My AML Diagnosis: Elissa’s Story

Elissa Baldwin

Join in as Shona sits down with Elissa Baldwin onsite at CancerCon 2019. CancerCon is an annual conference held every year by Stupid Cancer, an organization that provides support to young adult cancer survivors. Elissa is a young adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) survivor. After a bone marrow biopsy two weeks earlier, she went on a solo trip to Europe and was diagnosed by email while staying in a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal. She was able to book an emergency flight back home to Portland, OR to begin chemotherapy within a week. On this episode, Elissa shares how and when she was diagnosed, the emotional and physical challenges she experienced and how her diagnosis served as inspiration for a career change. She emphasizes the importance of therapy during a cancer diagnosis and continues to serve as a source of encouragement for other young adult survivors.

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  1. I could not be happier that you have got past AML. It’s without question the most difficult of blood cancers. My heartiest congratulations go out to you. Are you currently in remission and if so how long until a protocol driven state of cure?

    Had my bmt in 11/15/11. Everything went downhill from there with a poor reaction to Tacrolimus. Ended up 3 1/2 months on the fifth floor of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Steroids were used to stabilize me that quickly led to me putting on 150 lbs. of edema. That caused a heart attack on (of all days) Christmas morning. I endured a lovely NDE until I finally drifted off to total blackness. Remarkably awoke 13 hours later. Got out after spending a month in a wheelchair and walker late in April. Eventually reached a comfortable state of remission as I shed off the water weight and got back to my normal weight of 195 lbs. I’m 6′ 3″, so that weight is good. In late 2013 I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, had seven treatments while my weight plummeted to 145. Somehow got through that as well with help from my incredibly brilliant oncologist and from NIH whom he had brought in the help find any patients that had the same type of leukemia followed by NHL. Between the combined data bases, they found one who survived: a 14 year old girl. Her regimen was the same as the one my oncologist had me in so we kept moving forward and I survived. I’ve had lots of complications and the whole experience has been costly in spite of insurance. AT 72, I’m still working! Certainly the emotional side of the experience took it’s tole as well. But I’m at peace with all now in spite of a recent diagnosis of T-Cell LGL! My new normal for life leaves me weaker than I had ever been and a different person whom appreciates to the heart those stricken by any form of cancer. It’s insidious that the mutation of healthy cells takes place and in so many cases spreads throughout the body. It is that action that must come to an end. I trust you will accept it when I say I consider you a sister in survival just as many I’ve met through the years have become brothers and sisters in survival. All the best to you and stay healthy, Rob. .

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