Building a Ph+ CML game plan: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explains how he manages his leukemia by working with his doctor
NBA All-Time Leading Scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is no stranger to developing strategies and game plans to overcome the obstacles he’s faced on the basketball court, but he also knows the importance of applying these skills off the court.
In 2008, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in the chronic phase, a rare form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the body produces cancerous white blood cells. Abdul-Jabbar explains:
“I knew something was wrong when I started having hot flashes and breaking out in night sweats, so I went to my doctor for a check-up. When I first heard my diagnosis, I thought I’d been given a death sentence. But then I learned that because of treatment advances, I could work closely with my doctor to manage my disease.”
Patients are taking an active role in the management of their disease by working closely with their doctor to establish a personal treatment “game plan.” As a Ph+ CML patient himself, Abdul-Jabbar knows firsthand how important it is to develop a game plan for managing his disease. Abdul-Jabbar’s tips include:
Establish clear treatment goals
It’s important to work with your doctor to establish clear treatment goals. Some things that should be considered are a timeline for achieving treatment responses and addressing any side effects. One example of a key treatment goal in CML is to reach a very low level of disease called a major molecular response, or MMR, meaning that the amount of abnormal cells in the blood and bone marrow is extremely low.
Assess your “game plan” and adjust as needed
Abdul-Jabbar’s treatment goals, as established with his doctor, are to reach and sustain a major molecular response and to address side effects. But his plan does require continual assessment to determine if adjustments are needed. For example, after close monitoring, Abdul-Jabbar and his doctor realized that he was not reaching the treatment goals established in his initial plan in the timeframe outlined and he was also experiencing side effects such as fatigue and hand cramping. As a result, after evaluating Abdul-Jabbar’s options, he decided to switch his treatment. Since switching, Abdul-Jabbar has been able to achieve and maintain a major molecular response with fewer side effects.
Take medication as prescribed
Taking CML medication as directed is extremely important for maintaining treatment response as well as for addressing side effects, but remembering to take medicine can be a challenge! One helpful tip may be to set a daily cell phone alarm as a reminder.
Choose players for your CML team
It’s important to establish a CML support network. This support team should include your doctor, but can also involve other healthcare professionals such as a social worker or nurse practitioner, as well as family members and friends. Being comfortable talking openly with various people about your disease helps keep your core team connected.
Passing the ball to others in the CML community
Communication is key! CML is still a rare disease, and many patients are learning to cope with the new reality. As a result connecting with others impacted by the disease is becoming increasingly important among the CML community. A great upcoming opportunity to connect with others is World CML Day on September 22nd, a date which represents the chromosomal abnormality known as the Philadelphia chromosome, a rearrangement in the genetic material on chromosomes 9 and 22, which is present in approximately 95 percent of CML patients.
In honor of World CML Day on September 22nd, Novartis Oncology, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and The National CML Society will host a free and interactive webcast event on September 18th for CML patients and caregivers. This free event will include a panel of CML experts and will focus on educating and supporting those impacted by CML, as well as providing an opportunity for participants to ask questions
For more information on CML and to register for this event, visit www.CMLPatientSummit.com.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an actual patient on Tasigna (nilotinib) capsules and is compensated by Novartis.
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