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Patient Corner: Monica Scandlen

Last fall, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The explosion of a cancer diagnosis is inexplicable. It was even more shocking because I was 42 (about 30 years younger than most people diagnosed with the disease) and still recovering from an unrelated brain surgery.

I started treatment in January 2014. Michael Keating, M.B., B.S., Jackie Broadway-Duren, Advanced Practice Nurse, and Christina Hinojosa, Senior Coordinator, Clinical Studies are the core of my care team.

Since January, they have provided the best medical advice, prescriptions, medication, and testing. But from the very first day we met them, they also gave us something so many of us get from MD Anderson - hope.

Last December, at our first meeting, my husband and I were scared, uncertain of the future, afraid of both the disease and the treatment.

"Oh, you're easy," Jackie said after looking at the results of my first bone marrow biopsy. "All we have to do is kill the CLL cells."

Later, Dr. Keating looked us both in the eyes and told us he believes that in a few years there will be a cure for CLL. Until then, he proposed a plan – a phase two clinical trial which has yielded very good results so far.

“Go live big, live bold,” he said during a later visit.

Hope. Pure and simple. Dr. Keating is simply the best. He's like a walking leukemia encyclopedia, who likes to give hugs, get hugs and take on interesting cases like mine. And thank God for that!

I actually first met Dr. Keating almost 30 years ago when he treated my grandmother and I remember his huge smile. My grandmother loved him too.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were explaining this to our 6-year-old daughter in a way we thought she would understand. She looked at us and said, "So, Dr. Keating is like part of our family."

Yes, he is. And for that, we are so, very grateful.

Monica Scandlen, second from left, with her care team

My care team at MD Anderson is saving my life, and it all started with a hug.

Monica Scandlen

Survivor