I had a constant dull ache on my left side, and I was more tired than usual. I blamed it on the long hours at work and the hectic nature of my job. In April, I was at an open house for one of my grandchildren. I was not feeling 100%, but I didn’t want to miss it. As I went to lift my other grandson, and put him on my hip, the pain on the left side of my stomach was excruciating. Off to the hospital we went.
After arriving, the doctor came in, took my blood work and vitals. Twenty minutes later, he came back in, asked if this was my family that was in the room, when I nodded, he said “you have leukemia.” I giggle now when I think back on my reaction – I looked at my husband and my son, then back at the doctor, and asked him “Are you talking to me?” I was admitted, diagnosed with CML, and began taking Gleevec. From that moment on my life totally changed.
When I tell my story, it includes my cousins and friends. They are my lifeline, my will to fight. As the bone marrow biopsies happened, my friend Angie was my designated partner, her stories kept my mind off the procedure. I am an only child, so my cousins were the ones that rallied. They brought me food daily, some of them were on med patrol, I had ride schedules, they checked on me constantly. I will never forget how they all came together for me. In October 2012, my cousin, Laura Coloccia started Team Ali, and registered for Light The Night. We all look forward to this day; there are cousins and friends that fly in every year so we can attend together.
With that said, here is my CML story. Gleevec seemed to be working beautifully since the time I was diagnosed with CML in 2008. The side effects were not pleasant but my white cell count rose from 300,000 to a normal range. In 2009, my BCR-ABL showed that the Gleevec was no longer working. Tasigna was the next therapy in line. Well, let me tell you, we did not want to be friends at all. The side effects were so horrific that I was only on it for a few months.
Sprycel was next. The side effects at the beginning were minimal, and this therapy worked like a charm in controlling my CML. Within eight months, I was undetectable, and my life was slowly reaching normalcy. I was on Sprycel until 2015. The side effects started showing an ugly side. With Plural effusions regularly, it got to the point that I had a drainage tube inserted for one year. Also I was diagnosed with PAH (Plural Arterial hypertension). The decision was then made to take me off this drug that was working so well with the CML, but not so well in other parts.
In April 2016, I started my next therapy, Bosulif. I am still on the same therapy. My side effects are minimal; this therapy has brought my white cell count down and, to an undetectable PCR.
I am doing great. I travel, I enjoy my grandchildren, and I celebrate life to its fullest. I thank the Lord daily, for my cousins and friends that are always rallying for me. I thank the Lord for giving the doctors and researchers the knowledge to keep finding therapies and cures.