World-class care close to home


Cancer survivior offers hope to other patients

When Lynne O’Connell was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, her husband, Mark, was prepared to travel to the ends of the earth to get the best care for her. Through careful research, the couple chose one of the most advanced and specialized treatment centers in the country – and they only had to travel a few miles from home. They chose The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Powerful treatment
“We didn’t know much about the cancer center, and we knew even less about multiple myeloma,” said Lynne. They contacted oncologist Richard J. McKittrick, MD, for advice. He reviewed Lynne’s test results and recommended Al-Ola Abdallah, MD.

After thorough testing, Dr. Abdallah confirmed the diagnosis and recommended aggressive treatment. As one of only 69 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the nation, The University of Kansas Cancer Center is part of an elite network of specialists with leadingedge discoveries and treatments.

“It’s reassuring to know your physician is plugged into the latest knowledge,” said Lynne. Dr. Abdallah prescribed chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

The grueling 14-week drug treatment killed most of Lynne’s cancer cells. Unfortunately, it also destroyed many of her healthy blood cells, which severely compromised her immune system.

BMT expertise
With her myeloma in temporary remission, Joseph P. McGuirk, DO, and the blood and marrow transplant (BMT) team took over.

“We perform around 350 stem cell transplants a year,” he said. “So Lynne was in good hands.”

First, her stem cells were harvested and frozen. When it was time for the transplant, the cells were injected back into Lynne’s body. “The procedure itself isn’t difficult or risky – there’s not even surgery involved,” she said. “But the recovery is brutal.”

Each day, Lynne went to the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion for checkups. “I cannot say enough about the BMT nurses,” she said. “They told me exactly what to expect – which day would be my worst, which day my hair would fall out, which day I would start to feel better. They helped me believe I could get through this.”

One hundred days after her transplant, there were no detectable signs of myeloma.

Research offers hope
Over the past 20 years, the survival rate for multiple myeloma has quadrupled. “Lynne’s cancer responded well to existing treatment,” explained Dr. McGuirk. “Not everyone is so lucky.”

With a commitment to those cancer patients in mind, Mark and Lynne decided to support research that could lead to new, better and less harsh therapies for other patients.

“During Lynne’s treatment, we discovered this cancer center is not only at the forefront of clinical treatment for blood cancers – they are also on the leading-edge of research,” said Mark. “By raising funds, we have the opportunity to help develop a cure.”

Learn how you can support the O’Connell Challenge Grant and other breakthroughs happening at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.





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