Celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary from a cruise ship deck overlooking the Caribbean, Harriett Blakeslee had much to be thankful for. And somewhere near the top of her list was Moffitt Cancer Center.
“Without their expert care, I wouldn’t be here to enjoy the cruise of a lifetime or to walk in marathons,” Harriett says. “They saved my life – twice.”
“I have the utmost respect for my oncologist here in Stuart,” says Harriett. “He said the AML could be treated here - but recommended that I go to Moffitt Cancer Center.”
Harriett was admitted just after Thanksgiving in 2005, and began a course of 7+3 chemotherapy under the care of medical oncologist Martine Extermann, M.D. It was a difficult month in the hospital, followed by four five-day stays over the following months for consolidation treatments.
But the AML was finally in remission.
“Late in 2007, I noticed a flat, red spot on my breast,” Harriett recalls. “It wasn’t painful, but it worried me enough to see my internist, my oncologist and a dermatologist here in Stuart.” A biopsy sent to Moffitt for testing showed the news she feared – a relapse. She would need a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, her sister in Connecticut turned out to be a perfect match. Moffitt blood and marrow transplant physician Hugo Fernandez scheduled her transplant for early 2008.
“When I arrived, I saw so many familiar faces; nurses who cared for me through the AML,” says Harriett. “They remembered me and my husband, Jon - probably for all the brownies and cookies he’d brought them!
“These nurses sat me down with a calendar and explained – you’ll probably lose your hair by this date, we’ll start you on a specific medication on this date. They spelled out the good, the bad and the ugly. And while it didn’t take away my fear, it made me feel safe knowing they’d been through this over and over again – and they’d be there with me, too.”
Harriett spent 100 days post-transplant in an apartment near the hospital. “I was so lucky – no major complications like graft-versus-host disease. And almost exactly a year to the day after returning home to Stuart, I was able to walk a half-marathon at Disney World. I’ve done five more since then.
“People need to know that they don’t have to go to New York, Texas or Washington to get the best cancer care. It’s right here at Moffitt Cancer Center.”