A Story of Resilience – Living with Acute Myeloid Leukemia

The importance of proper care and perseverance

Nancy is a paid Bristol Myers Squibb ambassador.

After spending 30 years working as a banker, Nancy began enjoying her days of well-deserved retirement with her husband, Al, spending time with her two children and four grandchildren. In their free time, Nancy and Al love to cook, go on walks and play cards.

The couple also has a passion for travel, and their most memorable trips include exploring Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska. One day, Nancy is hopeful she can travel again alongside her husband, however, in the meantime, she continues enjoying the simple things in life—which she appreciates now more than ever.

A Shocking Diagnosis

While Nancy and Al have become accustomed to their daily routine, they cannot forget how suddenly things changed one morning. Nancy woke up with a fever and body aches and, with encouragement from Al, went to see her doctor. She was prescribed antibiotics for a suspected infection; however, her symptoms continued to worsen, landing her back at the doctor’s office four days later.

Following blood work and a chest x-ray, Nancy’s doctor called and directed her to go to the emergency room immediately.

“I said to him, ‘Do I have leukemia?’ And I have no idea, to this day, why that even popped up into my mind,” Nancy recalls.

Upon arrival at the emergency room, Nancy was assessed, and it was a bone marrow test that confirmed her suspicion – it was acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare type of blood cancer.

AML is characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells in the bone marrow and as such interferes with normal blood cell production and function. This year alone, it is estimated there will be nearly 20,000 new cases of AML in the United States, accounting for about 1% of all cancer cases.

The Road to Remission

As quickly as she was diagnosed with AML, Nancy began rounds of chemotherapy and other treatments that kept her in the hospital for 45 days.

Fortunately, Al and her children formed an incredible support system. Her daughter Danielle slept in the hospital room every night despite juggling her own family life and continuing her education. Al made the long drive to the hospital daily to be with her, while managing his own medical needs.

The response to treatment in AML may be of short duration, meaning following patients' initial response to chemotherapy, there is still a high risk of relapse. There is also an unmet need for continued treatment options that can help prolong overall survival.

Nancy’s condition was deteriorating. She was put on a ventilator, a time she does not remember. After some time, the medical team suggested taking her off the ventilator, leaving Danielle questioning the best course of action. One day, under heavy sedation, Nancy motioned for a pen and piece of paper, which she used to write, “I love you. I will win.”

Danielle and Al were left in awe of Nancy’s message. In that moment, Danielle knew her mother wasn’t finished fighting. She had beat breast cancer decades earlier. Why not this? Danielle said, “That was the point I thought, she's got this. No matter what she's going to beat this."

After rounds of intensive chemotherapy, Nancy's cancer was in remission. Her oncologist suggested a clinical trial for a then-experimental therapy now known as Onureg® (azacitidine) tablets. Primed with encouragement from her family and knowledge from her oncologist, Nancy moved forward with the trial, and feels fortunate that she made this decision. “My family convinced me that I should try it. I really did it more for them than for me,” she recalls. “It was my children, my husband and my grandchildren that made me strong. They really did give me the strength that I needed to keep going every single day.”

Nancy’s doctor discussed possible side effects that may occur with Onureg, including the most common symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness or weakness, constipation, stomach area (abdominal) pain, pneumonia, joint pain, decreased appetite, pain in arms or legs, and dizziness. Find the complete list of symptoms in Onureg’s Prescribing Information here.

See additional Onureg Important Safety Information here.

Fast forwarding to the present day, Nancy is enjoying life at home with her husband Al. They have recently taken up cooking healthy stir fries, sometimes using vegetables from their own garden. If Nancy gets tired, she can take a break and sit on the couch. “My husband has been my rock,” she said, “and if I need a break, he’s always there for me.” Nancy continues to be monitored for disease progression and side effects from Onureg.

A New Outlook

Despite the adversity she has faced, Nancy remains hopeful about her health and focuses on being present with her family. She encourages others to take their condition one day at a time and to accept help where they can. For her, she describes her experience in the clinical trial as positive and a good decision. Her advice to other patients is to start a conversation with their healthcare team to better understand if a clinical trial is right for them.

She has additional advice for others who are living with cancer. “Ask questions and collaborate with your healthcare team,” Nancy advises. “If your family is willing to help you, let them help you. I can’t tell you the number of times my husband, my children and their spouses and my grandchildren were there for me.”

As for Danielle, her experience as her mother’s care partner in the hospital and as an ongoing support to both Nancy and Al was often emotional and at times it was a struggle for her to remain positive. But her mom’s courage and strength inspired her to stay strong. From her perspective, she advises care partners to discuss their loved one’s wishes, what they find important, and to be prepared to advocate for them.

Danielle has a vivid memory of her mom’s initial journey with AML but also knows not to doubt her resilience. As she put it simply, “My mom is a superwoman.”

Visit ONUREG.com to learn more about this treatment option. Individual patient experiences may vary.

These are not all of the possible side effects of ONUREG®. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1‑800‑FDA‑1088.

General information about the safe and effective use of ONUREG®. Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in a Patient Information leaflet. Do not use ONUREG® for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give ONUREG® to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them. You can ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for information about ONUREG® that is written for health professionals.

Please see full Prescribing Information and Patient Information for ONUREG®.

Individual patient experiences may vary.