Andrunette Britt was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2015. Here, Andrunette talks about her journey, her stem cell transplant and the expert care she received from her team at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.
Andrunette started treatment with Georgia Cancer Specialists’ Dr. Jayanthi Srinivasiah (“Dr. Jay”). “Dr. Jay’s professionalism, leadership, awards, experience, expertise, and personal concern for her patients gave me the confidence I needed to put my trust in her care, which turned out to be the best decision I could have made for my life,” she said.
The first year after her diagnosis, Andrunette was in and out of the hospital. Despite all of the testing, her body rejected initial rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. She needed other treatment options. That is when Dr. Jay introduced Andrunette to Dr. Scott Solomon of The Blood & Marrow Transplant Group of Georgia (BMTGA).
“[Dr. Solomon’s] knowledge, compassion, and concern for his patient (me) were just what I needed at a time when my diagnosis was so unclear,” Andrunette said.
Dr. Solomon recommended Andrunette for a stem cell transplant.
According to Be The Match®, for patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases, a stem cell (bone marrow or cord blood) transplant may be their best or only hope for a cure. Yet 70% of patients who need a transplant to do not have a fully matched donor in their family, and only 29% of Black or African American patients are able to find a match.
“All of this was my story,” Andrunette said.
Because she is an only child, Andrunette did not have any siblings to test, and none of her family and friends were matches. Ultimately, she went to Be The Match, which manages the most diverse marrow registry in the world.
After months, Andrunette got the call for which she had been hoping and praying. Four mothers had donated umbilical cords that matched Andrunette’s tissue type. She was final able to have a cord blood transplant.
“What a BLESSING and a MIRACLE,” she said.
“To the mothers who donate their babies' umbilical cords for stem cell research and donation, thank you very much for your unselfish service,” Andrunette added. “It was through them that GOD brought forth life in order for me to live.”
Andrunette said she owes a huge debt of gratitude to BMTGA and the team of doctors who refused to give up, as well as Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Atlanta Blood Services, her family, friends and coworkers – her “village” – and, most importantly, her husband.
However, Andrunette is “immensely grateful” to everyone she met at Northside.
“From my personal patient coordinator through the clerks, nurses, phlebotomists, and everyone in between… Everyone involved showed me love and care for my well-being,” she said.
“From my initial meeting, I was provided a ledger with all of the information I needed to prepare for transplant that was under my control,” Andrunette added. “There was a wealth of information available to me, my husband, and my caretakers… They did an excellent job of preparing me for the challenges ahead.”
As of February 2021, Andrunette is cancer free, with complete repair of her chromosome 17 and no medications.
“I will be forever grateful and will share my story and experience in the hopes of providing hope to someone else and their family,” Andrunette said.
*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.