Surviving Leukemia 3 times
By: Christie Finley
In November of 2018, I was living a typical late-20s fast paced lifestyle. I had gone to 7 weddings in 10 months in 5 different states. I was always on the go! That all changed on Wednesday November 14th 2018.
I wasn’t feeling well and I went to get blood tests done for my work insurance policy on Tuesday November 13th. The next morning on my way to work, I got a phone call from my primary doctor telling me that I had to go to the ER immediately because my white blood cell count was really high. My mom met me at the ER, and within two hours, an oncologist told me that I most likely had leukemia. I was transferred down to Penn that night, PICC line was put in my arm, and my first of many bone marrow biopsies to find out what type of leukemia I had to determine my treatment and chemo plan.
I spent 26 days in the hospital, which included Thanksgiving, and went home 4 days before my 28th birthday. I was deemed cancer free on December 4th; however, I still had to do 4 rounds of what they call “consolidation” chemo, or preventative chemo. I spent 4 days in the hospital in January, February, March, and April of 2019. With every round of chemo, I was neutropenic for 10-14 which meant I was at high risk for infection and on a strict diet.
After my last round of chemo, I took 2.5 months to regain my energy and travel to see many family and friends. I returned to work 8 months to the day of me being diagnosed. 4 weeks later, I wasn’t feeling well. I thought I was run down from being back in the fast paced life again. I had my monthly appointment with my doctor and he said my counts were off. 3 days later he confirmed my leukemia had returned on August 8th 2019. That led me to the ER later that day. I had pneumonia in August… That led to another 6 days of chemo, a new cocktail, and 36 days in the hospital. I did another 6 days in the hospital in early October, only to be back in the hospital again for 15 days due to a blood infection, which caused me to miss the Light The Night Walk.
I was being constantly texted pictures and videos and Facetimed into what seemed like quite a party of the team Fighting Fins with 150 people! I felt so loved a mile away in the hospital.
3 weeks later I returned to Penn for more chemo and a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor from Germany. I spent my second Thanksgiving in the hospital, and returned home the day before my 29th birthday. Around about day 80 post transplant, my regular oncologist did a blood test to see how things were doing. Even though I was feeling great, my results told me otherwise. My leukemia had returned AGAIN. Without even skipping a beat, I asked my oncologist, “ok, so what’s the game plan?” I was ready to tackle leukemia for the 3rd time in 15 months.
I began “chemo lite” in March, which was outpatient for 5 days. I was deemed cancer free for the third time in 16 months after the first round of that chemo. Because I wasn’t 100% donor, that allowed me to get a Donor Leukocyte Infusion(DLI) or a “booster” of cells from my original donor from Germany in late June.
As of last month, I am still cancer free! Due to COVID, I’m not allowed to do many things, but I am trying to be hopeful for my future and take advantage of this time in quarantine.
I am forever thankful for LLS and the funding that they put into research. In fact, two out of three of my first round of chemo, and one out of two of my last chemo drugs, daunorubicin, cytarabine, and venetoclax, have all been funded by the LLS. This is why fundraising for LLS is so important and meaningful to me. Please help me raise money to help find a cure to blood cancer, and to make this journey easier and better for the next person!