Sutter Cancer Centers
Marie - Shares BMT Experience with other Patients
For the past 30 years Marie has provided friendly customer-service to all those she encounters in her job at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento – especially patients. She is particularly empathetic to those undergoing bone marrow transplants since she went through two last year.
Houston said she started to not "feel herself" in October 2008. After a visit to her primary care physician, she was told she was anemic. That wasn’t a surprise to Houston, a mother of three who had been anemic during each of her pregnancies. Despite a blood transfusion, her cell counts were still low. After receiving a referral to a specialist, she underwent a series of tests. She learned in February 2009 that she had multiple myeloma, a rare type of blood cancer. "I was numb, I didn’t have a reaction," she said upon first hearing the news.
Houston received a referral to Michael Carroll, M.D., a blood and marrow transplant specialist at SMCS. "After my diagnosis, I thought it may be a death sentence for me," said Houston. "But when Dr. Carroll started to talk about what would take place, I knew it would be okay. Dr. Carroll, his staff, those in infusion, they never made me feel like I was sick. They treated me like a person."
Houston underwent her first autogolous transplant in July 2009, which is where stem cells from the patient’s own marrow are "harvested," stored and then returned to the body after the patient receives high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy conditioning therapy. She spent more than two weeks in the hospital and 100 days thereafter recuperating, and while she initially responded well to the treatment, she began to slightly regress. Dr. Carroll suggested a second transplant where they would use the second half of the cells they harvested from her. Houston was disappointed at the news. She had plans to return to work on Jan. 1, 2010. But she reminded herself to take one day at a time and eliminate as much stress as she could – the same attitude that she had throughout her cancer journey. And with the continued support of her family, church, friends and coworkers, she would carry on through her second course of treatment.
Houston underwent her second transplant in December 2009 and responded very well. She returned to work this past April and reported that her cell counts are up and she is now in remission. She doesn’t have to see Dr. Carroll again until October.
Houston is now using her personal experience to help those with similar types of diagnoses. When admitting a patient, she is able to see the reasons for their visit. If she senses that a person is nervous or concerned, and that they are open to talking, she’ll volunteer her own experience as a way to help reassure them and give them an opportunity to ask questions. "Several patients have commented to me how comforting it has been to talk with Ms. Houston on the day of their admission and to see for their own eyes that there is life and work after transplant," said Dr. Carroll. Houston admits that it is very helpful and therapeutic to share her experiences too. "If I tell them anything, it is to eliminate the stress out of your life. Only worry about today."
Learn more about the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Sutter Cancer Center.
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