Patient Story

Ellen’s story: Farm animals honor her care team

Ellen Warren of Madison, Georgia had never heard of multiple myeloma until her primary care physician suggested it one Friday afternoon in early December 2016.

Ellen working the farm_edit3"I didn’t know enough to be scared, upset or what to expect,” Ellen said.

Ellen had gone to see her doctor because she was having debilitating pain in her back and was unable to walk. She thought she had a herniated disc, but certainly did not expect anything worse.

Her doctor pursued her symptoms and found the tumor.

By 8 a.m. on Monday, with her sister in tow, Ellen was in Georgia Cancer Specialists’ Athens office with Dr. Priya Rudolph to discuss myeloma and treatment options.

“Both my sister and I felt that this was a highly competent, knowledgeable, but caring and kind, doctor,” Ellen said. “No need to look further; I was in good hands.”

“My first bone marrow biopsy was no picnic and it showed my numbers were sky high,” Ellen said. “I had radiation treatment for the tumor on my spine; the tumor was painful and made walking difficult. I was started on REVLIMID and steroids and the numbers quickly fell.”

When Ellen became a patient of Dr. Rudolph, she became part of the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute system of care. She was referred to Dr. Melhem Solh, medical director of Northside’s Cellular Therapy Program. Dr. Solh felt Ellen was a good candidate for a stem cell transplant.

“The hard part was being away from my farm and animals,” Ellen said.

Ellen has raised commercial Angus cows for over 30 years and takes care of surrendered and rescued animals, including miniature donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, emus, llamas, horses and dogs. She was fortunate to have friends and neighbors to pitch in and help.

“Three neighbors brought their 10-foot Bush Hogs and mowed my entire farm to keep the pastures in shape. I was able to manage the selling of calves, buying hay and purchasing new bulls for breeding,” Ellen said. “I bought an especially handsome, nice-tempered Hereford bull from a farm down the road.”

Ellen named him after Dr. Solh.

“I also had a pair of white peacocks that I named Lord and Lady Rudolph, after Dr. Rudolph,” Ellen added.

“I truly believe my survival was due to their knowledge, skill and genuine concern.”

It has been more than six years since Ellen’s diagnosis. She is still on her farm with her “cows and critters.” She is closely monitored when needed and knows all the new treatments will be available to her through her doctors and Northside.

“I am grateful for all the health care professionals who have looked after me these last six years and will be there for me the next 10 years."

Learn more about multiple myeloma care at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.

* 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% five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.



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