Dr Katina Stewart DVM – One Year After Acute Myeloid Leukemia Diagnosis

Before I give you an update, I have two big thank-you’s and one recap.

Oh, my goodness thank-you.

First, thank you for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, gifts and kindness. I knew that I love, and care for you and your pets, but I never stopped to think about how much you care. After getting over my embarrassment at not being grateful or appreciative of that, I can say what an utterly amazing gift you’ve given me – to know that I am so cared for. No matter what happens, nothing can ever take that away from me. Thank you, absolutely. Full stop.

Second, thank you for continuing to support our local veterinary clinic in Martensville as well as our online store! Luckily, I am just one small part of an amazing team that has been able to continue delivering exceptional healthcare to your pets. I know it hasn’t been easy on you this year. You’d love to be in clinic with your pets and the team, and I know everybody on the team wants you there too! It’s just not the same. I know you’ve had longer waits, and sometimes can’t get in when normally you would be able to. We are updating our phones for all the curbside, tele-medicine and accidental dropped calls 🙁  Please know that the team is dedicated and are doing their best to adapt and grow. I can’t step in the building or practice yet, but every single staff member has called or talked to me about how they can be serving you and your pets well. Thank you for your patronage and patience, thank you for the feedback, and thank you for sharing advice about areas we can improve.

Cancer Journey Recap

February 17, 2020. Dr. Lange had been out with the flu. My husband was on an ice climbing trip. I had been working a lot and was a little tired. Then I thought I had the flu and sent my 14-year-old daughter for a sleepover. I was manning a booth at the Pet Expo in Martensville, and for the first time in my life, I asked the girls if they could cover for me so I could just go home and sleep so I would be ready to work on Tuesday and not infect anyone.  I thought I was getting better, but Monday night I had an odd pain that went from the middle of my back around to one side of my ribs. It got worse as Monday night went on, and I called an ambulance. Sheepishly.

The doctors did x-rays and found fluid in my lungs and a lab error on the bloodwork. I picked up some antibiotics for pneumonia and went home. Thankfully, whoever was looking at the bloodwork sent it off for an evaluation. I was called the next morning and rushed through emergency. Despite wandering around and cracking jokes, I actually did have zero immune cells it wasn’t a lab error. It wasn’t the flu. It was acute myelogenous leukemia. Untreated, many people die within 14 days. I was on day five.

It turns out that I’m in one of the best provinces in the country, because almost all of the treatments and services are covered. I’m in the best year yet; just four years ago, they may not have had the knowledge or treatments to save me. It also turns out, we are one of the top three facilities in North America for acute myelogenous leukemia, and we have an amazing stem cell transplant unit right here at the Royal University hospital! Who knew?  And somehow, someone in Europe donated stem cells that were an excellent match and they were able to get them here, even though we were in the early days of Covid19.  So as far as these things go, I’m in the best hands possible, best time, and place. My heart, lungs, and kidneys have remained healthy, and I have no more detectible leukemia cells.  I am in remission as of November 2020.

Current Update on Dr. Stewart

I am doing well in all the important ways.  I really appreciate and am grateful for my new life. With that said, it’s not going quite as well as we all hoped. Some of the treatments that have saved my life did some permanent damage. My new donor cells are getting a little aggressive with my skin and guts. The amazing medical team here have me on several different treatments and medication that seem to be controlling that. But these medications are also giving me the side effects of suppressing my immune system and preventing me from coming to the clinic, or leaving the house really. I am sure glad to be in my house with my family though!

Perhaps more concerning to my career is fatigue and memory loss. As many of you that have undergone treatments, or been close to those that have had similar treatment, know, it is common to get a foggy brain and not be able to work with new information as well as you used to. I am told to think of it a little bit like an acquired brain injury, and a little bit like a concussion.  It certainly may get better. However, until it does get better and I can be precise and reliable, I will not practice veterinary medicine. We all know that’s the best decision. As heartbreaking as it is to me personally, I would never want to put any pet in jeopardy. I will stay hopeful. It is my dream to come back and actively practice as a DVM.

In the meantime, I will work on thinking about new ways to serve pets and people through Martensville Veterinary Hospital and focus on getting better.

I miss you,

C Katina Stewart, DVM.