Treating Blood Cancer: Don't Go on a Snipe Hunt!

When I was fourteen, I attended a weekend church retreat with other girls my age. Some of the older kids encouraged us to go on a snipe hunt. They left four teenage girls in the dark woods, holding a bag and looking for a nonexistent snipe. Although snipes are a real bird family, the snipe hunt is a practical joke. Unfortunately, there was no Google to check facts in 1970. My friends and I did the walk of shame back to camp and had to endure the laughter of the other campers. We survived.

Cancer is serious!

Blood cancer is a serious diagnosis. Don't you hate it when people act like it isn't? "Oh, I'm sure you will be okay. I know someone who had blood cancer, and he lived for a long time. Besides, you don't even look sick!"

I have also had the opposite reaction. One lady asked if she could pray for me, so I said yes. She put her hands on me and prayed like an exorcist calling out a demon.

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No one size fits all treatment

There is no quick cure for blood cancer and no one-size-fits-all treatment. Also, there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. So, do not let anyone make you feel guilty for something you did or didn't do. Don't go on a snipe hunt when planning for your cancer treatment, looking for some mythical cure.

Many cancer treatments are available. Treatment options depend on your risk level, general health, and preferences. Together you and your doctor can weigh the benefits and risks of each cancer treatment to determine which is best for you:

  • Watch and Wait: Some people don't need treatment immediately, and some never need it! For example, during my first four years after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), I had complete blood counts (CBC) quarterly and saw the oncologist after she reviewed the results.
  • Transfusion: Do you know what your blood type is? Transfusions are often needed for blood cancer patients who are low on blood. Those good people who donate blood routinely are heroes!
  • Targeted Therapy: These are cancer treatments that block or slow the spread of cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: This type of cancer treatment aims to boost the body's immune system to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Cell-killing drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be in a bag of fluid with a tube that goes into a vein in your hand, arm, or chest. This treatment can take several hours. Chemotherapy can also be given as tablets, often in cycles.
  • Radiation: Radiation therapy may be used to destroy cancer cells or to relieve pain or discomfort. It may also be given before a stem cell transplant.
  • Leukapheresis: During this treatment, blood is filtered through a machine that removes some white blood cells. Providers may do leukapheresis to ease symptoms that happen when you have abnormal white blood cells that are multiplying uncontrollably.
  • CAR T- Cell Therapy: This treatment is when the immune system's T cells are altered in a lab so they will attack cancer cells. The T cells are removed from the patient's blood; then, scientists add a gene to the T cells. Later, they transfer those cells back to the patient.
  • Stem Cell Transplantation: Healthy stem cells capable of generating new cells are infused into the body. These cells can be extracted from a healthy donor's bone marrow, circulating blood cells, or umbilical cord blood. 

Don't go on a snipe hunt!

When I was first diagnosed with MDS, a new acquaintance told me, "My sister-in-law skipped chemo! She cured her cancer by eating healthy, thinking positively, and getting closer to God!" While all three are worthy goals, we don't want to go on a snipe hunt. We listen to our doctors, not strangers giving advice.

Living with blood cancer is frightening, frustrating, and exhausting. Acquaintances and strangers may mean well, but they aren't on our medical team. We listen to our doctors, read, study, discuss with our families, pray, then decide. Don't go on snipe hunts. We plan to survive.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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