Patient Stories

“It’s not just making it through tomorrow. Now we can look at months and maybe even a year in advance. That’s a big step.”

More than 20,000 new cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019. It’s important to know the risks, which include:

  • Past chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • History of blood disorders or childhood cancers
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Older age (median age 68)

Norman's Story

Looking Ahead: Continuing to Live a Full Life After AML

When doctors found myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), or “preleukemia,” during a routine screening before his knee replacement, Norman was determined to see the best doctor in his area. In less than two years of monitoring the disease, however, his MDS had progressed into an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). At this time, Norman was requiring up to eight blood transfusions per week, and doctors gave him a 25 percent odd of surviving.

AML is a relatively rare blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and can also affect other parts of the body.2,3 The most common symptoms of AML include fevers, fatigue, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss and symptoms of anemia.4 Norman was having a hard time being active, and was getting tired quickly.

The first step Norman took to treat his AML was joining a clinical trial. While in the hospital receiving treatment, he was even able to meet with newly diagnosed AML patients to chat and put their minds at ease. He felt great and began to prepare for the next step in his AML treatment: a bone marrow transplant. For many patients diagnosed with certain types of AML, a bone marrow transplant is a common treatment goal.

While Norman was ready and eligible for a bone marrow treatment, he ran into challenges. First, an insurance issue delayed his procedure for months. Then he learned that his son, who was his initial donor, was only a 50 percent match. There were no other matches available to Norman on the bone marrow registry. He felt hopeless when the doctors sadly informed him that there were no other options at that time.

Norman’s wife Debbie, however, was not quite ready to give up and asked doctors to check the registry one more time. They found that a woman living in Germany had joined the registry two days prior – testing as a near-perfect match. Norman and his team were elated, feeling as though their prayers had been answered. After a 60-day hospital stay during his transplant, Norman was able to go home and slowly get back to his active lifestyle. He is now enjoying watching his grandson play baseball and taking fishing trips to the Land of Lakes.

Norman believes that his doctors were the most important aspect of his treatment. They helped him identify the best options for him to be able to get to the point of being eligible for a bone marrow transplant and of course supported him through his bone marrow transplant. He says he is grateful that his outcome was successful and is hopeful for a cancer-free world in the future.

1American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed April 3, 2019.
2 SEER Stat Facts: AML. 2017.
3 American Cancer Society. What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/about/what-is-aml.html Accessed June 9, 2017.
4 American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html Accessed May 19, 2017