Dian Hymer, a veteran Realtor in the San Francisco Bay Area and a nationally syndicated real estate columnist, has dispensed advice and assistance to colleagues, competitors and consumers alike for decades. Now, her life depends on the aid of others.
An agent in the Oakland-Piedmont, Calif., office of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Services who has worked in real estate since 1977, Hymer is in remission from leukemia. It is her second battle with the disease, which is characterized by an unusual proliferation of blood cells. She awaits a bone marrow donor or placental cord donor.
Her first bout with leukemia, which struck about a decade ago, sidelined her real estate career for a year, though this time she is working through her illness. She has teamed with another agent in her office to share duties for her clients while she awaits a bone marrow transplant or a special blood transplant.
But she is not sitting by the telephone — she’s keeping busy. After an interview on Friday, Hymer said she would be working to list a property for sale. Also, she is caring for her mother, who just got out of the hospital, while dealing with a leaky roof and trying to “fatten up” on doctor’s orders — leukemia and chemotherapy can steal your appetite.
Hymer received chemotherapy treatments at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center beginning in November to attack the leukemia. The cancer wasn’t expected to return after so long in remission, though she began to notice the warning signs about a month and a half ago. “If you run a fever, don’t feel good — like you’ve come down with the flu — but don’t have any flu signs, that’s the tip-off.”
She spent a month in the hospital during the Thanksgiving holiday season and returned from the hospital before Christmas.
While the cancer’s recurrence hit her somewhat out of the blue, Hymer said she is more prepared this time around. “I was so much more flabbergasted by the whole situation 10 years ago.”
She said she is fortunate to have good health insurance coverage through her husband, as the treatment for leukemia can be lengthy and costly and many real estate agents are independent contractors who pay for their own coverage out of pocket.
Hymer is one of many leukemia sufferers who await a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant through the National Marrow Donor Program, which reached its milestone 30,000th transplant recipient in December. An estimated 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases each year who can be cured only with a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from someone outside of their own family, according to the program’s Web site.
About 5,000 transplants were facilitated by the donor program in the past 17 months, and an estimated 6,000 people search the registry each day for a suitable donor.
“I have been told it is going to be tough to find a donor to me (because of) the idiosyncrasies of my bone marrow,” she said, and “I’m being told (the transplant) is a must-have.” There is typically a 1-in-3 success rate with transplants.
Chemotherapy, besides wiping out the cancer, also batters the body’s immune system, and Hymer said patients eat a low-bacteria diet while they are recuperating.
By sharing her listings with an office colleague, Hymer said she will be able to hand off her duties in the event a matching donor is found — the transplant process will require more hospital time.
“That’s really the only way I could (keep working), unless I say no to all business,” she said, adding that her job is a welcome distraction. “It satisfies me because I really enjoy what I do.”
Her friends, family and colleagues have been very supportive during these trying times, she said, “as they were the last time.”
Joan Duffield, a Realtor who is a longtime colleague and friend to Hymer and lives in the same neighborhood, describes Hymer as a role model who exhibits “just an incredible level of professionalism.”
“She’s very detail-oriented, impeccable about her communication and her diligence, when it comes to details of the transaction — and there are a lot of details,” Duffield said. The region has a lot of old homes, and Hymer has a deep knowledge about the intricacies of these properties, Duffield said.
Despite her illness, Hymer “has really remained positive and forward-thinking and just committed to what she’s doing. All of her clients are so concerned about her,” Duffield said. “She becomes a part of her clients’ lives … and she is rewarded with the respect, admiration and care of her clients. They’re really concerned about what’s happening to her. It’s a wonderful environment that she’s created around herself, in the face of just a terrible situation.”
It’s no surprise that Hymer is back to work, she said. “Being able to work is part of who she is.”
Beverly Muncer, the managing broker for Hymer’s Coldwell Banker office, said, “Dian’s a fighter. She’s strong, she’s got a positive attitude. It’s wonderful when your top person sets such a beautiful example of professionalism.”
Both Muncer and Duffield describe Hymer as a mentor who willingly shares information with colleagues and a visionary who is constantly working to expand her resources and improve her services.
“She is always looking for new ways to make the process better for her clients. She is extremely client-focused,” Duffield said.
“Dian’s commitment to her work and educating others about real estate has continued to shine through her illness,” said Jessica Swesey, vice president of content for Inman News, which syndicates Hymer’s “House Hunting” real estate column. “She’s a real inspiration in the face of mounting obstacles. We are trying our best to spread the word about the national bone marrow registry in hopes that her match comes through right away.”
A native of West Los Angeles and graduate of University of California, Los Angeles, who obtained a master’s degree in anthropology and taught that subject at a state college in Hayward, Calif., Hymer said she didn’t know her career path would turn to real estate but she quickly found it suited her talents.
She sold cable television door-to-door in the early 1970s, and colleagues told her she should work in real estate. “People said, ‘If you can do this, you can sell houses.’ I was figuring, ‘I’ll do this for a year, buy a house, and then do something else.’ I didn’t know what residential real estate was all about.
“I found out how you’re really doing an important service for people. It’s really up my alley in terms of what kind of skill sets it requires,” she said. “I’ve always gotten along well with people. Having the ability to communicate well is really essential to being a good agent. And I’m patient.”
A specialist in luxury homes, she enjoys writing narratives about for-sale homes of all price ranges and snapping photos. “I do all of my own photography … I have trouble with professional photographers who make the house look worse than it did in person.” She refers to her photo skills as “semi-professional,” having invested effort and money in the techniques and technology of the trade. She also has taken naturally to economics and math, which come in handy in the real estate business.
Besides writing her real estate column, Hymer has also authored two books: “House Hunting: The Take-Along Guide for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out: The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”
Her past experience in teaching is a good fit for clients, she said, as they sometimes require an education about the real estate transaction process.
Perhaps her career in real estate wasn’t so accidental — earlier in life she had planned to conduct anthropological field work studying squatter settlements in South America. And she recalls that housing served as a common subject for her childhood artwork.
While some longtime real estate agents have used computers “somewhat begrudgingly” in their business, Hymer said she has embraced technology and bought her first computer in the 1980s. She sets up a unique Web site for every property listing she handles.
Her real estate columns have earned her some fans, recognition and awards over the years, and Hymer said she draws the most satisfaction from knowing that people are learning something through her writing, particularly when they are real estate agents who she may be working with to sell a client’s home.
“When they come up and tell me how much they enjoy it … that’s satisfying,” she said.
Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com, or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.