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As years go, Linda Fullmer could have done without 2008. That was the year Linda, who was 49 at the time, had emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm triggered by headaches due to an infected tooth. A few months later, a persistent pain in her leg sent her back to her doctor for more testing. Blood work results confirmed a diagnosis of stage 3 multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. Without hesitation, her doctor sent her to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for treatment, a two-hour drive from her home in the Poconos.
"Dr. Cohen has been great from the beginning. He's very clear and takes as much time as I need."
Linda met with Adam D. Cohen, MD, a medical oncologist who specializes in cancers of the blood and bone marrow. “Dr. Cohen has been great from the beginning,” she said. “He’s very clear and takes as much time as I need. And anytime I call with a problem, he always calls me back immediately.” In a matter of weeks, Linda was undergoing radiation, driving back and forth to Fox Chase every day for 10 days. Although Fox Chase offers free housing to patients who live more than 40 miles from the Center (through the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge), Linda really wanted to sleep in her own bed.
However, Linda developed pneumonia as a result of her compromised immune system, so Dr. Cohen admitted her to Fox Chase. “The nurses were so wonderful to me, and Dr. Cohen came in to see me every single day.”
Because of her age and the nature of her cancer, Dr. Cohen advised an autologous stem cell transplant, and consulted with Dr. Kenneth Mangan from the Temple/Fox Chase Bone Marrow Transplant Program, a leading expert in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation. The tailored treatment plan recommended Linda take the drugs, Revlimid and Dexamethasone, for five months, to prepare her body for the transplant. Unable to work, Linda stayed home, took her drugs and waited. In October 2009, she was able to have the stem cell transplant and spent three weeks in the hospital, which is typical for this type of procedure. “It was pretty tough being so far away from home. But I knew it was what I needed to get better. So I worked hard to keep a positive attitude.”
The stem cell transplant was a success and Linda's cancer was in remission.
In December 2009, Linda got the best Christmas present she could hope for when Dr. Cohen said her cancer was in remission. She still travels to Fox Chase for check-ups, which include blood work every three months and a yearly biopsy. “My cancer may very well come back,” she said. “And if it does, I’ll have to get another stem cell transplant. The good thing is I have three brothers who are an exact match so there’s no problem finding a donor.”
"Dr. Cohen and everyone at Fox Chase are just the best you can get. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
With the help of her husband, Dave, and her close family and friends, Linda works at staying positive and takes things one day at a time. “Because I’m so young, it’s unlucky, and lucky. People say I’m lucky that I got through it. Lucky? This is something you never expect when all you have is a pain in the leg. But because I’m young, I was strong enough to get through it. Thank God my doctor sent me to Fox Chase. Dr. Cohen and everyone there are just the best you can get. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”