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Specialists at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center lead their fields in each particular type of cancer.
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"They thought that I needed to be somewhere that medical professionals were capable of taking care of me, and most of all experienced. So, they called Dana-Farber."
Read The Story
Jenna Shaw, 29, of Blaine, Maine, had been feeling sick for many months after her daughter, Madeline, was born in 2009. She lost 70 pounds in seven months and was fatigued from sore throats and infections. Her physician ordered blood work and it showed that she was severely neutropenic [a condition of abnormally low white blood cells]; her immune system was ravaged. After Shaw underwent a bone marrow biopsy at a hospital near her home, she was life-flighted to Dana-Farber that night to start aggressive chemotherapy. The initial diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia (AML). "I was told by oncologists in Maine that my prognosis was poor because of how fast the leukemia was progressing, and that I needed to be somewhere that they could save me,” she says. "They thought that I needed to be somewhere that medical professionals were capable of taking care of me, and most of all experienced. So, they called Dana-Farber." However, a second bone marrow biopsy performed at Dana-Farber revealed that her bone marrow and blood were now spontaneously clear of the leukemia. "My doctors thought that maybe the leukemia went into an 'arrest' period from a bout of antibiotics," Shaw says, citing studies showing that this can happen, but that the leukemia usually returns. Two months later, cancer returned, this time as tumors on her legs and arms. A biopsy at her local cancer center, and confirmed at Dana-Farber, led to a diagnosis of leukemia cutis: Shaw had leukemia in her skin, but not in her blood or bone marrow anymore. "My case [of spontaneous regression, and subsequent isolated relapse in the skin] was discussed at several conferences," Shaw says of her dual diagnosis of AML and leukemia cutis. "I was a mystery to many physicians from Maine to Boston." Today, thanks to her Dana-Farber care team, Shaw is in remission.