Andrea Kalliaras – with deep faith in God and positive thinking – is fighting to get well from her unexpected illness. (Photo provided by Andrea Kalliaras)
BOSTON – Everything was going well for the 49 years old Greek-American Andrea Kalliaras from New Jersey. Happiness was diffused in her family, her husband Konstantinos and the two tannage children Sophia and Nicholas until she went for an annual blood check up and diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
Andrea spoke to The National Herald about herself, her family and her ordeal which began in August 2021.
She said “I was born and raised in Wanaque, New Jersey with my two older brothers Christopher and Marc. My mom (Fannie) is Cypriot and her parents were both from Kyrenia, Cyprus. My dad, John is half Greek and half Cypriot. His dad is from Karavas, Cyprus and his mom’s family was from the islands of Kos and Crete, Greece. My parents have been married for over 50 years. We are a very close family and we all live within 15 minutes of each other. I have been a parishioner at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wycoff, New Jersey since the day I was born. My family and I still attend church services together. My husband Gus (Constantinos) and I got married at Saint Nicholas and our two children Sophia and Nikolas were both baptized at Saint Nicholas. We are a typical in Greek family. We are always together.”
Regarding her health issue she said “in August 2021, I went to visit my primary physician for a routine annual blood test. My tests showed elevated blood counts and upon further testing and numerous visits with the local hospitals in New Jersey and New York, I was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.” She added “I did not have any symptoms, I was just going for a checkup, so as you can imagine, I was very shocked to hear that I had this terrible disease.”
When wea asked her how do you cope with it, Andrea replied “I am blessed with an incredible amount of support from my family and friends. When I first received this diagnosis, we were all devastated. I was scared and couldn’t sleep well at night. As the days and months have gone by, I have grown stronger in my belief that I am going to beat this. I am strong and remain positive. I have always believed that if you have positive thoughts and see a positive outcome and with the power of prayer, all good things can and will happen. So that is how I get through my days now. I am strong for my husband and beautiful children. I am strong for my amazing and loving parents and brothers. I am strong for my nieces and nephews who I love dearly. The overwhelming support that I have received from complete strangers that hear my story and want to help touches my heart. There is such kindness in the world and I feel blessed to have such incredible support.”
Regarding the needed the stem transplant she said “a few months ago, I did not know anything about a stem cell transplant, but this is my only cure. Nowadays 80% of donors are asked to provide blood stem cells collected from circulating blood. This is a non-surgical, outpatient blood stem cell donation. It is non-invasive and similar to donating platelets or plasma.»
In terms of the process if some people from the Greek-American Community wish to become donors, Andrea explained that “it is so easy to register to be a donor from anywhere around the world. If you visit my website www.swab4andrea.com you can click on the how can I get tested tab and follow the instructions in order to receive a free swab kit to your home. Once you receive the kit, you will swab both sides of your cheek with a cotton swab and return the kit in the postage-paid envelope. Results are usually back in 4-6 weeks.”
To the question do you have insurance? Would you need any financial help, she said “recently we did hear that there are thousands of unprocessed swabs at a registry in Greece that does not have the funding to test these swabs. My family and I are trying to find a way to raise funding and bring these unprocessed swabs to a New York lab so they can be tested. There are other Greek/Cypriots, including myself, that are currently in need of a match and it is so important to get these swabs tested as soon as possible.”
With the initiative of Chrysoula Kourkounti, Director of The Maliotis Cultural Center of Hellenic College – Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology at 50 Goddard Ave Brookline Mass, a Swabbing event is organized on Wednesday February 16 from 9 AM to 4 PM EST. Anyone from 18-55 years old can go and do a simple cheek swab to determine if they are a match to me or the many other Greek patients also waiting for their donor.
Andrea said “I am so blessed to have someone like Chrysoula Kourkounti donate her time to organize this amazing event.”
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