Mother of Three Shares her CAR T-cell Therapy Journey: Kelly's Story

Stories@Gilead - September 13, 2022

Kelly was getting ready to leave on a trip to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary when she started experiencing pain in her abdomen and discovered a lump on her neck. When the pain progressed to the point where it got worse when she laid down, she asked her husband, an emergency room doctor, what he thought. After a few phone calls to his colleagues working in oncology, they went to see a lymphoma specialist and Kelly underwent a CAT scan the day before her trip.

The doctor called Kelly and her husband during their vacation and said they needed to talk when she got back. Kelly says she “just knew” it was cancer. When she returned from the trip, she was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It was earth shattering. Your whole world comes crashing down,” she explains. “When cancer hits, nothing else matters.”

Kelly received six rounds of chemotherapy – one round every three weeks. But shortly after the chemo treatments ended, her pain returned. Her cancer had not responded to the initial treatment. Kelly’s oncologist then recommended a different, stronger chemotherapy, but her cancer didn’t respond to the second treatment.

After two failed treatments, Kelly’s oncologist told her about chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy: a form of therapy custom-made for each patient using their own immune cells to fight their cancer. She was optimistic and agreed to pursue CAR T with her oncologist’s support.

Following CAR T-cell therapy in 2021, Kelly has not needed additional cancer treatment. It was the first sign of relief for Kelly and her family since the diagnosis. Her children credit staying positive as helping them get through it.

“No matter how bad it gets, don’t ever give up. Hope is the one thing that just keeps you going,” says Kelly.

Watch the video above to see Kelly’s full journey.

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