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Delila Cramer: Three-Time Cancer Survivor Serves Her Community While Fighting Multiple Myeloma

Delila Cramer

“Shortly after my diagnoses, my physician took my hands and said, ‘Put your boxing gloves on and fight this with everything you have’", said Delila Cramer.

Delila Cramer
Multiple Myeloma

Delila Cramer is a decorated educator with 41 years of experience as a teacher and administrator. She was an education faculty member at both The University of Texas at El Paso and The University of Phoenix Santa Teresa New Mexico campus, where she retired as dean of education.

Dee’s passion for reading led her to be an active member of the International Reading Association for more than 35 years. She was also the president of El Paso Reading Council and Texas State Reading Association and served on the board of Books Are GEMS, a local non-profit children’s bookstore.

While it took hard work to accomplish all she has in her career, Dee’s most challenging venture was still ahead of her: fighting cancer for a fourth time.

Dee is incredibly resilient and has already survived cancer three times before: basal cell skin cancer, thyroid cancer, and cervical cancer. In January 2022, at age 72, she received her fourth cancer diagnosis of stage III multiple myeloma, a cancer located in the plasma cells of the bone marrow, along with stage IV chronic kidney disease.

"Put Your Boxing Gloves On"

“Shortly after my diagnoses, my primary care physician took my hands and said, ‘Put your boxing gloves on and fight this with everything you have. Rely on your faith and pay attention to nutrition to give you stamina.’ That experience helped ground me and affirm that I had the strength to move forward with what came next,” Dee said.

Dee immediately underwent five plasma exchange treatments and had four sessions of kidney dialysis in the hospital. Upon discharge, she began outpatient dialysis three days a week.

Dee’s oncologist, Ines Sanchez-Rivera, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology-El Paso Cancer Treatment Center Gateway and El Paso Cancer Treatment Center Grandview, ordered a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed stage III multiple myeloma. After four steroid treatments in the hospital, Dee said her light chain numbers – proteins made by plasma cells that indicate the progression of multiple myeloma– dropped significantly, calling it “a real message of hope moving forward.” With this drop, Dee was able to begin her chemotherapy IV infusion treatment.

“Dr. Sanchez is amazing! Her care, compassion, and personalized patient-oriented approach to treatment has made the difference for me along this unexpected journey,” Dee said.

“Dee has a fighting spirit and is a testament to the resilience of cancer patients,” said Dr. Sanchez. “She always has a positive attitude during treatment.”

Support Through the Treatment Process

Even while undergoing treatment, Dee continued to do at-home volunteer projects for Assistance League of El Paso, a non-profit community-based organization where she served as a sponsor for the teen auxiliary, Assisteens.

Dee's friends at Assistance League of El Paso started a “meal brigade” to provide food and meals for Dee and her husband. In addition, they and wrote more than 75 cards with personal notes to Dee, encouraging her along her cancer journey.

Dee said her husband’s solid support, care, and love after 48 years of marriage has helped sustain her throughout cancer treatment. She also credits daily journaling with nurturing her mental health, suggesting cancer patients journal daily to reflect on feelings and chronicle significant events. Family members’ weekly uplifting texts and phone calls also boosted her spirits along the way.

Finding Strength in the Face of Challenges

Dee's light chain numbers continued to trend down throughout treatment, and she was dismissed from dialysis in June as her kidney function improved. She transitioned from IV infusion to injection treatments in August, and she is still currently receiving treatments. Dee continues to respond positively to the treatments along with oral chemotherapy medications, and said she is looking forward to reaching remission.

“While multiple myeloma is not preventable, I would encourage people to be aware if multiple myeloma is in their family history, and to be aware of the symptoms such as bone pain and a shortage of red or white blood cells. Awareness and vigilance are key to diagnosing and treating cancer early,” said Dr. Sanchez.

“I consider myself to be a strong person mentally and emotionally, when faced with dilemmas,” Dee said. “That’s not to say there weren’t days when I wasn’t especially kind or easy to get along with. But I just tried to take it one day at a time and continue to look forward. My faith has been strengthened through this journey, as I know God has a plan for me.”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.