the transplant, which left her on life support. After recovering she lived at Hope Lodge for three months.

Life returned to normalcy until 2010, when she developed graft-versus-host disease. Then, a car accident took Lee’s life in November 2011. Less than a year later, Klein was diagnosed with another cancer.

“I was diagnosed with myeloid sarcoma in September 2012, so here I go again for chemo,” she said. “Since then I’ve had a viral infection, blood clots and sinus surgery, but somebody in this world’s got it worse than me. Around the corner from UAB is Children’s and kids are going through what I went through, if not worse. If I could take the pain away from every child, I’d do it in a heartbeat because I know what it’s like.”

Taking Tim McGraw’s words to heart, Klein now lives like she was dyin’. She’s been skydiving, loves deeper and clings to her faith.

“My family, friends and faith brought me through it. God knows what I need and what I try to be to others. I know what he expects from me and I live my life for him.”