Published on March 25, 2020
Annmarie and her mother, Amy, both thought they were hearing a bad joke when they learned Annmarie’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) came back a second time after five years of setback-free normalcy. Thinking back on that fateful appointment with her oncologist, Annmarie thought, “He's kind of a funny guy, but why would he joke about that? I quickly realized that he wasn't joking.” Mother and daughter join us with tactics for processing one of the worst fears a cancer survivor can hear: recurrence.
In some ways, they felt more prepared this time. They decorated her room and found a spare TV around the hospital for her first, in-patient, cycle of blinatumomab (Blincyto), an immunotherapy that wasn’t previously available to Annmarie. Her second and third cycles were predominantly out-patient, with trips every 48 hours to swap in a new dose of medicine. The pump that administers the medicine can fit in a small fanny pack, although Annmarie chose to wear it over her shoulder and keep it in a purse to be more conspicuous. Readers going through treatment know that even the most supportive questions about a wire dangling, or a repeated beep, can wear down a patient’s resiliency. After successful rounds of immunotherapy, Annmarie received a stem cell transplant from her mother.
While immunotherapies like blinatumomab are still new, Annmarie recommends patients trust their doctors' treatment recommendations and not to fear a stem cell transplant (as she did initially). Patients and their care teams on any round of cancer will get strong takeaways from our chat with Annmarie and her mother. Listen to the full conversation, or read the transcript, on-demand here:
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