Leukemia survivor finds second chance — and third wife — at MD Anderson

Two-time widower Paul Nielsen was in excellent health at age 67. So the former marathon runner knew something was wrong when he started feeling tired all the time in the fall of 2015. “I had to nap for a couple of hours almost every afternoon,” he says. “I couldn’t even make it to supper.” Though concerned by his fatigue, Paul put off investigating it until his regular annual physical in January 2016. That’s when blood tests revealed he had acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer. “I wasn’t really shocked,” he says. “We were looking for something and that was it, so we just needed to get on it.” Finding the right leukemia treatment Paul’s local doctor didn’t treat leukemia, so he got a referral to MD Anderson. It was here that Paul met Stefan Ciurea, M.D. — and found his future wife. Ciurea confirmed Paul’s acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis, then recommended a mild form of chemotherapy. It was not as effective as they’d hoped, so Ciurea switched Paul to a more aggressive form of chemotherapy. Paul received five rounds of it, followed by an allogeneic stem cell transplant. ‘We’re supposed to be together’ The woman who would eventually become Paul’s third wife was already a professional friend of his in the oil and gas industry. He’d actually known Cyndi – whose husband had died suddenly just a few months earlier – for about 10 or 15 years. “But I think God put us in each other’s lives,” Paul says of their connecting through his leukemia treatment. A mutual friend dragged Cyndi to MD Anderson in June...