Local man has unique ties to Robin Roberts; both celebrate post transplant success and more.

"It's about the quality of life now"

TAMPA - While news anchor Robin Roberts reunited with her Good Morning America family live on TV.

Rick Rietveld reunited with his doctor here at Moffitt Cancer Center. Sixteen months out from his bone marrow transplant, Rick is feeling great for both himself and Robin.  Both were diagnosed with MDS - going through treatment at the same time.

"It stands for Myelodisplastic Syndrome. Its really a failure of the bone marrow to produce the necessary ingredients, red blood cells, white blood cells,  platelets," Rick said.

Both Rick and Robin found their disease in an advanced enough stage, transplant was the best option.  And both needed a donor, finding one close to home in a sister. "In a family the odds are one in four. I had two matches among my siblings," he said.

Their connection began even before treatment. Rick, while an administrator at Valencia Community College, delivered a copy of a documentary the school made about the Tuskegee Airmen to ABC in New York. Robin, whose father was a Tuskegee Airman thanked him for bringing it herself.

Rick says Robin was "A gracious, outgoing person.  We got a lot of hugs."

With both post transplant - what's the prognosis?

"Well, as you know, being a survivor, they don't even talk about being cured for 5 years. But the prognosis for tomorrow is fantastic."

Moffitt Cancer Center doctor Claudio Anasetti's outlook is a little more defined. "His MDS remains in remission and, at this time, one year after transplant, its very likely he'll remain free of graft versus host disease and free of Myelodysplasia."

Since he is now 11 months older than Robin, Rick's advice to her is, "Don't take unnecessary risks. Be a compliant patient and you saw that today in her interview with her doctors about flying to California. Don't overdue it. On the other side, if this is a yin-yang - enjoy life to the fullest. It's all about quality of life, isn't it?"

Dr. Anasetti's research at Moffitt Cancer center is leading to exciting developments. At least two clinical trials will be underway soon here - aimed at preventing complications of bone marrow transplant and preventing malignant reoccurrence.

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