2020 Honored Hero
In December 2018, my husband, Rob, and I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. We were nervous, emotional, but most of all so very excited. We had our first OB appointment a few weeks later and fell instantly in love with the wiggly little baby on the ultrasound screen. All seemed well until a routine blood test stopped us in our tracks. I got a call the day before our very first wedding anniversary informing me that my platelets were abnormally high, that the issue was unrelated to pregnancy, and that I needed to get to the bottom of it right away with a specialist.
For three weeks, I cycled through multiple hematology appointments, follow-up blood tests and a whole lot of excruciating waiting until I got a call with a definitive diagnosis: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Nothing could have prepared me for a cancer diagnosis, but it was made even more distressing as I wondered what the diagnosis meant for our baby. I was fortunate to set up a quick appointment with a CML specialist, and in the meantime attended our next regular OB appointment. By this point we understood that CML was manageable if caught and treated early, but also that the targeted medication (TKIs) could not be taken safely during pregnancy. My OB sat with me eye-to-eye and advised me to prepare for the real possibility that the oncologists would recommend initiating treatment right away, and that my pregnancy might not be able to safely proceed. Only moments later, we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
A few days later, we headed to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to meet my new specialist and to learn our options. We were prepared for heartbreaking advice, but also maintained hope that there might be a way to continue safely through the remaining six months of my pregnancy. In a moment I will remember forever, my oncologist shared that she had consulted her community of international experts, and that they agreed it was reasonable to wait until our baby was born to start TKI treatment. However, given my extremely high platelet count, I would need to undergo twice-weekly apheresis to filter my blood and remove the excess platelets. The goal was to protect my baby and me until I could start effective TKI treatment.
After nearly 60 total apheresis procedures, several pregnancy complications, constant awareness of the risks of CML disease progression, two sedation-free bone marrow biopsies, and six months of extremely emotional ups and downs, on July 30th, 2019, we miraculously welcomed our perfectly healthy little boy, Charles Seth Anderson. Within a week of Charlie’s arrival, I finally initiated TKI treatment. A month later, my blood counts were back to normal. By three months, my percentage of blood cells with the cancer-causing chromosome had been reduced to just 0.1%. I can joyfully say that I am well on my way to remission. I am thankful every day for my truly wonderful family and friends, colleagues, and health care professionals who have supported me since my diagnosis. I am also immensely grateful for the groundbreaking treatments that have given me the chance to not only bring my son into the world, but to live to see him grow up.
Would you like to honor your loved one by having a dedication sign made in their name? These signs will be displayed along the path as we Light The Night.
Click Here to request a new dedication sign (or update an old one). Please have the requests done by Thursday, September 26th. Of course, we welcome and encourage them earlier.
LLS is the leading source for free, highly specialized blood cancer information, education and support for patients, survivors, families and healthcare professionals. We work to help patients navigate their cancer treatments and ensure they have access to quality, affordable and coordinated care.
You can speak to a Masters Level Health Care Professional about disease specific information, receive help with researching a clinical trial, or for information about our patient assistance programs. Our information specialists are here to help you get the information you need.
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Call (800) 955-4572 to use the automated response system 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An Information Specialist will return your call the next business day. You can also listen to recorded information about LLS and our programs.
Erin Paschall is your local Washington/Alaska Chapter Patient Access Manager. She is here to help navigate you through this journey. She can assist you with programs like the Susan Lang Pay-It-Forward Patient Travel Assistance Program, Co-Pay Assistance Program, First Connection, and LLS Community. You can reach her by calling 206-957-4585.
Here are some of the ways the money you raise helps patients in Washington and Alaska:
- In partnership with Verdant Health Commissions, we can provide eligible families with $500 in travel assistance. In 2017 18 patients received funding through our Susan Lang Pay-It-Forward Travel Assistance Program.
- In 2016 we provided over $550,000 dollars to Washington and Alaska patients through our Co-Pay Assistance Program.
- This year, we invested $1.75 Million dollars into local oncology researchers Dr. Roland Walter, Shannon Oda, and Marie Blakely at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. They are using money you raised to find a cure for blood cancers.