Thanksgiving, for many, is a time of reflection. I am personally ever thankful, as a two time cancer survivor, to have had another year of feeling good, enjoying life with family and friends, and being productive. When thinking about who has given me that gift I owe a debt of thanks to devoted cancer researchers and specialists. It is because of improved therapies that my leukemia has remained in remission and the symptoms of my second cancer, myelofibrosis, have been knocked back. I don’t know the scientists who developed the drugs I have taken but I am certainly thankful for them.

I am also thankful to cancer specialists who devote their lives to easing or, if they can, erasing the pain of a cancer. In many of the cancers that Patient Power covers, real progress is being made. Sometimes the road is bumpy – sales of a leukemia drug were recently suspended, a promising myelofibrosis drug in late stage clinical trials was stopped in its tracks. But generally the patients I meet are doing better and their doctors are genuinely hopeful – and the world renowned leaders are incredibly dedicated.

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More than 175 MPN patients and caregivers attended a live forum in Houston, Texas presented in conjunction with MD Anderson Cancer Center on Nov. 23, 2013.

We saw many examples of this dedication recently at our in-person patient event in Houston. Dr. Ruben Mesa, an expert in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), traveled there from the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, just a couple of weeks after having a “cardiac event.” Another world renowned leader, MD Anderson’s Dr. Srdan Verstovsek, took the time to record materials prior to the event because it conflicted with another commitment thousands of miles away in Croatia. Had it not been for airplane delays, he would have also attended the Houston meeting virtually. Another world class expert, Dr. Jorge Cortes from MD Anderson, also participated. Over the years, in many different settings, he has graciously agreed to take the time to share his knowledge with patients, often doing interviews in both English and Spanish. These gentlemen, along with other health professionals and MPN patient s who shared their personal stories, gave of themselves to help others better understand the latest developments for MPNs at a personal level. We have been gratified to hear from attendees who shared how much the event helped them and the family members who came with them.

Dr. Reuben Mesa, left, from the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Jorge Cortes from MD Anderson Department of Leukemia, were among the presenters at the “Living Well with MPNs” event.

Dr. Reuben Mesa, left, from the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Jorge Cortes from MD Anderson Department of Leukemia, were among the presenters at the “Living Well with MPNs” event.

In the blood cancer community, there’s another big event coming that’s bringing news we can be thankful for. Some 20,000+ blood cancer experts will gather in New Orleans Dec. 7-10 for the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). For conditions like multiple myeloma there are indications of longer survival than ever before and a possible move to all-oral therapies. In CLL, the news may be a move to totally non-chemo treatments that are more effective and with fewer side effects. The same is true in lymphomas. In the MPNs we expect there will be more promising drugs to talk about – when just a few years ago there were none – and how powerful oral therapies can be combined for greater benefit. All in all, there may be so much upbeat news we can celebrate a “cancer Thanksgiving” all over again.

My mother always said the number one thing we have to be thankful for is good health. That’s certainly true for me. At this time of year I am also thankful for the hardworking people who continue to make better health possible for me and many of my cancer buddies.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew