As a holistic practitioner, Cherie Rineker, of Lake Jackson, Texas, followed a vegetarian diet and led an extremely healthy lifestyle. She was baffled when she started feeling sick and weak.
After many misdiagnoses over the next six months, Rineker ended up in the emergency room, where she was told she had multiple myeloma.
"I was the mother of a 7-year-old girl, and the news was devastating," Rineker says. "I knew right away that I needed to be at MD Anderson. I felt it was the best place to be."
"I didn't expect to make it to 50," she says. "I was so late-stage, I thought five years was all I was going to get. I was 44 when I was finally diagnosed, so the possibility of reaching my 50th birthday was huge to me."
Rineker decided to host a fundraiser for her birthday. Funds from the party would go to multiple myeloma cancer research ― specifically, Orlowski's work.
"Hurricane Harvey hit right before my birthday last year," she remembers. "My fundraiser was not something on people's minds. But as the city recovered, I wanted to remind people that even though Harvey had come and gone, as cancer patients, we may never recover from the storm that's waging a war on our bodies. There's still work to be done."
Friends and family helped raise more than $35,000 for Rineker's 50th birthday. She says she's never felt more loved.
"Cancer completely put my life into perspective," says Rineker. "In the end it's the love you receive from people and the love you feel for people that truly matters."
"For the first time in five and a half years, I am in complete remission and off all chemotherapy treatments," Rineker says. "Dr. Orlowski kept me alive long enough to be able to join the CAR T-cell clinical trial."