It’s estimated that more than 61,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with leukemia and an estimated almost 24,000 will die of this disease this year.
Leukemia occurs when normal blood cells die when they no longer work, but cancerous white blood cells don’t die, and they make copies of themselves. In a person with leukemia, the blood stem cells make abnormal white blood cells that don’t work properly. Soon, the abnormal white blood cells are crowding out the healthy blood cells.
Once there are a lot of abnormal cells taking the place of the healthy ones, the person’s blood can’t do what it is supposed to do. The person can’t get enough oxygen to the body, fight infections, or clot blood or stop bleeding.
After months of sickness, Tia Stokes, a 35-year-old mother of five from Orem, Utah was diagnosed with leukemia last year. She immediately began chemotherapy and received a bone marrow transplant at Intermountain LDS Hospital from her brother.
Through it all – including a battle with COVID-19 – Stokes has danced and inspired millions as she chronicled her journey on social media.
The former professional dancer and studio owner became known as the, “cancer dancer.”
She is now dancing about being in remission. She rang the cancer bell, April 2, 2021 at Intermountain LDS Hospital where she had received treatment since being diagnosed.
Stokes oncology physicians at Intermountain say her positive attitude and cheerfulness helped attribute to her remission.
Stokes says she’s grateful to be alive, for the nurses and doctors who treated her, but she also reminds others to pay attention to their body and don’t take your health for granted.
Despite being in remission, Stokes still does need weekly transfusions since her donor’s blood is a different type from hers.
Intermountain Cancer Center physicians and caregivers apply a wide variety of advanced methods, technology, and therapies to reduce and remove cancer cells. Every Intermountain cancer care plan involves individualized treatments based on cancer type, state, and location of cancer and other considerations.
Intermountain also uses a comprehensive team approach which includes experts collaborating across all locations. This means, when patients choose an Intermountain facility, they have access to the overall cancer care team of experts, specialized cancer doctors, technology advances, (such as Precision Genomics), clinical trials and research available systemwide.
Intermountain physicians can evaluate a patient to determine whether they are a candidate for a cancer treatment by telehealth.
“When it comes to transplants, we can screen the potential donor to eliminate travel until the match has been confirmed,” said Julie Asch, MD, bone marrow transplant program director for Intermountain Healthcare. “When the donor returns home after the donation, telehealth also allows the team of physicians to provide recovery care for patients remotely, if desired.”
In addition, patients may be able to return home sooner with some visits to be done remotely by telehealth with return to the hospital less often depending on their condition.
Intermountain also provides patients and potential patients access to a “Cancer Answers” hotline, in which patients can call one phone number (833.321.3332) any time of the day or night (24/7) and talk to a nurse navigator who will guide patients through their treatment process and help them get “personalized cancer care –– the right care, at the right time, in the right place – close to their home.”
Treatment is determined by the type of leukemia, but they may include:
- Targeted therapy – Medication that targets and kills specific cancer cells. It does not cause as many side effects as chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy – Medication that kills or damages cancer cells and can sometimes affect healthy cells.
- Stem cell transplant – A procedure that replaces healthy cells to a person whose cells have been abnormal and defective. This process requires chemotherapy prior to the transplant.
Some signs and symptoms of leukemia are similar to common illnesses so specific blood tests and procedures are needed to make a diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms may vary but they may include:
- Shortness of breath with activity
- Pale appearing skin
- Mild fever or night sweats
- Excessive bruising and bleeding
- Slow wound healing
- Bone or joint pain
- Abnormal blood counts
- Frequent infections
- Enlarged lymph nodes
For more information go to Intermountain Healthcare Cancer Care.
This story contains sponsored content.