Baltimore woman beats leukemia

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— At the age of 34, Nikita Moore received a devastating diagnosis. Doctors told her she had acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) a subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

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Courtesy Photo

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) staff: Tracy Orwig, Director, LLS Patient Access, Education & Advocacy, Jacqueline Stem, LLS Donor Development Director and LaVerne Perry, LLS Patient Navigator

“My first thought was how was I going to deal with it, how I was going to survive, how my family would react, and what the next steps would be,” recalled Moore. “However, I kept a positive attitude and had the support of my family and friends. The cancer has been in remission for three years now. I received my last chemotherapy treatment in October 2012.”

She added, “I tell everyone that tomorrow isn’t promised, but that when you are diagnosed with something like this you can make it through when you believe in God and know that He can help and surround you with his angels.”

Moore was among those to speak at “Take Charge of Your Health! 2014,” a cancer survivorship forum sponsored by the Maryland Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer.

Held Saturday, January 11 at the Zeta Center for Healthy & Active Aging located at 4501 Reisterstown Rd., the forum brought together approximately 100 cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters. During the event, participants shared stories and information. The theme of the event was “Communicate, Educate, Empower.”

In addition to Moore, event speakers included: Jekisha Elliott, B.S., HealthCare Access Maryland; Malcolm Joseph, M.D., MPH., Medical Director, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield; Sandy Kotiah, M.D., Medical Oncology & Hematology at Mercy Medical Center; Jennie Boyer, BSN, RN, Oncology Nurse navigator, Saint Agnes Cancer Center; Brandon Costantino, BA, American Cancer Society, Patient Resource Navigator; and Michele Towson, J.D., Ph.D/MA, Certified Grants Management Professional.

Maryland Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam also participated in the forum. Event topics included advancement in treatments; mind, body and spirit nutrition; communicating with diverse care teams; empowerment tools for newly diagnosed and post treatment survivors; community resources for cancer support; and what patients need to know about The Affordable Care Act. Lunch was also provided during the free event.

“When I was diagnosed, it came as a shock,” said Moore.” No one in my family had leukemia. I went to the doctor because I had bruising and was urinating blood. I tell people that when there is a problem, you need to see a doctor because you never know what it may be. You may be saving your life by going instead of waiting. Fortunately, I went to the doctor when I did.”

She added, “I tell people not to get discouraged when they see the physical changes that come along with chemotherapy such as their hair falling out and skin changes. They just need to realize it won’t last forever. Those are minor things. Staying alive is the key. I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me. More people will survive and can survive with a positive attitude and outlook. Once you start to doubt, your health will diminish. Give all worries to God and He will see you through.”

Moore, who is married and has one son, works as a housekeeping assistant at a Baltimore retirement community.

“I chose to participate in this event because The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has been such a blessing to me. Ever since I was diagnosed, they have been such an inspiring group of people. They are always there and have numerous resources.”

The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. The organization funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

“We wanted to reach the underserved population in Baltimore,” said LaVerne Perry Patient Navigator with the Maryland Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and coordinator of the event. “We also wanted to increase our numbers and let patients know about the services we offer. We have been able to reach people through this event, which is in its third year.”

Perry added, “This event gives them hope that it’s not the end of the road. One man who is involved in our organization is a 30-year-survivor. The advancements that we have available to us today are working. Cures are happening now. Not someday, but now.”

For more information about the Maryland Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, call 1-800-242-4572 or visit www.LLS.org/md.