Myeloma Survivor Grateful for Time with Grandchildren

By Linda Haymes

“We went to our daughter’s house and enjoyed being together and recalling good memories,” Cancienne said. “I sure do miss hugging, though.”

There was a time when the 79-year-old wondered if she would live to see her golden anniversary, an occasion the couple celebrated with a New England fall foliage tour.

“That was a trip we’d always wanted to take,” she said.

Her oncologist in Birmingham, Alabama, diagnosed her with myeloma in 2001. She was 59. After receiving the news, the since-retired bookkeeper thought about all the living she had yet to experience.

“Growing old with my husband, watching my grandchildren grow up and spending time with my family and friends were some of the things I thought I might miss,” Cancienne said.

She thought of the years she might lose with her daughter Michele, son Wayne, son-in-law Alan and her two young grandchildren Andrew and Clare.

“One of my first thoughts was that I might not get to see my grandchildren make their first communion.”

Clare, now 20, is in pharmacy school and her brother, Andrew, now 23, is in college, pursuing a business degree and hoping to become a professional golfer.

Her local oncologist recommended Cancienne seek treatment at UAMS. Tests at the Myeloma Center determined she was low risk and she received the Total Therapy II treatment protocol.

“After relapsing in 2007, Cancienne received a high dose of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant,” said her doctor, Sharmilan Thanendrarajan, M.D. “She has since remained in complete remission.”

She returns to the Myeloma Center annually for testing and evaluation and will soon celebrate another anniversary, her 20th year as a myeloma survivor.

“I highly recommend that any new myeloma patient come to UAMS immediately after diagnosis before seeking any treatment elsewhere,” she said. “Everyone there is very friendly and professional.”

Her treatment at the Myeloma Center touched both her grandchildren, who call her Nana.

“For Andrew’s 10th birthday in 2007, he came up with the idea that instead of receiving gifts he would ask his friends to donate to UAMS’s myeloma program in honor of me,” Cancienne said.

In the fall of 2019, when Clare applied to pharmacy school, she wrote about her memories of her grandmother’s illness and the role her visits accompanying her to UAMS for treatment played in her decision to become a pharmacist.

“As a young toddler traveling with my family to these visits I always loved watching the nurses and doctors take care of my grandmother and other patients,” Clare wrote in her admission letter. “I was able to personally see the positive impact my grandmother’s doctors and medical team made on my family. I am forever grateful for all her doctors, surgeons, pharmacists and other members of her medical team to help keep her alive… Ever since then, my family always knew that I would pursue a career in the medical field.”

“She let me be the first to read it,” Cancienne said. “It was a very touching letter and I realized then what seeds I and UAMS had planted in my new granddaughter way back then.”

Clare, now 20, is in her first year at Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy in Birmingham, Alabama. Her brother Andrew, now 23, just graduated from Troy University with a business degree and is working in the golf business at the Country Club of Birmingham.

The family is very grateful to everyone at UAMS for the excellent care they provide their patients.