YARDLEY >> We’ve all heard the same reasons “transplants” give for relocating to Bucks County. They like the community and culture, the schools are fantastic, better job opportunities, a great place to raise a family, and the like.
But Yardley resident Laura Linehan has a reason none of us has likely heard before — the treatment for cancer she was receiving in New York was working.
You read that correctly.
Laura was under the care of doctors from one of the most renowned hospitals in the country for chronic myeloid leukemia and the treatment was effective.
It may seem inconceivable that anyone facing a destructive disease like cancer would walk away from treatment that was keeping it at bay. But, as you learn more of Laura’s story, you’ll come to understand how powerful a choice that was.
In late 2011, Laura started experiencing flu-like symptoms and intense exhaustion from which she couldn’t recover. As a teacher, she struggled with being in the classroom and was forced to take innumerable sick days. Early in the new year she decided to get things checked out. Initial tests led to more tests until in February 2012 she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.
“A childhood friend of mine had leukemia — which was pretty much a death sentence back then,” said Laura, now age 64. “Needless to say, my diagnosis was shocking, and it was very hard to accept the hopeful prognosis my doctors offered.”
Laura’s primary care doctor on Long Island connected her with a local oncology team. Her prognosis was good, and Laura felt ready to do battle. “My first grandchild was born the same month I was diagnosed — that gave me a lot to fight for. I thought I was ready for whatever may come.”
Laura insisted on being taken off the first treatment her doctors tried because it led to neck pain and lingering fevers that were so severe, she had to be hospitalized. The second course of treatment proved to be effective against the cancer, but it brought with it another slew of side effects Laura never dreamed would be part of her “battle.” These included significant and constant fatigue, extreme digestive issues that disrupted everyday life and her ability to maintain proper nutrition, headaches and poor-quality sleep.
“The treatment also compromised my immune system. I caught every germ, cold and illness to come along. Between this and the fatigue, I had to remove myself from the school environment and give up my teaching job. It broke my heart, but I simply couldn’t physically perform the way I needed to in order to do right by my students.”
As the side effects worsened and halted pretty much everything Laura enjoyed in life, she began to question if her doctors were doing all that could be done for her. “I inquired, brought my concerns and debilitating symptoms up to my doctors — but I received very little support. I felt like my side effects were dismissed. I tried to get holistic care on my own, but local practitioners were inexperienced in cancer-related issues.”
With her children and, now, several grandchildren living in Bucks County, Laura and her husband had very little tying them to Long Island. They decided to relocate to Yardley to be closer to their family as Laura continued to deal with the cancer and treatment side effects.
Shortly after their move, Laura saw a commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia (CTCA), and in those 30 seconds her life changed.
“I felt maybe there was hope for mitigating some of these horrific side effects after all. I called, and from the very first person I made contact with, they were fabulous. They validated my concerns and difficulties. They cared for me, the patient, not just the cancer. Within about two days of meeting with a nutritionist and starting dietary supplements, my horrible digestive issues stopped. And that was just the beginning.”
After studying her case, history and current conditions, Laura’s team decided to continue the cancer treatment she was on when she left New York.
“We explored and reviewed all other options for treating her chronic myeloid leukemia,” said Ankur R. Parikh, D.O. Medical Director of Precision Medicine at CTCA. “Her current therapy was the best option for treating her cancer; it was working and there was no sound reason to try something different. However, we also had to treat Laura, not just her cancer. We knew if we didn’t do this, the treatment for her cancer would become less and less effective as she would not be able to tolerate it. It was CTCA’s unique integrative care approach — our ability to treat the whole person — that made the greatest difference in Laura’s life.”
So, in addition to treating the cancer, Laura and her team worked to incorporate nutrition, dietary supplements, chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, physical therapy and more into her treatment plan. The results were life-changing.
“I finally felt truly cared for as well as proactive in caring for myself! The amazing practitioners there helped my digestive issues to resolve within days, and susceptibility to illness, fatigue and sleeplessness have all improved as well. My headaches disappeared. They even helped me when backaches started so that I could return to gardening because, as one doctor told me, that’s part of their cancer treatment—to return me to as full a life as possible. I have a fabulous quality of life now…one I never thought I would regain.”
Laura’s experience has given her an additional mission in life — to share her story as a means of empowering other people with cancer not to compromise quality of life for surviving the disease. “CTCA has taught me that it doesn’t always have to be a trade-off. It is the only approach I know that attacks the cancer on a molecular level and helps with maintaining what makes the patient happy in life. If your doctors are ignoring your side effects or telling you nothing can be done, seek support elsewhere.”
Every two months, Laura happily returns for blood tests to make sure her cancer hasn’t progressed and to get the support she needs for any related issues. This past June, she also returned for CTCA’s annual Celebrate Life event, during which she and more than 50 other patients celebrated their five-year survivorship milestone.
“What an emotional and joyful day!!”