Stefanie Jacobs is familiar with the medical industry—her mother is a retired psychiatrist, her father is a retired rheumatologist, and her sister is an occupational therapist. Stefanie is also familiar with Rose Medical Center in particular—her husband is a nurse at Rose, her daughter was born at Rose, and Stefanie herself was born at Rose.
Although the pattern would suggest that Stefanie works in the medical industry, she actually does not. Stefanie is a writer and strategic marketing consultant with her own business. She lives with her husband, 10-year-old daughter and their sweet dog.
In November 2012, Stefanie set up an appointment with a new primary care physician. She had been seeing only her OB/GYN for a while, and decided it was time to schedule an annual physical.
Her appointment went well, but her doctor noticed something odd. Stefanie’s doctor was able to feel her spleen during the exam, but showed no other symptoms. She completed a blood test and left, reassured that she was in good hands.
As it turned out, Stefanie’s spleen was quite enlarged, and her blood test revealed that her white blood cell count was extremely high. Stefanie’s doctor called her to discuss the results.
Based on the evidence, it was determined that Stefanie likely had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). She immediately scheduled an appointment with Rose oncologist Dr. Alan Feiner. A bone marrow biopsy the next day confirmed their suspicions and ruled out any possible spreading of the cancer.
“I really had no symptoms,” says Stefanie.
Since she had not noticed anything indicating that there might be something wrong, her diagnosis came as a shock. It was (and still is) difficult for Stefanie to believe she was sick. Instead, she found the silver lining and was grateful for how quickly she was able to get an official diagnosis and begin treatment.
She describes the moment she heard her diagnosis:
“[It was] overwhelming and scary and … just a whole lot of questions. I was pretty lucky because I only had to wait a very short time to get good answers. And knowing almost immediately that it was very treatable and curable was a huge relief,” she says.
“I think having a positive attitude is essential,” she says.
The first step in Stefanie’s treatment began right away, and she was put on a heavy dosage of medication for a few days to bring down her white blood cell count. She then began a targeted oral chemotherapy for CML.
“It was surprisingly easy. Just taking a pill every day,” she says.
Her treatment continues to be relatively simple, and she has noticed very few side effects.
“It’s not time consuming, it’s really not intrusive … and literally, if I don’t tell someone I have cancer, they would never know,” she says.
Stefanie is undeniably positive, and she tends to see the good in things. She has not been without frustration, however. During the initial phases of her treatment, it became clear that the standard dosage of chemotherapy medication was too much for someone Stefanie’s size. Her medical team continues to monitor and work to find the most effective dosage of chemotherapy medication for Stefanie, while ensuring it is something she can tolerate.
“I think the hardest part is not quite knowing if we’re getting it right. Or feeling like we’re getting it right and then not having it be successful,” says Stefanie.
She also admits that she has struggled to adjust her lifestyle. “[It] has been [difficult] adjusting to needing to take better care of myself, because I’m pretty good at going full-on, which isn’t very good for me. But it’s good for everyone else!” she laughs.
Despite the challenge of adapting to living with cancer, Stefanie remains unshaken. She is confident in Dr. Feiner and her medical team and feels supported by her friends at Rose.
“Dr. Feiner is great. He’s smart and thorough, and he really cares. It’s obvious how much he cares. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Feiner and his office,” she says. Stefanie has made valuable connections with the people she has encountered.
“When you go in to get your blood checked every week, or more than once a week, it’s really nice to see friendly faces and people who care and know you—and to develop those kind of relationships.”
As Stefanie and her medical team work to perfect her dosage of chemotherapy medication, she remains grateful for the progress that has been made in cancer research and corresponding treatments.
“Honestly, I’m very lucky to have the kind of cancer that I do. I’m lucky that it’s as treatable as it is, and lucky that I found out about it when I did,” she says.
To her, the evolution of new cancer treatments is a source of comfort and inspiration. Stefanie believes advancements in any area of cancer treatment are an indication of promise for people with all types of cancer. And she is adamant that donations to cancer research – no matter the amount – are critical to the advancement of cancer treatments and cures.
“I think it’s really remarkable that cancer has come such a long way in terms of the treatments that are out there,” says Stefanie. “About 10 years ago, my disease was a fatal one. Now, it’s completely treatable and curable. So I would say the biggest thing is not to give up hope and to know that there are options out there. That the research being done today really is changing lives … and it’s changing lives in our lifetime.”
The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Stefanie is our survivor for April.