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By Mary Goddard

I am one of nearly 40 million Americans caring for a loved one with an illness.1 It’s not always a glamorous job, but it’s a job that I’m proud to do.

My mom is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my rock. We’ve always been close, and we love spending time with each other — whether it’s shopping at our favorite stores or taking trips together.

Eight years ago, our relationship took on new meaning when she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), one of the most common types of leukemia in adults.2 Leading up to her diagnosis, she was visibly tired. Doing daily activities that she once enjoyed suddenly became very taxing on her. As time passed by, the fatigue — a typical symptom of CLL – became worse.3 Simply walking out to her mailbox was too exhausting.

Then the unthinkable happened. About a year after my mom’s diagnosis, my wonderful dad and mom’s husband of 50 years learned that he had colon cancer, which had spread to his lungs. I admired how my mom, despite being fatigued by her CLL, sprang into action and cared for my dad. His cancer was aggressive and required chemotherapy that was extremely hard on his body. After two years of treatment, we all came to the realization together that — for my dad — the side effects of chemotherapy had taken enough of a toll, and that his quality of life was more important than quantity. He passed away in March of 2014, leaving my mom alone in her home to both grieve and navigate her own cancer.

My mom has been there for me all my life, and now it was my turn to be there for her. Life caring for a loved one with a health condition can be rewarding, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Given my personal experience, here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

Attend appointments

Accompanying your loved ones to doctors’ appointments can give them a sense of security in knowing that they have an advocate no matter what they need. Appointments can be full of overwhelming information, so having another person there to catch things they may have missed can be critical to their care.

Do your research

I’ve found it beneficial to do your own research and ask the doctor questions that your loved one may not think of. Staying informed about not only the latest therapies but also available research studies can help to make the most informed treatment decisions.

Ask for help

Only when you take care of your needs can you effectively help others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and to lean on family and friends for emotional and physical support. Developing a support network or joining a support group, either in person or online, also allows you to talk with and learn from others in similar situations.

 

After five years of watching and waiting to see how my mom’s cancer progressed — which I learned can be a typical approach for CLL — we pushed for treatment. Her fatigue had become so burdensome she couldn’t even manage everyday household tasks like preparing meals or doing dishes. In discussing our concerns with her oncologist about the possibility of chemotherapy and the impact it could have on her already debilitating fatigue, we decided the best course was to participate in a clinical trial for a potentially promising chemotherapy-free oral treatment.

My mom and hundreds of other patients across the US participated in the trial, which supported the recent US Food and Drug Administration approval of CALQUENCE® (acalabrutinib) for the treatment of adult patients with CLL. After starting CALQUENCE combined with obinutuzumab, my mom’s energy began rapidly improving. She bruises more easily and has had one minor incidence of shingles, but thankfully does not suffer from the harsh chemotherapy-related side effects like my late dad did. [Individual results may vary. See Important Safety Information below.]

Caring for my mom in this way is not something that I ever expected. But I’ve learned so much from this experience about what it means to care for someone else while also taking care of yourself. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without the strength, toughness and positivity that my mom has instilled in me.

Mary and her mother Marialice both live in Eugene, Oregon.

For more information about CLL, visit www.CALQUENCE.com/cll.html.

 

What is CALQUENCE?
CALQUENCE is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).
It is not known if CALQUENCE is safe and effective in children.

Important Safety Information About CALQUENCE® (acalabrutinib) capsules
Before taking CALQUENCE, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions,
including if you:

  • have had recent surgery or plan to have surgery. Your healthcare provider may stop CALQUENCE for any planned medical, surgical, or dental procedure.
  • have bleeding problems.
  • have or had heart rhythm problems.
  • have an infection.
  • have or had liver problems, including hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. CALQUENCE may harm your unborn baby and cause problems during childbirth (dystocia).
    • If you are able to become pregnant, your healthcare provider may do a pregnancy test before you start treatment with CALQUENCE
    • Females who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with CALQUENCE and for at least 1 week after the last dose of CALQUENCE
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if CALQUENCE passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with CALQUENCE and for at least 2 weeks after your final dose of CALQUENCE.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Taking CALQUENCE with certain other medications may affect how CALQUENCE works and can cause side effects. Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take a blood thinner medicine.

How should I take CALQUENCE?

  • Take CALQUENCE exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • Do not change your dose or stop taking CALQUENCE unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you to decrease your dose, temporarily stop, or completely stop taking CALQUENCE if you develop certain side effects.
  • Take CALQUENCE 2 times a day (about 12 hours apart).
  • Take CALQUENCE with or without food.
  • Swallow CALQUENCE capsules whole with a glass of water. Do not open, break, or chew capsules.
  • If you need to take an antacid medicine, take it either 2 hours before or 2 hours after you take CALQUENCE.
  • If you need to take certain other medicines called acid reducers (H2-receptor blockers), take CALQUENCE 2 hours before the acid reducer medicine.
  • If you miss a dose of CALQUENCE, take it as soon as you remember. If it is more than 3 hours past your usual dosing time, skip the missed dose and take your next dose of CALQUENCE at your regularly scheduled time. Do not take an extra dose to make up for a missed dose.

What are the possible side effects of CALQUENCE?
CALQUENCE may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Serious infections can happen during treatment with CALQUENCE and may lead to death. Your healthcare provider may prescribe certain medicines if you have an increased risk of getting infections. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any signs or symptoms of an infection, including fever, chills, or flu-like symptoms.
  • Bleeding problems (hemorrhage) can happen during treatment with CALQUENCE and can be serious and may lead to death. Your risk of bleeding may increase if you are also taking a blood thinner medicine. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any signs or symptoms of bleeding, including blood in your stools or black stools (looks like tar), pink or brown urine, unexpected bleeding or bleeding that is severe or you cannot control, vomit blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, cough up blood or blood clots, dizziness, weakness, confusion, changes in your speech, headache that lasts a long time, or bruising or red or purple skin marks
  • Decrease in blood cell counts. Decreased blood counts (white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells) are common with CALQUENCE, but can also be severe. Your healthcare provider should do blood tests to check your blood counts regularly during treatment with CALQUENCE.
  • Second primary cancers. New cancers have happened in people during treatment with CALQUENCE, including cancers of the skin or other organs. Your healthcare provider will check you for skin cancers during treatment with CALQUENCE. Use sun protection when you are outside in sunlight.
  • Heart rhythm problems (atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter) have happened in people treated with CALQUENCE. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following signs or symptoms: fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, feeling faint, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath

The most common side effects of CALQUENCE include headache, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, upper respiratory tract infection, and bruising.

These are not all the possible side effects of CALQUENCE. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information.

 

References
1 Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiver Statistics: Demographics. Accessed January 2020.
2 American Cancer Society. What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia? Accessed January 2020.
3 American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Accessed January 2020.

 

CALQUENCE is a registered trademark of the AstraZeneca group of companies.
©2020 AstraZeneca. All rights reserved.

US-37161 Last Updated 2/20