Karen Fore thought she had an iron-clad immune system until 2009 when she got the flu. She blamed stress at work for her fatigue, weight loss and fuzzy brain. After coming down with a fever, she went to an urgent care clinic. Her doctor ran some bloodwork, and her results showed significant anemia. After more bloodwork and other lab tests, she was told she had multiple myeloma.
After interviewing doctors that specialized in treating multiple myeloma, she chose MD Anderson. Within one week of Karen’s first appointment with MD Anderson, she started chemotherapy. After the chemotherapy was shown as ineffective, she switched to another treatment. That, too, had little effect. At that point, she was considered refractory, which means the multiple myeloma was resistant to traditional treatment.
In January 2011, she began a clinical trial using lenolidomide, thalidomide and dexamethasone. Together, they helped control the multiple myeloma so she could undergo a stem cell transplant. On June 2, 2011, Karen underwent her stem cell transplant and celebrated her rebirthday, as many cancer survivors call it. She spent that summer recovering and hasn’t looked back.
After six months of follow-up visits, Karen was declared in a stable partial response. The myeloma was contained with the help of daily pills called lenalidomide (Revlimid). She asked if she’d never make it to a complete response. Her oncologist said it was unlikely. "Watch me," she told him.
Eighteen months later, her lab work hadn't shown the multiple myeloma markers in three months. She had achieved a complete response. During her multiple myeloma treatment, Karen had the privilege of talking to many people in waiting rooms and labs. The stories they shared gave her hope, and kept her humble and thankful for every little thing. Especially inspiring were the children. She told herself, if that a child can do this, so can she!
Karen sends a heartfelt thanks to the MD Anderson team who led her fight. She couldn't have done it without them.