Celebrating Survivorship: Natalie Abreu-Horne

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I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (with a FLT3 mutation), at age 46, on April 24, 2018. I had no idea I was as sick as I was until I was in the ER in Tampa, Florida and told my body was 94% full of leukemia. I needed to start chemo immediately.

The next day I had a port placed in and started chemotherapy the following day. When the final bone marrow biopsy results came back showing a FLT3 mutation, I was immediately moved to Moffitt Cancer Center and told I would have to undergo a transplant. I was in the hospital receiving chemo for 35 days during my first visit. I then went home and continue consolidated treatments until we found a donor. Finally, a donor was found and I had my bone marrow transplant on August 30, 2018.

During that visit I stayed in the hospital for 38 days. I recovered for the next 100 days at my dad's house and stayed in my bubble. This time was very difficult as I caught a lot of colds, was weak, had bad nausea and visited Moffitt at least twice a week. This was all so difficult for me as I was so active and taught Zumba five days a week before this happened. Shoot, I taught two classes the day before I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed.

I will say when I was told it would take a year or more to find my new normal, they were correct! I spent my entire first year going to weekly doctor appointments, staying in a bubble having little contact with the outside world. I was unable to spend time with my two kids and husband while I tried to rebuild my strength and heal at my dad's house. I had medication adjustments that gave me all kinds of side effects, tried two inhibitor drugs that I would take in order to reduce my chances of the leukemia returning (even with the transplant), and searched for my new normal.

I celebrated my second year birthday in August!!!! I am happy to say that my hair has finally started to grow back. I'm 30 pounds heavier and have neuropathy in my feet, but I have enough energy and strength that I am teaching four of my zumba classes a week. I am able to be back in my own home with my family, and I continue to learn my new normal. I now only have to go into Moffitt once a month to meet with my team and I am currently still taking Rydapt (chemo inhibitor) to reduce the chances of the leukemia coming back. I will continue to stay on the Rydapt thru the end of this year. All bone marrow biopsies have come back 100% donor, which I am beyond grateful for.

My next hope is I to reach out to my donor and hopefully be able to meet her someday and thank her for giving me a second chance at life! I could not have asked for a better support system during this difficult time with family and friends and God. I hope to stay healthy and cancer free to watch my kids grow.

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