Cancer Journey

April 11, 2023

Patient Experience: Theresa’s Journey with AML

The following is Theresa’s story as told to CLRA Director of Operations Tara Coleman

“I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2019 on Memorial Day Weekend. It was so strange. I had a root canal a few weeks prior and I thought the swelling in my face was a complication from that procedure.  I was so swollen and tired. 

When I woke up Saturday morning with a lump on my leg and an inability to put weight on it, we talked to a doctor friend, and she recommended we head to the ER to make sure I didn’t have sepsis from the root canal. 

That trip to the ER was the start of a journey that I never thought I would take.  

Within 24 hours, I was diagnosed with leukemia and sent via ambulance to the University Hospital Seidman Cancer Center. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot. There have been hundreds of days in the hospital, five intensive rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, many blood/platelet infusions, handfuls of pills a day, and many days of anxiety, pain, nausea, and exhaustion. 

Through all of that, I’ve also been supported tremendously by my family, friends, work colleagues, doctors, nurses, and countless others, including CLRA. Medicines and treatments are expensive, which adds an inordinate amount of stress to an already stressful situation. For example, one of my medicines cost about $8,000 for a 2-week supply! CLRA helped to ease the cost burden, relieving stress and allowing me to focus specifically on the healing process. 

I’m now two years post-transplant, feeling healthy, back to work full time, and back to my old self for the most part. 

Going through a journey like this changes people.  

It’s terrifying, isolating, and overwhelming. For me, though, it was all of that and it also made me realize how resilient I am, how strong my immediate and extended family can be, and how grateful I am to have so much support from others. Being diagnosed with AML has given me, and many of those around me, perspective of what is truly important, and it makes me want to help others along their own cancer journey.  Hopefully, I stay healthy, but I know that staying positive and relying on the support of others are essential tools in everyone’s cancer journey.”

Thank you for sharing your story, Theresa! We appreciate and support you!

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

According to the American Cancer Society, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is one of the most common leukemias in adults but accounts for only 1% of all cancers. Each year approximately 20,000 people will be diagnosed with AML, a bone marrow cancer. 

In patients like Theresa, who are diagnosed with AML, the bone marrow is the source of the abnormal cells, specifically white cells known as myeloid. This is a fast growing cancer that can be treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy drug, or stem cell transplant. Treatment protocols will be decided based on a variety of factors as determined by testing and oncologist recommendations. 

Resources like the ones Theresa received from Children’s Leukemia Research Association are subject to available funding and qualifications. Click Patient  to see if you or a loved one qualifies.