College graduation heralds new beginnings: freedom from school rigors, fresh possibilities, and entry into independent adulthood.In 1999, Teri Powell had a few short months of that euphoria before her life forever changed.
At 23, increasingly tired and bruising easily, Teri thought she might be anemic and pushed for lab work. On August 5, she learned she had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a malignancy more commonly diagnosed in older Caucasians. Teri’s newfound, young adult world came to a screeching halt. While her friends established careers, homes, and relationships, Teri navigated doctor appointments, treatments, and blood transfusions. Coping with a sobering prognosis of 3 – 5 years to live, Teri battled to stay strong.”I knew I couldn’t fall apart or my sister and mother would,” she says.
By December, Teri’s treatment regimen was not working.After hearing a news report that a “miracle drug” was showing great promise in the treatment of CML, Teri called her doctor.She agreed that Teri should enroll in the clinical trial. The day after Christmas, Teri boarded a plane to Houston with newfound hope in drug ST157 (later known as Gleevec).
The clinical trial drug delivered its promise, and Teri managed a normal semblance of young adulthood.She began her career, volunteered, and traveled, all while coping with side effects, insurance woes, and the decision of when to disclose her illness in new relationships.Teri kept the disease at bay until 2010. Then when troubling bloodwork began once again, she shifted to another non-trial regimen, a drug she remains on today that will hopefully lead to full remission.
Approaching a 15-year milestone in her survivorship, Teri, a client of PearlPoint Cancer Support, reflects on being diagnosed with a chronic illness at such a young age.
“Having cancer since I was 23 has definitely robbed me of freedoms other adults my age may take for granted,” says Teri. “Yet I live my life with purpose and clarity.While I don’t accept cancer, I do accept it as part of my life story.Doing that has freed me from it in so many ways, and I just don’t let it interfere with my life goals. I’m not putting my life on hold any longer. I want to thrive, not just survive.”
Watch Teri’s Journal of Hope video exclusive below.