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Teri Powell: When Chronic Meets Courage

By Abby Henry Singh April 1, 2013Survivor Stories

College graduation heralds new beginnings: freedom from school rigors, fresh possibilities, and entry into independent adulthood.In 1999, Teri Powell had a few short months of that euphoria before her life forever changed.

At 23, increasingly tired and bruising easily, Teri thought she might be anemic and pushed for lab work. On August 5, she learned she had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a malignancy more commonly diagnosed in older Caucasians. Teri’s newfound, young adult world came to a screeching halt. While her friends established careers, homes, and relationships, Teri navigated doctor appointments, treatments, and blood transfusions. Coping with a sobering prognosis of 3 – 5 years to live, Teri battled to stay strong.”I knew I couldn’t fall apart or my sister and mother would,” she says.

By December, Teri’s treatment regimen was not working.After hearing a news report that a “miracle drug” was showing great promise in the treatment of CML, Teri called her doctor.She agreed that Teri should enroll in the clinical trial. The day after Christmas, Teri boarded a plane to Houston with newfound hope in drug ST157 (later known as Gleevec).

The clinical trial drug delivered its promise, and Teri managed a normal semblance of young adulthood.She began her career, volunteered, and traveled, all while coping with side effects, insurance woes, and the decision of when to disclose her illness in new relationships.Teri kept the disease at bay until 2010. Then when troubling bloodwork began once again, she shifted to another non-trial regimen, a drug she remains on today that will hopefully lead to full remission.

Approaching a 15-year milestone in her survivorship, Teri, a client of PearlPoint Cancer Support, reflects on being diagnosed with a chronic illness at such a young age.

“Having cancer since I was 23 has definitely robbed me of freedoms other adults my age may take for granted,” says Teri. “Yet I live my life with purpose and clarity.While I don’t accept cancer, I do accept it as part of my life story.Doing that has freed me from it in so many ways, and I just don’t let it interfere with my life goals. I’m not putting my life on hold any longer. I want to thrive, not just survive.”

Watch Teri’s Journal of Hope video exclusive below.

Abby Henry Singh

Author Abby Henry Singh

Manger Content, Outreach, and Outcomes Abby Henry Singh is a native of Sevierville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in English and history. She has been a member of PearlPoint Cancer Support for over 5 years. Previously, Singh was the Program and Outreach Manger for the Lupus Foundation of America, Mid-South Chapter where she worked to raise disease awareness and support those diagnosed with the disease through educational programs. She is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and the Belmont English alumni book club.

More posts by Abby Henry Singh

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  • Karen Baxter says:

    Thank you for sharing your Story. My daughter is 24 and recently was diagnosed with classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Your story and a coworker says to keep living normal but with additives of Prayer and changing to a better diet. She is very positive. her life was moving in a great direction, recently engaged, new car, new home, job promotion and preparing to walk across the stage as a college graduate, even stating for her new years resolution she wants to study more about God… Then this news hit us like a Mack Truck. We’re managing and keeping a positive outlook towards the future. So thanks again for sharing your story.


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