After a roller coaster ride of twists and turns and several unsuccessful attempts to find a cure, Katie Meacham has been cancer free for two years thanks to treatment for HodgkinLymphoma at MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center.
Katie was diagnosed in 2008, when she was 25 years old and working at a large marketing firm in New York. Two months into treatment at a New York hospital, the cancer was found in another lymph node.
“The doctor told me he had seen that happen only one other time, and that I would need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant,” she said.
Since the hospital didn’t have extensive experience in transplants, Katie’s family started a full-throttle research campaign to find the best place for her treatment – which led them to MD Anderson.
At MD Anderson, Katie had aggressive chemotherapy, and then her stem cells were harvested and transplanted back into her body. The procedure seemed to be a success, but her one year check-up revealed the cancer had returned. She considered a donor stem cell transplant, but amazingly, not one person of the 14 million in the registry was a perfect match for her.
A clinical trial at MD Anderson put her into a temporary remission, but she continued to search for long-term options. That’s when she heard about proton therapy.
Weighing the pros and cons
“We weighed the pros and cons and were very optimistic about proton therapy,” Katie said. “It was promising, had minimal short- and long-term side effects and wouldn’t shut any doors for future treatment.”
When the family met James D. Cox, M.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Radiation Oncology, they felt even better about the choice.
“When we spoke to Dr. Cox, he was very hopeful and assured me treatment would have no long-term side effects, such as damaging my heart or other healthy organs,” she said. “He said, ‘It’s a piece of cake’ – and it was.”
Katie received 30 proton therapy treatments over the course of 6 weeks. From beginning to end, each treatment took about 30 minutes.
“The Proton Center has a totally different vibe than a hospital,” she said. “There are a lot of people smiling and a lot of optimism; people have parties when they finish treatment.”
Since her therapy, Katie has shown no signs of cancer and has completed three half marathons, with more on the horizon. She’s working again, traveling every chance she gets and has moved to Chicago, where she continues building the career she’d started when this all began.
Sharing hope with others
“I like to share my story and let people know to never give up hope,” she said. “Focus on what’s best for your journey. It’s important to talk to other people and to be informed, but everyone’s situation and disease are different.”
“The Proton Center has a totally different vibe than a hospital. There are a lot of people smiling and a lot of optimism; people have parties when they finish treatment.”