Tomorrow's Treatments Today
"When you have cancer, you make friends in the most unlikely places."
Rosalie Karl was being treated for tendonitis in her left knee in 1995. It was nothing she couldn't handle. But something else was not as it should be. Further tests revealed a much different diagnosis: multiple myeloma. Rosalie's prognosis for survival was three to five years.
The turning point in Rosalie's journey was a professional referral that initially led her to the John Theurer Cancer Center and Andrew Pecora, M.D., F.A.C.P., C.P.E., chief innovations officer, professor, and vice president of Cancer Services at HackensackUMC.
Throughout her treatment, which has included a stem cell transplant, a hip replacement, and the insertion of rods and pins in her left leg where lesions damaged the bone, Rosalie played an active role in her own survival. "I've kept a positive attitude, I've prayed and I've made decisions based on Dr. Pecora's suggestions. I know that's why I'm here today."
For the past seven years, David S. Siegel, M.D., Ph.D., has overseen Rosalie's care. She describes this doctor-patient relationship as one built on collaboration and respect. "I trust him completely. He takes the time to explain things." She appreciates Dr. Siegel's willingness to explore theoretical questions and to provide answers in great detail. "Having cancer is like losing control. To be able to have input in my treatment is very valuable. Plus," she adds with a smile, "he's a good person."
Rosalie is also grateful to her circle of family and friends and the social workers and nurses with whom she's developed a bond. She remembers one nurse in particular who offered much needed support prior to her transplant. "I was really sick and I was really scared and she spent as much time as possible just comforting me," she gratefully recalls.
Throughout her experience as an inpatient and an outpatient, she says the nurses have been consistently kind, compassionate and knowledgeable. Rosalie describes some of the nurses as "long lost family." She is struck by how they take the time to learn the little details that help to define who she is - her relationships with her sister, brother, three nephews, a great-nephew and two great-nieces. They even know about her love of Hawaii - and Bruce Springsteen. "Anyone who really knows me knows I'm a big Springsteen fan," she says.
She appreciates how everyone involved in her care embodies her message regarding all patients: "They see us as a whole person, not just a cancer patient. There's more to us than cancer." It's a message consistent with the personalized and individualized approach to care that is central to the John Theurer Cancer Center.
Asked about the fact that she has far outlived her initial prognosis, Rosalie says, "Myeloma isn't curable YET but it is treatable." She adds, "There is hope for the future of any multiple myeloma patient. That's one thing Dr. Pecora said to me years ago, 'You have to hold on. New treatments are coming down the pike.' There's not one bit of hesitation that I get the best, most up-to-date treatment at HackensackUMC."
Today Rosalie shares encouraging words with fellow patients, usually at the John Theurer Cancer Center where she receives follow up care every few months. She recently found another kindred spirit in an unlikely place when she spotted a man wearing a mask at her local ShopRite. She approached him and said, "You look like me, like I was a long time ago." It turned out he had just had a stem cell transplant at HackensackUMC. She offered on-the-spot support and inspiration in the produce aisle as he shopped for cantaloupes.
Rosalie's story is one of thousands of the patients that are treated here. At the John Theurer Cancer Center, we believe cancer is hard enough for patients and their loved ones. It is this belief that drives our passion to deliver extraordinary care every day, helping us become one of the nation's top 50 cancer centers - the only cancer center in New Jersey with this recognition. Over the past 25 years, we have become one of the largest cancer centers in the United States, but we have kept our focus on the unique needs of the patients who place their trust in our doctors and staff. Your contribution to the John Theurer Cancer Center helps us to save lives every day. Please make a gift today.
The Multiple Myeloma Division at the John Theurer Cancer Center is one of only a few treatment centers in the United States to offer specialized expertise in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that strikes the blood system. The team brings together multiple myeloma experts in hematology/ medical oncology, immunology, stem cell trans-plantation, infectious diseases, pathology, radiation oncology, orthopedics, and nursing. This specialized approach to treating multiple myeloma provides patients with the exact type of services they need to battle the disease and its physical, emotional, and social side effects.
The division is one of the most active multiple myeloma clinical trial sites in the nation. The team is led by internationally-recognized experts David Siegel, M.D., Ph.D., chief, multiple myeloma and David Vesole, M.D., Ph.D., co-chief and director of research. Under their leadership,the John Theurer Cancer Center has played a leading role in myeloma research that has resulted in some of the most promising treatments for myeloma patients today, including Velcade (Bortezomib), Revlimid (Lenalidomide) and Carfilzomib.
Sequencing the Genome for Multiple Myeloma
Using new genome sequencing technologies, researchers from the John Theurer Cancer Center joined colleagues from 20 major North American research institutions to publish the first complete
genomic portrait of multiple myeloma in Nature. Findings from the study point to new directions for potential myeloma therapies, and begin to unlock the mysteries of what causes this devastating malignancy.
Building on these promising results, the John Theurer Cancer Center was one of the first clinical trial sites to enroll patients in a follow-up study designed to uncover the molecular segments and variations of multiple myeloma. This study will be the centerpiece of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundations (MMRF) Personalized Medicine Initiative, CoMMpass, aimed to accelerate translational research into therapeutic breakthroughs for patients.