Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Cliff's Journey With CALQUENCE® (acalabrutinib)

This article was sponsored by AstraZeneca.

My name is Cliff, and I know firsthand how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be. When you find out that you have cancer, you may be overwhelmed by many questions, such as, ‘What treatment should I take? How will treatment affect my overall health? Will I be able to continue to exercise and maintain my active lifestyle?’ These are some of the questions that I had at 58 years of age, when I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

My Symptoms

I had a routine blood test with a new doctor. I hadn't had a blood test in a couple of years, and it came back with a high white blood cell (WBC) count. A second blood sample showed a WBC count higher than that found in the first blood test. Leading up to that, I thought I had some arthritis that was causing muscle and joint pain, which had increased since a recent mountain biking accident. After I was diagnosed with CLL, that musculoskeletal pain got worse, especially in my legs. Sometimes, it was so bad that I couldn't walk from the bed to the bathroom.

My Diagnosis, and Where I Found Support

The first person I called when I received my blood test results was a family member. He's a director of hematology and bone marrow at a big hospital, and he knew right away. He said, ‘You have CLL.’

My primary care doctor gave me a printout from the American Cancer Society about CLL. I read that and then went online to find other resources. I found a few online forums where other CLL patients were sharing their experiences, which I found to be very helpful and encouraging. Friends and family served as a support system, sharing positive stories about people living with CLL.

Cancer used to be a death sentence, but, after talking to my family member and reading information online about CLL, I realized that it isn’t always like that anymore. I wasn't as fearful about dying, but I was more fearful that I wasn’t going to be able to ride my mountain bike anymore. I thought that I was going to have to slow down in enjoying all of my activities.

Starting My Treatment

My WBC count was going up quickly, and my bone and muscle pain were getting worse and worse. My oncologist decided to start treatment right away, about 2 months after I was diagnosed.

I started the oral medication, and my oncologist warned me that my symptoms would get worse before they got better. As predicted, my musculoskeletal pain and all of the side effects started to worsen. My oncologist prescribed steroids to manage my side effects. Although they helped, they caused cavities in my teeth. I knew that I couldn’t take them forever; when I started to taper off them, I experienced a lot of fatigue.

When I began oral treatment, I started to keep a diary of my side effects and symptoms. I would take that when I went to see my oncologist, along with a list of any questions. After I suggested that my medication be switched several times, my oncologist agreed to a change. I began taking CALQUENCE® (acalabrutinib) in the hopes of reducing some of the side effects. Right now, I’ve noticed that a lot of the side effects have dissipated. I still have a little bit of pain in my hands and feet, and I have some mouth sores now and then, but I’ve had increasing improvement in a lot of the pain that was in my shoulders and legs. (See Select Safety Information below)

When I started taking CALQUENCE, I received a calendar to write down the times that I take my medication (about 12 hours apart each day). I leave my pill box sitting on my calendar in the kitchen. First thing in the morning, writing down the time that I take my medication is the most important thing for me to do. The highest priority in my life right now is to make sure that I take CALQUENCE twice a day.

How I Manage the Stress Associated With a Diagnosis of Cancer

I deal with stress by exercising. Whenever I feel any sense of being healthy, I try to take a walk or a swim—anything I can do to get moving. This was especially challenging when I was first diagnosed due to the fatigue, muscle aches and joint pains. But since switching to CALQUENCE, the improvement in my symptoms has allowed me to regain my active lifestyle. (Results may vary)

My Advice to Other Patients Diagnosed With CLL

CLL is not a death sentence. You can live with this for the rest of your life as you follow a healthy lifestyle. It is important to take your medication every day as prescribed and not to skip doses. I am grateful to all the doctors, scientists and researchers who created CALQUENCE, which enables me to manage my disease and maintain an active lifestyle. I feel good about my future.

Select Safety Information

CALQUENCE is a prescription oral treatment for adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma. May cause serious side effects including: serious infections, bleeding problems, decrease in blood cell count, new cancers, and heart rhythm problems. Some may lead to death. Tell your doctor if you experience infections such as flu-like symptoms; unexpected bleeding such as blood in your stool or urine; or heart rhythm problems such as fast or irregular heartbeat. Use sun protection when outside.

Please see full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information.

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