Leukemia teaches college student lessons beyond the classroom

Like many students, Jasmine Ross started her junior year diving into new classes and projects, but in February 2011, the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi theater student was forced to shift her attention. At first, Jasmine thought she had the flu. But after a month of watching Jasmine’s health deteriorate, classmates took her to the emergency room, where bloodwork revealed a far more serious diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia (AML). “I was so frightened,” she says. “You don’t ever think that this could happen to you. You think, I’m young, I’m relatively healthy, I’m a college student – whatever — and then you get diagnosed and your world just completely flips.” Acute myeloid leukemia treatment at MD Anderson After an emergency transfusion, doctors in Corpus Christi transferred Jasmine to MD Anderson. She met with Hagop M. Kantarjian, M.D., who told her he had a son her age. “Right then, there was a special connection,” Jasmine says. Kantarjian recommended a Phase II clinical trial for a new chemotherapy cocktail. Jasmine agreed because her cancer was aggressive, and she was in critical condition. Plus, the clinical trial offered the best chance for remission. The first of her seven rounds of chemotherapy put Jasmine into remission, but the side effects manifested quickly. “I noticed my hair would slowly fall out, even without me brushing it,” she says. “I tried to tell myself, don’t brush it, don’t wash it. And then one day I woke up and wiped tears from my eyes, and I said, OK, it’s time, I need to shave it off.” Jasmine got her head shaved, bought a wig and pushed herself...