L21 — May 2011 — Myelofibrosis
Intro: Leukemia is a type of cancer that comes in many forms. Some types develop slowly, while others hit fast, causing sudden symptoms. Treatment for leukemia continues to improve, as researchers learn more about the disease process. Here's one woman's story of her journey with a type of leukemia called myelofibrosis.
You will have at the most eight to 10 years.
Those are words that Patricia Wagner says were not easy to hear. But she says they didn't surprise her — she had suffered debilitating symptoms for so long.
My career was over. I really couldn't even cook and clean anymore.
Pat has a type of chronic leukemia called myelofibrosis. And for many months her disease slowly grew worse because it was not responding to traditional medications.
The fatigue level was increasing tremendously. It was head-to-toe pain. Even to lie down in bed.
Determined to fight it, Pat went to Mayo Clinic where she saw hematologist Dr. Ruben Mesa.
Chronic leukemias, in general, in 2011 are illnesses that are difficult to cure.
But Dr. Mesa says there are new medications currently in clinical trials that may improve the lives of people with these chronic diseases. You see, myelofibrosis is a type of chronic leukemia that disrupts the production of blood cells in the bone marrow. In normal cells, there's a protein called JAK2 and other related proteins that act like an on-off switch. This on-off switch tells cells when to divide and grow. In patients with myelofibrosis, the switch is permanently turned on and cells divide and grow too quickly. This causes scarring, an overabundance of white blood cells and too few red blood cells. The new medications work by turning off that switch, slowing the overgrowth of cells.
There is tremendous energy and enthusiasm for finding out the genetic changes that are causing these illnesses and developing very specific drugs to try to improve the illnesses. We're hopeful that these therapies will not only help people live longer, but hopefully better, by helping to alleviate the suffering that comes with the illness.
After Dr. Mesa helped Pat get on the right medications to better control her disease, her symptoms decreased significantly. Plus, she's added things like meditation and visualization to her daily routine.
I started adding visualization of a well Pat Wagner.
And you know what? She is well and loving life to the fullest.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Patricia wants to encourage all patients with myelofibrosis to make use of support groups. There are some available on the Internet, and she says those groups offer information that can be very helpful.
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