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Guest Perspectives: Staying Positive Through the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

June 24, 2019

Editor’s note: We invited Texas Oncology patient and blogger Brianna Bonnet from Austin to share her perspectives on receiving innovative CAR-T therapy. Through a collaboration with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas Oncology is one of only a few cancer providers in the U.S. offering this breakthrough immunotherapy treatment.

When you’re in your early 30s, completing degrees, and embarking on a new career, the last thing you ever think would happen is a cancer diagnosis. 

Obviously, there is no “good” time to get cancer, but my diagnosis came at a very difficult time. After recently resigning from my teaching position to move to another district, my signing date for the new district was still a few days away. I ultimately chose to move in with my parents – something few people in their 30s want to do. I lost my job, my insurance, my health, and my apartment, all in just a few hours.

My particular cancer, large B-cell mediastinal non-Hodgkin lymphoma (yes, a mouthful), is a rare and rapidly growing cancer that requires treatment as quickly as possible. Not fully grasping the reality of my diagnosis, I asked my oncologist if I could wait just a few months to start my treatments during November or December when teachers have a break. I can’t shake the teacher’s mindset. My doctor, Dr. Jason Melear of Texas Oncology–Austin Midtown looked at me and said, “You won’t make it more than a few weeks if we don't start treatment now.” In that moment, reality truly set in and the severity of my cancerdiagnosis became abundantly clear.

Remember that going through this journey is hard on everyone around you, too, and you are blessed to have people stick by your side through the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

After undergoing four different treatment regimens spanning nearly a year with no results to show for it, I was beyond devastated. My last option was Chimeric Antigen Receptor – T cell (CAR-T) therapy. A type of immunotherapy, CAR-T therapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The best explanation I was given was that my T cells were “being trained to become cancer-fighting ninjas.” Pretty neat, right? 

I temporarily moved to Dallas to undergo treatment with Dr. Houston Holmes of Texas Oncology–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, and I am happy to report that I faced very few side effects. My three-month check-up looks promising!

Throughout my cancer journey, I have been fortunate enough to have the most amazing support group to motivate me along the way. Without them, I know I wouldn't be able to go through any of the difficult experiences that can sometimes accompany a cancer diagnosis. 

If you’ve been recently diagnosed, I have some advice. First, stay positive no matter how hard it gets. Next, don’t believe everything you read online – your cancer journey is going to be different from everyone else’s. Finally, no matter how hard it is, don't put up a wall and shut people out of your life just because you’re struggling emotionally or physically. Remember that going through this journey is hard on everyone around you, too, and you are blessed to have people stick by your side through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.