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Nancy Littlejohn: From Vice President to Patient

"Once I understood the extent of my diagnosis, I knew an in-depth conversation with my employers was necessary. Fortunately, they were prepared for it, which was incredibly helpful as I tried to figure out next steps for all aspects of my life, including work."

Nancy Littlejohn
Leukemia

For Nancy Littlejohn, a trip to the emergency room with what she thought were symptoms of a heart attack ended up launching a cancer journey that would take her life and career down a path she never expected. Within hours of being admitted to a local hospital in Katy, Texas, Nancy was airlifted to Houston with a diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia. Fast forward nine months and Nancy is closing in on her final chemotherapy treatment with Dr. Muffaddal Morkas and her care team at Texas Oncology–Houston Memorial City.

A Community of Support

With a sudden diagnosis and two months of hospitalization, Nancy’s work routine was quickly impacted. As a vice president of technology, her role required long hours and frequent international travel – duties difficult to maintain during cancer treatment.

“Once I understood the extent of my diagnosis, I knew an in-depth conversation with my employers was necessary. Fortunately, they were prepared for it, which was incredibly helpful as I tried to figure out next steps for all aspects of my life, including work.”

With a plan in place, Nancy immediately went on short-term disability. However, as the extent of her disease and treatment plan became clearer, it was necessary to switch to long-term disability. This meant her position would be filled.

“I knew I had to have some tough conversations about my career. I was open and honest with my manager about my fears, and was quickly reassured that I would have a job as soon as I was ready to return to work.”

Financial and Emotional Support from Colleagues

With foundational support from upper management, Nancy felt empowered to have positive interactions with her coworkers and employees. While she initially kept her diagnosis private, Nancy was ultimately met with love and support when she chose to share her cancer journey more broadly with her office.

The team hit the ground running and, in under two weeks, organized a #NancyStrong team to participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society “Light the Night” fundraiser that raised $15,000 – an effort that was a personal gift beyond financial support for blood cancer research and treatments.

“Their support meant so much to me and gave me the courage and strength to keep going. I knew they had my back, and having someone there encouraging you and letting you know it would be okay was so important,” Nancy said. “The whole experience was so scary, and there was comfort knowing my company was supporting me every step of the way.”

For Nancy, her situation at work, which could have been a point of stress and anxiety, ended up helping her maintain positivity through her cancer journey. In addition to an incredibly supportive husband and family, Nancy credits her emotional and mental health throughout treatment largely to her workplace and care team at Texas Oncology.

“I’m forever grateful for the unrelenting support of my coworkers, loving family, friends, and care team. They gave me the emotional boost I needed to get through this whole experience,” Nancy said.

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.