Katie and Luis: Siblings with a Special Bond

How a bone marrow transplant made this brother and sister closer than ever

Luis and Katie Ballesteros have a special bond – more than the DNA they share.

Katie was going to what seemed to be a normal doctor’s visit. Her family noticed she wasn’t feeling well, and her skin tone was little bit lighter. What came next wasn’t expected – on June 30, 2016, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The diagnosis brought fear. Everyone has heard of cancer, but you don’t know what that feeling is like until it’s personal.

Katie’s treatment plan was aggressive – she needed three different chemotherapies. But doctors deemed that a bone marrow transplant would be the best course of treatment. The Ballesteros started the search for a match with immediate family before widening their outreach nationally.

Her older brother Luis was in the Navy and was deployed at the time. While on deployment, he received a testing box shipped to him. He was a match. Katie’s match.

“Never in a million years would you think that something you hear about in the news would hit close to home. To be able to be a donor, it was truly an honor. I get thanked a lot for it, but to me, anybody would have done it. Thank God I was a match.”

Luis, with full support from the U.S. Navy, returned from deployment to serve as a bone marrow transplant donor to his sister in October of 2016. Family came to visit them, but it was a scary time seeing her loss of hair feeling the ever-present severity of the diagnosis.

Katie and Luis Ballesteros

“Going through this journey, I’m blessed to say that I am here to be able to share my story and shine light once again,” said Katie.

Katie and Luis’ relationship is closer than ever. They now consider themselves twins, because of the additional DNA they share.

“I’m so thankful for him. He’s my hero for two reasons, serving in the Navy and our country, and being my donor.”

In Luis’ mind, he’s not a hero. He’s her brother, and any brother would do the same.

This life-altering experience has reaffirmed Katie’s dreams. She has always been interested in going into the medical field, and this has solidified her goals of working with children in the future.

“Going into the medical field, I have a story to tell now. I can let my patients know that I got through it, and I know what it’s like. Being with a patient and getting them through, it being a motivator and being an ambassador for Mr. Vitale and all these organizations, I have hope that we are going to find a cure.”

In May 2023, Katie and Luis attended the 18th Annual Dick Vitale Gala and were named part of Dick’s All-Courageous Team.  They are both pushing forward and using their stories to sponsor more research and better treatment options.

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