The Price of Life
Lenore Clark has one more chance at life. It just happens to be an expensive chance.
Although the 56-year-old Prescott resident receives chemotherapy three times per week and it maintains her life, Clark, who suffers from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), will die without an adult stem cell transplant.
Costs for the transplant will run at about $250,000 and costs for care afterwards could be at least that much and Clark's insurance doesn't cover any of it.
Some of her friends will sponsor a dinner and benefit April 25 to help raise money for the surgery. Since they began raising money Feb. 28, Clark and her friends have raised $20,000.
During a massage in 2001, Clark's massage therapist noticed the lymph glands in her neck were swollen. Clark went to a doctor, who took a biopsy and diagnosed her with CLL. She tried naturopathic treatment for a few years but started traditional chemotherapy in 2004.
This past year, she went into remission for about three months but the cancer came back.
Now, she receives chemotherapy three times per week.
"So far, it's kept me from getting worse," she said. "It keeps it (the cancer) maintained. Hopefully I'll live long enough to get the transplant."
Clark, a mother of three (Andy and Jeff Magby and Cindy Miller) and grandmother of two (Alexis and Joshua Miller), said the disease makes her very tired, but her friend Karen Sowards said Clark remains optimistic.
"You have to look at the reality of it," Clark said. "You can't change it, so you can't complain about it."
However, just living with the cancer is tough.
"I hardly ever get out of bed," she said. "The minute you feel a little bit better, you want to do something fun. You want to be normal."
Doing "something fun" exhausts her every time.
Information on the National Cancer Institute Web site at www.cancer.org states that in stem cell transplants, the cancer patient receives stem cells from a sibling or a parent.
Clark, who has four siblings, explained that doctors remove a sibling's blood and then extract stem cells from it. They freeze the cells, and then give the cancer patient a huge dose of chemotherapy. Then, doctors inject the stem cells into the cancer patient's blood.
Hematopoietic stem cells, The Cancer Institute's site states, divide to form more blood-forming stem cells, or they mature into one of three types of blood cells: white, which fight infection; red, which carry oxygen; and platelets, which help the blood to clot.
The high dose of chemotherapy wipes out cancer cells, which also reproduce quickly, and then the stem cells supplant the patient's own stem cells, which die during chemotherapy but otherwise would produce healthy blood cells.
Of course, Clark said, the transplant carries some risk of graft-host disease, in which the transplanted stem cells reject their new host.
Because of that risk, patients who receive stem cell transplants must remain in the hospital for two months after the procedure and then live very near the hospital for another four months. Once they move home, stem cell transplant recipients often need another six months of recovery time before they head back to work, Clark said.
"If I knew I could help someone just by a mere donation," she said, "and it meant the difference between life and death, that's something I would do."
Sowards added, "You could help save someone's life. This woman has grandchildren who love her to death and family and friends."