UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 10

survivor profile Watch a video of Maggie’s story on the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center website, and follow Maggie’s journey on her blog at 8 U A B many institutions offer phase I studies, UAB is one of the few academic medical centers conducting phase I studies through a cohesive team approach. This allows patients access to novel drugs and therapies otherwise not available, while benefiting scientific research. “Patients who enroll in a phase I trial have often failed or exhausted all other therapies,” says Mansoor Saleh, M.D., director of the Phase I Program and UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center senior scientist. “Our patients volunteer to take part in these novel treatment options. It is often a trip into the unknown, and our team is dedicated to giving these patients hope and taking care of them on this therapeutic journey.” Enrolling in a phase I trial has been a learning experience for both Maggie and her family. “I kind of knew what clinical trials were, but I didn’t know what all went into them,” Maggie says. “This was completely different because I was moving from pediatric oncology, which is all I had known since my diagnosis, into adult oncology. It’s a totally different environment.” Maggie began receiving treatment through a phase I trial at UAB in November 2016 and has had a positive response to the treatments. She currently receives an infusion every two weeks and scans every six weeks, which determine whether she continues the current treatment or begins a different regimen. While she does not know how long she will be on the trial, she is grateful for the care she is receiving at UAB. “All the nurses and doctors have been very kind and generous,” she says. “UAB has always kept us knowledgeable about what’s going on and what I’m getting and what they’re doing. It’s been a very good experience so far.” Adds Mrs. Hanberry: “From the initial contact with UAB, we felt like we were at home. I can’t say enough about the people here and the level of care that Maggie is getting.” Dr. Saleh hopes that stories such as Maggie’s will help change the conventional thinking surrounding phase I studies. “We need to think about phase I studies differently than we have C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R thought about them before. It used to be an end- of-the-line option, and it’s no longer that. In many cases, it may very well be closer to the front of the line.” A Positive Outlook Over the past three years, Maggie has tried to live as normal a life as she can, which she did not know would be possible when she was first diagnosed. “I was very concerned that this was going to stop everything, and it was just going to be all about cancer for an indefinite amount of time,” she says. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do school or have a normal life.” Through home schooling, Maggie was able to continue her education at her own pace and graduate from high school in 2016. Now about to turn 19, she is looking forward to eventually attending college and, inspired by her cancer experience, pursuing a degree in nursing. Reflecting on her journey, she acknowledges the many ways that cancer has changed her. “Cancer has allowed me to be more independent. I’ve learned to speak up and be more outgoing, because I have to talk to doctors and nurses consistently. It’s also allowed me to be more compassionate toward people in the same situation. I’ve become more passionate about raising awareness for pediatric cancer. That’s something very near and dear to my heart now.” “Maggie has such a positive outlook,” Mrs. Hanberry says. “She has inspired me with her willingness to take each day as it comes, to take what each day brings and try to make the best of it. That has been the biggest thing – to see how she has blossomed despite, or in the midst of, battling cancer.” For Maggie, that newfound strength is a source of inspiration for her as she continues on her cancer journey, as well as advice for others facing a similar path. “Trust that God is going to take care of you through everything. Look for the small things every day to pull you through. You have to set goals for yourself, and look for happiness in everything.”