Surviving Well: Sophia, Leukemia

Sophia Kelley is a young and active woman who likes spending time outdoors and hanging out with friends. But when she started feeling sick in the summer of 2011, it took awhile for her to notice something was wrong.Image

“I had been feeling like I was coming down with something, and bruising really easily,” Sophia said. “I didn’t really think much about it, until I started to get really tired whenever I worked out. Then doing even simple things, like putting on makeup were exhausting. Then I decided it was time to see my doctor.”

Sophia went to see her primary care physician who ran blood tests to find out what could be causing her symptoms. He called her the next morning while she was at work to tell her that her blood count levels were really low and that she should go to the emergency room as soon as she could.

Sophia works in the Medical Staff Office at Rose Medical Center, so she went straight to the emergency room, where she had to get a blood transfusion. The doctors also ran another blood test to see if it was just an infection, or something more serious. The doctor called in Dr. Alan Feiner to help with a diagnosis. He thought that it might be Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and a bone marrow biopsy proved his diagnosis correct.

“Working in the Medical Staff Office, I have to opportunity to interact with a lot of physicians,” Sophia said. “I knew that Dr. Feiner is the best at what he does and that I wanted him to be my doctor.”

She started her chemotherapy treatments the next day, and had to spend a month in the hospital, as she had 24/7 chemo and then recovery. She says it was difficult and intense, but that her friends, family and fiancée were there for moral support.

“My fiancée and my mom were there every day that I was in the hospital, and my mom or sister would spend the night,” Sophia said. “Everyone was really positive, which was important to me. My friends would come and bring dinner and we’d hang out. I did have some bad days, but having such a great support system really helped during that time.

Sophia did suffer some side effects from the treatment, such as losing her hair and feeling really weak, but the first treatment was successful and pushed her into the remission treatment phase.

“After the bone-marrow biopsy came back and showed that the leukemia was in remission, I went home to recover for about a month,” Sophia says. “Then, when my counts were back up, I had to come in again to do inpatient chemotherapy for another week.”

This round of chemo wasn’t as intense and lasted for five days, but not around the clock. Sophia then went home again to recover. This cycle happened three more times, and Sophia finished her last treatment in February of 2012.

ImageSince then, Sophia has been in remission and doing well. She sees Dr. Feiner every three months for a bone marrow biopsy, but she went back to work and a normal routine.

Sophia says that there was one bright side to her extended break for chemotherapy—wedding planning.

“It did give me a lot of time to get the details of my wedding in order,” she laughed. “We had a beautiful wedding in July 2012.”

Sophia says that being young was an advantage for her when she got her diagnosis, and that staying positive was key.

“When you’re young, your body is a lot more resilient, and you need that when you’re fighting cancer,” she said. “I tried to stay positive, because it helps you recover faster. I knew that I still had so much of my life left and I want to enjoy it.”

Update: Since the Surviving Well calendar was published, we are also happy to report that Sophia and her husband had a baby girl at the end of June! Congratulations Sophia and family!

Join the Rose team in supporting Sophia and our many other Leukemia survivors at the Light the Night Walk on Thursday, Sept. 26 to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Register here and join the Rose Medical Center team!

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Sophia is our survivor for July.Image

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