Cancer patients, their caregivers and experts gathered Saturday, June 8, at the UC Davis Medical Education Building to participate in Live Your Best Life. This second annual blood cancer event was co-hosted by the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).
Richard Havens and his wife, Vicki Bohan found just what they were looking for at the event. Havens was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in August 2014. This type of cancer can sometimes turn into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which often requires a stem cell transplant. The couple attended the MDS/AML breakout session led by Jonas.
“It’s such a learning process,” said Bohan. “I found the session to be very informative. We learned that some of the drugs used to treat AML may actually work for MDS down the road.”
The half-day workshop welcomed those affected by blood cancers to learn about advances in treatment, clinical trials, disease support and management resources as well as having an opportunity to connect with others coping with a blood cancer diagnosis.
The morning started with six breakout sessions broken down by blood cancer type. Area experts included Brian Jonas, Aaron Rosenberg, Mehrdad Abedi and Ramus Hoeg from UC Davis Health; Babak Rajabi from Sierra Hematology Oncology Medical Group; Sunny Philip from Stockton Hematology Oncology; Ryan Stevenson from Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center; and Shahzad Siddique from Dignity Health Mercy Cancer Center.
“By inviting speakers from other hematology oncology practices in our region, we hope to increase camaraderie among Sacramento area providers,” said Jonas, a hematologist oncologist with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “By working together like this, we can help improve and enhance the care of all patients.”
Havens spent the first two-and-a-half years after his diagnosis in the “watch and wait” phase of the disease when patients may not feel any symptoms although their blood counts are not normal. Eventually, he developed severe neutropenia – or low white blood cell count – and anemia – or low red blood cell count, that cause fatigue, infection and other unpleasant problems.
To manage his MDS, Havens gets treatment once per week at his local cancer clinic in Roseville. Though his risk of developing AML is low, he continues to educate himself. At the blood cancer event Havens and Bohan split their time between sessions to soak up as much as they could. While he learned about the transplant process, she participated in a session for caregivers.
“It was useful,” said Havens. “I heard really good information from the stem cell transplant session including the process and what stem cell donors go through.”
Bohan added, “The session reinforced what caregivers go through. The speakers shared what they do to cope, who they rely on. I was really impressed.”
Live Your Best Life wrapped with a gripping poetry reading by author and cancer survivor Brad Buchanan, from his book, The Scars, Aligned. Deepti Behl from Sutter Cancer Center led a talk about integrative medicine and complimentary therapies, and Mills closed the event by sharing LLS resources.
“We were thrilled to partner on Live Your Best Life again this year,” said Bethanie Mills, senior manager, patient access with LLS. “It’s a pleasure to collaborate with UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center doctors and supportive oncology staff to achieve our common goal – to empower patients and their loved ones with information and support.”