Climbing to New Heights

Back to an Active Life After Bone Marrow Cancer

Laura Price, a 60-year-old physical therapist, often hiked and biked with her husband, Pete. When a cancer called multiple myeloma blasted into her life in 2013, one goal this determined woman set was to return to full activity.

Good news! By summer 2014, she and Pete, residents of Oakwood, were climbing to new heights – hiking through the Dolomites, a mountain chain in northeastern Italy. “What a terrific trip!” Laura recalls. You can hear the pure joy when Laura says, “I actually climbed a mountain!”

Laura was also sure-footed as she courageously dealt with her cancer. Her first symptom was feeling “crummy.” “Flu-like symptoms would come and go, along with an intense pain in my hip,” she recalls. “But when regular exercising and walking the three flights of steps I took everyday at work became difficult, I went to my family doctor.”

Results of blood tests sent Laura to medical oncologist Burhan Yanes, MD. “The bone marrow biopsy that Dr. Yanes did confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma,” Laura says. Multiple myeloma is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow. “Dr. Yanes told me chemotherapy was the standard of care and said, ‘Let’s start today.’ I liked his attitude!”

Laura’s chemo schedule was interrupted when she developed tumor lysis syndrome, a metabolic disturbance that some people develop after starting cancer treatment. Laura was admitted to Miami Valley Hospital’s blood and marrow transplant unit, which was developed by Dr. Yanes himself in 1992.

“I was so impressed with the excellent care I received and the wonderful way they treated my family,” said Laura. “Being in a hometown hospital means you have loved ones right there with you every day. That was enormously important”

Stem cell transplants are routine care for a patient with multiple myeloma. Dr. Yanes recommended an autologous transplant for Laura. Her own stem cells were removed from her blood before chemotherapy and then transplanted back to her after chemotherapy was complete, for better control of her disease.

Before Laura had her transplant, she felt she was doing “due diligence” by getting a second opinion at the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University. “Quite frankly, the other doctor said what Dr. Yanes was doing was exactly what he would do anyway,” she says. “If I could get the exact same treatment here in my hometown, why would I travel elsewhere and add the burden of travel and staying in a hotel? Plus I really liked Miami Valley Hospital.”

Dr. Yanes says that sometimes patients do choose to go elsewhere. “But often they tell us that they then feel isolated, away from their loved ones,” he says with kindness. “Here at Miami Valley Hospital, you don’t get a different doctor every day as they shift and rotate. You’re not just a chart. Laura was my patient from admission to discharge.”

Multiple myeloma is now in Laura’s rearview mirror. “But every day is a blessing,” she says. “Having cancer brought it home that each day we have is a gift. I’ll always remember that important lesson.”

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