Skip to main content

Inspirational Stories

Barbara

chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

McClellanville, SC

On October 3, 2019, I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) at the age of 58. I was asymptomatic, so I was in total denial that I had leukemia. I had just attended my 40th high school reunion, and I thought my health was great. After leaving the oncologist's office that day, I went home and discovered that I had blood in my urine, or was it post-menopausal bleeding? I was so confused and frustrated. I immediately made an appointment with my primary care physician to get a referral because I wasn't sure what kind of doctor I needed to see. Turns out, I also had cervical cancer. Three months after my CML diagnosis, I had a complete hysterectomy and started eight weeks of radiation and brachytherapy to treat the cervical cancer. I only had one month of CML treatment in 2019 before I had to stop taking Tasigna® in order to treat the other cancer. I finished radiation therapy in May 2020 and knew that I had to start treating the leukemia immediately. It was such a difficult and confusing time for me. I was isolated from my family and friends because of quarantine restrictions, and I was so scared to start treating another cancer. I also learned that my insurance would not approve Tasigna® until I tried the first line of treatment which was imatinib. Imatinib was not a good fit for me. The side effects were unbearable, and I no longer recognized my face in the mirror.  My oncologist contacted my insurance company, and they agreed to approve Tasigna® in September 2020. I was so grateful because not only did I have excellent test results on Tasigna®, I also had very few side effects. By Christmas 2020, the CML was undetectable, and I reached deep molecular response (DMR). I remained on Tasigna®, and by Christmas 2021, I reached the huge milestone of being undetectable for a whole year. Happy times!!! Two years, two cancers, two remissions. In the beginning, I didn't think I would make it to 60, but here I am getting ready to turn 61 with my newly acquired curly hair. I lost most of my straight hair while taking imatinib, but it grew back thick and curly. I laugh when I look in the mirror now, no more tears. I have learned so much about life during my cancer journey. I'm more spiritual now. I take life one day at a time, I pray, I am kinder, and I look for the beauty in everything. I smile more. I laugh more. Now I just need to figure out how to control my wild hair.

Barbara