Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay-Carnes provides advice for patients facing an AML diagnosis, including the necessity of putting together a strong healthcare team and leaning on your personal support system. Download the Find Your Voice Resource Guide here.
Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay–Carnes is Director of the Adult Non-Malignant Hematology Program and Co-Director of the Adolescent/Young Adult Oncology Program at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. More about this expert.
My name is Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay-Carnes. I work at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, and I am a blood specialist. I specialize in taking care of patients that have various blood disorders, and my passion is working with patients and their families when someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer.
If I was a patient who was diagnosed with AML today, the first thing I would want to do is take a deep breath. When somebody is diagnosed with AML, this is a disorder that comes on suddenly, and so usually a patient and family are in shock. Usually, somebody was perfectly healthy a couple weeks before their presentation and then they find themselves admitted in a hospital, or a hospital setting, feeling quite ill. And so, one of the first things I would do is to make sure I understand who my care team will be. Fighting cancer is a team sport.
It is not an individual event. Although the patient is the most valuable player, there’s different parts of the team that are needed to get somebody through this diagnosis and their treatment. If I was the patient, I would make sure I understood who would be in charge of my treatment plan or who would be the attending physician. I would want to know who the main nursing contact or support person would be. If there’s calls in the middle of the night or emergencies, who’s the first person to call? I would want to make sure I have a family or friend support person designated as the main supportive role, who would help me fight through this process. Again, if I was diagnosed with AML today, I would take a deep breath, and I would re-center myself and establish who my care team would be.