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Moving Forward: Moira Podgurski

Conquest - Spring 2008

By Mary Jane Schier

Moira and husband Jas Podgurski

Moira Podgurski doesn’t remember much about Christmas 1985 because she was “in a fog” from learning the previous day she had chronic myelogenous leukemia.

“I didn’t want to spoil the day for my family, so I didn’t say anything, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking that everyone died from leukemia,” recalls Podgurski, whose three children were then seven, three and 17 months old.

The second opinion specialist she consulted said there was “nothing to do, that I might live three years.” While she and her husband, Jas, were devastated, some good friends knew about a leukemia expert at M. D. Anderson.

“That was before we had the Internet resources now available,” Podgurski says, “but I raced to the phone, got the doctor’s office and pleaded for an appointment.” 

A few days later, she and Jas flew to Houston to see Kenneth B. McCredie, M.D., a pioneer in developing new drugs to treat leukemia. She enrolled in a clinical trial evaluating the biologic agent interferon, which at first she took through daily injections, then three times a week. 

Although already in superb physical condition, Podgurski added yoga and meditation to her exercise routine and vegetarian lifestyle. She had started running at age 12, competed in the 1972 Olympic trials as a hurdler and has participated in many marathons.

“I approached my future with CML like I was running toward a hurdle, which you have to take one at a time. Of course, having three young children provided lots of distractions, and most days I felt good,” explains Podgurski, who’s lived in San Diego for 25 years.

After McCredie died in 1991, Podgurski met Michael J. Keating, M.D., another world leader in improving the outlook for people with leukemia. Keating became her primary specialist and would give her “ecstatic news” following a checkup at M. D. Anderson in 1997.

“When Dr. Keating called with the results of my tests, he said there was no molecular evidence of the disease, that he thought I was cured, and I should go out and live a good life,” relates Podgurski, who was in training for the Honolulu Marathon to raise money for leukemia research.

Now 11 years later, she often shares her story with newly diagnosed leukemia patients and continues a vigorous regimen of running, race-walking five miles a day and hiking with her husband. 

“I fully expect to grow old gracefully and enjoy grandchildren in the future,” Podgurski says.

Conquest - Spring 2008

Download pdf version of Spring 2008


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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center