Leukemia treatment teaches survivor how to live in the moment

Dana MacFarlane is still in awe of her sudden onset of acute myeloid leukemia in July 2017. “I take blood tests on a routine basis because I get hormone therapy, and the week before I got diagnosed, my white blood cell count was normal,” she says. “My white blood cells started spewing out the week I got sick. It happened just like that.” In fact, Dana had spent the past summer eating clean foods and exercising vigorously. At 48, she was the fittest she’d ever been. Then in late July, she developed a fever and started experiencing abnormal chest pains. At first, she attributed the symptoms to a colonoscopy and endoscopy she’d just undergone. But eventually, her chest pain became too intense to ignore. Coming to MD Anderson for acute myeloid leukemia treatment Dana went to the emergency room, where the doctors first did an EKG to make sure it wasn’t her heart. Afterwards, they did a blood test, which immediately showed her white cells were out of control. “The doctors immediately called MD Anderson before I even knew what was going on and said we have a situation that’s beyond our control, and MD Anderson said get her down here by ambulance tonight,” Dana recalls. Dana was transported from the hospital in Nederland, Texas, to the MD Anderson Emergency Center, where a care team was waiting for her. She started chemotherapy right away, and Courtney DiNardo, M.D., prepared her for what was to come. “Dr. DiNardo told me I would lose my hair and discussed the side effects I needed to look for,” Dana recalls. “She said it’s...