Eddie and Pearlie Saddler were, as wife Pearlie puts it, "enjoying a regular life" in their small South Carolina town. When they weren't working, the Saddlers were volunteering and attending services at their church. "We were always going, going, especially Eddie," Pearlie says. "He was always busy. He'd work all week and then go help people on the weekends." It was during one of these weekends when Eddie's sore throat began.
"I didn't think anything of it," Eddie says. But on Monday when his boss told him he didn't look well, Eddie went to see his doctor. From his doctor, Eddie was sent to a throat specialist. "I left the office of the throat specialist and went straight to the hospital," Eddie says. "I never even went home."
It was acute myeloid leukemia. "It just seemed to happen overnight," Pearlie says. After Eddie's diagnosis, both he and Pearlie knew they needed to make the tough decision of where to go for treatment.
Traveling to MD Anderson
Eddie's local oncologist recommended MD Anderson. Pearlie worked at a medical center, so she knew the right people to ask. "The success rate was awesome, to me," she says. "I never knew of anyone that didn't come back well from going there." Although Eddie's family wanted him close by, Pearlie wanted him to live. "We're going to MD Anderson," she told Eddie.
Treatment from MD Anderson
When Eddie arrived, he was very weak. Patients with fragile immune systems need to be placed in a sterilized environment. Eddie's doctor, Hagop Kantarjian, says, "While a patient undergoes treatment, their white blood cell count decreases. When this count is low, patients like Eddie are more at risk of developing infection." Fortunately for Eddie, MD Anderson is one of just a few hospitals that offer such an environment. "I was just in awe of how they did things," Pearlie says.
With all the unique options Dr. Kantarjian and Eddie's other doctors had at their disposal, they were able to customize a treatment specific to Eddie and his type of leukemia.
Caregiver Support at MD Anderson
In May 1994, Pearlie Saddler got to take Eddie home to South Carolina. Pearlie says, "I was thrilled. And because of the caregiver support group, I knew everything I needed to know to take care of him, period."
The Saddlers didn't give much thought to cancer before Eddie's leukemia. Today, you can find them participating in fundraisers through their church and community to help raise money for people who need to travel to MD Anderson for cancer care. Pearlie says, "The hospitality and the care they gave Eddie and I both – I thank God for it every day."