Marion Meyer was diagnosed with an aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2002 and given three years to live. At age 59, with three children and seven grandchildren, she determined it was not her time to die.
Marion, an out-of-state patient, promised herself to get a second opinion, no matter the distance. The former biochemist searched for the doctor who had done the most research on her disease and found MD Anderson’s Michael Keating, M.D., professor in Leukemia and co-leader of the CLL Moon Shot.
“Dr. Keating gave me a big bear hug the first time I saw him,” Marion recalls. “He told me 80% of my bone marrow was diseased, and if it was his wife, he’d recommend she start chemotherapy tomorrow. I never questioned him.”
Three years later, Marion underwent a bone marrow transplant and was confined to the hospital for 30 days. During that time, she learned to paint to keep herself occupied. Her first painting, a bottle of wine in a vineyard, hangs in Keating’s office.
Despite the aggressive treatment, Marion’s cancer would at times rear its ugly head. She says if she could use one word to describe MD Anderson, it would be “calming” because of Keating’s hope and optimism, even when delivering bad news.
“When I relapsed, Dr. Keating would never let me lose faith. He’d say, ‘Don’t worry, Marion. We’re on top of this. We have something else for you to try,’” she says. “Hope doesn’t begin to describe MD Anderson. It’s too simplistic. This is your life. I knew my team would never give up on me, and that assured me I was in the best place possible.”
More than a decade after her diagnosis, Marion says she feels wonderful. For 18 months, she’s been on a clinical trial for Ibrutinib, a pill made possible in part by the research of CLL Moon Shot leaders. Ibrutinib has proven to be more effective with fewer side effects than previously established treatments for CLL.
“Hooray for the CLL Moon Shot! I take one pill a day, and I’m experiencing life the way it’s supposed to be,” Marion says. “To know the moon shot is creating so much hope for people to experience a good quality of life during treatment and even a cure down the road, that’s a wonderful thing to celebrate.”
Marion also credits Keating for her active lifestyle, which includes playing golf, painting and traveling to her native country of Germany with her grandchildren. She says none of this would be possible without MD Anderson.
“I chose MD Anderson because life is worth the distance,” she says. “When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you have one shot to do the best you can.”