Cancer is Hard Enough
Julie Mott (left), the 8th person in the world to survive a liver transplant followed by a stem cell transplant, with her sister, Nancy Mott-Liebenow.
“Julie Mott’s case was a delicate balance. Our treatment decisions had to be aggressive enough to fight her cancer without compromising her liver.”
Scott Rowley, M.D., Chief, Blood & Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation, John Theurer Cancer Center at HUMC
In December 2003, Julie Mott was busy with year-end projects as the Creative Director for the New York City Advertising Agency where she had been working for the past two years. Although the job was sometimes stressful and the commute from her home in central Jersey was longer than she liked, her career choice was moving along nicely. On a cold winter weekend, a sudden turn of events changed all that: Julie arrived at the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) emergency department with progressive abdominal swelling.
After a series of tests and a ten-day hospital stay, Julie was diagnosed with a rare liver condition, Budd-Chiari syndrome, which occurs in 1 out of a million people. It is a potentially fatal condition that can lead to liver failure. In Julie’s case, it was caused by polycythemia vera, a blood disorder that results in the over-production of red blood cells, which clogged her hepatic veins and progressed into Budd-Chiari syndrome. Julie was emergency-listed for a liver transplant, and a few months later, in February 2004, Julie underwent the lifesaving surgery at UMDNJ. In three months, she was back at work. Life was beginning to get back on course.
Then came another challenge. Polycythemia vera is a precursor to leukemia, and with Julie’s immunosuppressive medication, her body could no longer keep it at bay. Six months after the liver transplant, Stuart Goldberg, M.D., Chief, Leukemia HUMC, diagnosed Julie with secondary acute myeloid leukemia and a new course of treatment was begun.
Julie did not respond to the first round of chemotherapy. A second round of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant were Julie’s only options for survival. Scott Rowley, M.D., Chief, Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation HUMC, worked closely with Dr. Goldberg and the UMNDJ organ transplant team to ensure all special considerations were taken in Julie’s treatment plan.
The transplant match Julie needed miraculously came from her sister, also a cancer survivor, who had undergone treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease years before. Although the prospect of undergoing a transplant would be daunting to most, Julie was upbeat and positive every step of the way.
“I would have gone anywhere to get the best possible treatment,” said Julie. “But I found it right here at HUMC. My friends and family didn’t have to travel into the City, and during my lengthy hospital stay, that was very important to them and to me. And the care I received was first-rate. I am so lucky and blessed to be alive.”
In January 2005, her team of physicians at the John Theurer Cancer Center performed a successful stem cell transplant. Julie became a “medical celebrity” as the 8th person in the world to survive a liver transplant followed by a stem cell transplant. Although Julie is still monitored closely for post-transplant complications, today she is living life to the fullest as a healthy cancer survivor with no signs of relapse. Her life has taken yet another bittersweet turn. The sister who saved Julie’s life lost her own following open-heart surgery this past March. As guardian of her sister’s three teenage sons, she has a new role to fill: single mother. With her indomitable spirit, she is up to the challenge.
The Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation Program at the John Theurer Cancer Center is one of the 10 most active in the United States, with more than 300 transplants performed here each year. The program's medical team delivers the latest, most advanced care; conducts international clinical research trials; and develops cutting-edge treatment approaches. Our stem cell transplantation team has trained and/or practiced at many of the leading transplantation centers in the nation. Many of the advancements in the way transplantation is performed and the procedure's ability to bring about a cure have emanated from the innovative clinical trials and research studies that take place every day at the John Theurer Cancer Center.
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