Meara's Journey with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

Survivor: Leukemia > Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

Patient Info: Living with cancer as a chronic illness (undergoing adjuvant therapy), Diagnosed: over 13 years ago, Female, Age: 33

  1. 1
    • Meara
    • Experience with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia...
    over 4 years ago
    Meara's Avatar

    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    My diagnosis came as a shock. I had always been a healthy young girl, and I was thriving as a busy and active college sophomore. Indeed, my active lifestyle was part of what led to my diagnosis... during a particularly awesome water polo match, I twisted too hard to get a good shot and ended up giving myself a hernia in my abdominal wall. When I went in to the student health center, they weren't sure what to do for me and ended up giving me a blood test. That blood test saved my life. They called me in the next day, while I was studying for a test I had to take later that morning, to inform me that my white blood cell count was extremely high, a good indicator of Leukemia. My parents came up to the campus and were there with me as I went through my first bone barrow test. A few days later they confirmed that I had the Philadelphia Chromosome and I was diagnosed with CML.

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  2. 2
    • Meara
    • Experience with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia...
    over 4 years ago
    Meara's Avatar

    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    I take a medication called Gleevec. I have taken this drug every day since I was diagnosed... nearly nine years! I am fortunate because this medicine has very minimal side effects, just slight nausea that I have been able to avoid by taking the pills at night before I go to bed. The biggest impact on my daily life was the knowledge that, at best, I would have to do this for the rest of my life and, at worst, I would be among the 15% of CML patients who do not respond to Gleevec, and I would have to get a bone marrow transplant.

    Easy to Do: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Neutral/NA
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  3. 3
    • Meara
    • Experience with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia...
    over 4 years ago
    Meara's Avatar

    Fertility

    Loss

    This was the most difficult of my journey with cancer. A year after I started taking my medication, around the same time that my doctors determined that the medicine was working to keep me in remission, I was told that I would not be able to have children on this medication. Since I already knew that I would be taking Gleevec for the rest of my life, this felt like a death sentence to my womanhood. I was 19 years old and, though I wasn't planning on having kids any time soon, I had always thought that I would become a mother. I started reading adoption literature and began mentally preparing myself for becoming an adoptive parent, but I still felt like it wasn't fair to have my options taken away from me so abruptly. I didn't talk to anyone about my feelings, however. Instead, I took out my frustrations on my body. Since I no longer felt like a woman, I decided that I shouldn't look like one either. I started going on long runs every day, and my diet took a turn for a worse. I lost about 35 pounds during my junior year of college and I stopped getting my period. I didn't really know how to deal with my anguish at being told I couldn't have children, and I felt like I couldn't talk about it, since I was supposed to be happy and celebrating that I was finally in remission.

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  4. 4
    • Meara
    • Experience with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia...
    over 4 years ago
    Meara's Avatar

    I can have babies!

    Celebration

    Three years ago I met the man who is now my husband. While we were dating, I talked to him about my diagnosis and told him that I couldn't ever have my own children. He asked me what the latest news was about this issue, and why, specifically, being on Gleevec posed such a risk to the fetus. I had never asked my doctor these questions, and with his support, I finally asked for more details. The news I received was unexpected and amazing. Several studies have been completed since I was first diagnosed, all showing that it is very very likely that I can stop taking my medicine, experience a healthy pregnancy and birth, and then resume taking my medicine after the baby is born! I want to take a moment to express my love and gratitude for my husband, who supported me through this part of my journey.

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