“I’VE BEEN THREE YEARS CANCER-FREE, AND GOING ON FOUR,” JENNA SAID.
This soft-spoken 13-year-old isn’t shy about stepping out in hip-hop dance, especially with her trusted care team of oncology experts from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. They cared for Jenna after her diagnosis with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells, in the spring of 2012.
Jenna was nine years old when her mother, Julie Gibson, took her to a pediatrician after she thought her daughter had a case of strep throat.
“The pediatrician took one look at me and knew something was wrong,” Jenna said.
“She quickly ordered a blood test,” Julie recalled. “Two hours later, we got a call at home telling us to take Jenna to the ER at Seattle Children’s Hospital, immediately. It was such a surreal moment.”
Julie remembers asking the doctor, “Do we need to think ‘scary’ or not?” The answer terrified her. Blood results indicated leukemia.
“We all felt really scared,” Julie said. “A cancer diagnosis ‘owns you’ and with that specific cancer diagnosis, you don’t go home.” More bad news was on the way.
After Jenna’s first round of chemotherapy, the doctors knew it wasn’t going to be enough. She would need a bone marrow transplant. The thing that made this so devastating was that Jenna was adopted, so a sibling donor match wasn’t an option. Add to that the fact that Jenna is non-Caucasian, and the percentages of viable donors became tiny.
We learned the devastating news that not only our daughter had cancer but after the first round of treatment, she had high risk and that the typical treatment was not going to work,” Julie said.
“We felt like we were running into one roadblock after another,” Jenna’s mom recalled.
Jenna took it hard. “She broke down in tears, not knowing what was going to happen to her,” her mother said.
Although Jenna was an oncology patient at Seattle Children’s, the moment it was decided that she needed a transplant, she became part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance team. Because of the unique collaboration of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Jenna’s case was brought to the attention of Dr. Colleen Delaney—a Fred Hutch Cord Blood Transplant specialist whose research gave Jenna her best chance at recovery.
“It’s funny, but when we found out that she would need a transplant, we thought it was the worst news ever,” Julie said. “Now, I’d say it was the biggest blessing ever.”
On the day of the transplant, it was amazing to watch those cells go into her. By then Jenna had so many blood and platelet transfusions it was no different than any other, but this one was unbelievable. I kept thinking, this little bag of cells is going to save Jenna’s life.”
After the transplant, Jenna walked away from her cancer treatment needing three rounds of chemo, plus full-body radiation. There are kids who go through rounds and rounds of chemo, so her mom considered her lucky.
These days, the bespectacled teen is ready for her next move. Her love for science and medicine is certainly behind her dream of becoming a nurse.
Knowing Jenna, she’s not going to miss a beat.
Dr. Delaney’s breakthrough research in cord blood transplant helped give Jenna the life-saving treatment she so desperately needed. Her clinical specialties include pediatric stem cell transplantation, umbilical cord blood transplantation, pediatric oncology, pediatric bone marrow transplantation, and ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells.
As her transplant doctor and clinician, Dr. Carpenter was also part of Jenna’s team who was brought together by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dr. Carpenter is a pediatric hematology oncologist and Outpatient Clinical Director of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation. He treats children who need a transplant for leukemia, lymphoma, and other malignancies as well as non-malignant diseases including immunodeficiency disorders and bone marrow failure syndromes.
As a physician assistant with the Pediatric Long-Term Follow-up Clinic, Joan helped Jenna and her family navigate the often scary waters of cancer treatment, and did so with compassion and grace. “I love patient care. I feel privileged to work with our patients and their families. We have a close-knit group in our clinic. We’re like a family that’s unique to our setting. Working together, we make things happen.”
"Every patient becomes a part of who I am and what I do. To be able to be a part of Jenna's life now is really a privilege for me."
"The collaboration of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center—from bench to bedside—translates to the clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and then, for Jenna, the surgery actually happened at Seattle Children's Hospital."
"Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is a group of people that are very dedicated to taking care of patients—and it's a team effort every day."
“THEY MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS THEIR ONLY PATIENT.”
When Ali was diagnosed with cancer, she was determined to keep her lifestyle. At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, she received conventional treatments and an innovative clinical trial.
“THERE’S NO OTHER PLACE I WOULD RECOMMEND.”
You’d never know Steve is a three-time cancer survivor. This avid cyclist has been treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with a combination of surgeries that helped him beat the odds.