Staying Grateful Amid Cancer
- Soap opera star Kassie DePaiva, 62, embodies true strength as she recently opened up about battling two different types of cancer—leukemia and breast cancer. She battled both types of cancer with an uplifting outlook on life and remains “grateful” for all that she’s overcome.
- Speaking on a recent podcast episode, DePaiva revealed to have battled both acute myeloid leukemia and breast cancer.
- Acute myeloid leukemia, otherwise known as AML, is a type blood cancer that affects the spongy tissue inside of your bones called bone marrow. Acute myeloid leukemia is rare, but it’s the most common type of leukemia in adults.
- DePaiva underwent a lumpectomy following her breast cancer diagnosis. Unlike a mastectomy, which completely removes one or both breasts, a lumpectomy targets a specific part of the breast by removing only the tumor and surrounding tissue.
DePaiva, known for her memorable roles as Bobby Joe in the horror film Evil Dead II, Blair Cramer on ABC’s “One Life to Live,” and Eve Donovan on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” discussed her health battles in a recent episode of the “Dishing with Digest” podcast.Read More
DePaiva explained, “I went to a country jamboree up at Hunter Mountain and I’m sitting on a chair lift… I feel under my arm, I go, ‘That’s weird.’ I felt two knots. So I thought, ‘Hmm.’ And they weren’t painful. I know I didn’t feel bad, nothing.”
She continued, “And so, I had to go back the next day to California … so I called and set up an appointment with my doctor and said, ‘Okay, coming back in July. Can you fit me in because I have these little knots? I just want to make sure everything’s okay.’ Well, did a biopsy, and you know the rest is history.”
To her surprise, did not have breast cancer at the time. Instead, her first cancer diagnosis turned out to be a rare type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia.
She did, however, get breast one year later.
“I did get breast cancer a year later. I laugh and am like, ‘Can you believe it?’ But I had a lumpectomy and everything was clear and so right now, as it stands, I’m cancer free and happy.”
Thank you so much for the beautiful clock to commemorate 30 years of BLAIR! Thank you fans for a wonderful journey and it’s an honor to share it with you! Each of you made it happen!! #grateful #oltl #gh #abc pic.twitter.com/Kge1tF225j
— Kassie DePaiva (@KassieDePaiva) September 13, 2023
The cancer warrior admitted that, at this moment, she’s “cancer-free and happy,” adding, “God is good and life is good and I’m grateful.”
Revealing how she dealt with chemotherapy side effects, she said, “I was explaining how chemo is just so awful for your body and how it’s not day to day, it’s minute to minute.
“You know, you think, ‘Okay, I’m gonna be good,’ and then you get up and all of a sudden your body eliminates… I mean it was, are you faint or are you gonna throw up? It’s just yucky.”
DePaiva, who is set to reprise her “One Life to Live” role as Blair Cramer on General Hospital, first spoke about her leukemia diagnosis on her blog, on her website, in 2017.
Expert Blood Cancer Resources
- Blood Cancer Comes in More than 100 Varieties: How They Differ & What They Have in Common
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) — What Are The Symptoms?
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Treatment Options After Relapse
- Advancements in Treating Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Genetics Of Acute Myeloid Leukemia –What Is A Subgroup?
- Stem-Cell Transplants to Treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia: What You Need to Know Before, During, and After
“(I) have spent 6 of the last 9 weeks in the hospital.I will continue treatment over the next 3 months. My prognosis is good, I will not likely need a stem cell/bone marrow transplant, and we expect a complete cure. I consider this just a bump in the road,” she wrote at the time.
“I have amazing prayer warriors, family, and friends that have been extremely supportive. I have a strong faith that strengthens me every step of the way.”
We admire how far DePaiva has come since her cancer diagnoses and the positive attitude and support she had along the way.
Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Acute myeloid leukemia, otherwise known as AML, is a type blood cancer that affects the spongy tissue inside of your bones called bone marrow. Acute myeloid leukemia is rare, but it’s the most common type of leukemia in adults.
Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, chief of the Division of Hematology at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, says bone marrow is essentially the factory that makes all of the cells in the blood stream. This includes the red blood cells that bring oxygen to our tissues, white blood cells that make up the immune system and the platelets which help stop bleeding.
Dr. Sekeres explains that a person with AML essentially has “broken” factory because the bone marrow fills with cancer cells. This, in turn, hinders the creation and function of the crucial blood cells.
“So there’s a bit of a paradox,” Dr. Sekeres previously told SurvivorNet. “The bone marrow has too many cells, yet the bloodstream has too few cells as the normal bone marrow cells die off.”
Signs of AML can include feeling unwell, shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, unexplained bruising or infections. But it’s important to remember that some people with AML have no symptoms at all.
“Most of the time, this comes as an unwelcome surprise diagnosis,” Dr. Gail Roboz, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet. “Often, patients have no idea that leukemia is even anywhere on the radar.
“Sometimes patients actually have no symptoms at all and may be diagnosed in the course of a completely routine evaluation.”
Learning About The Surgery DePaiva Underwent: Lumpectomy
When considering surgery for breast cancer, or to prevent breast cancer, one common decision that will arise for women is whether they should go through a mastectomy or lumpectomy, which DePaiva had done.
Unlike a mastectomy, which completely removes one or both breasts, a lumpectomy targets a specific part of the breast by removing only the tumor and surrounding tissue.
One of the main benefits of considering a lumpectomy, if it’s possible, is that the procedure itself only takes about an hour and the patient can usually go home the same day. Lumpectomies are usually a good route to take for those diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Radiation treatment is usually given as well in order to minimize the risk of recurrence.
Some women may believe that going through a mastectomy is the best way of preventing a breast cancer diagnosis, but experts have told SurvivorNet that’s not always the case. The size of the tumor, its genetic markers, and the patient’s family history are all factors to consider when choosing which surgery to undergo.
“So many patients will come in wanting both breasts removed, but we’ll end up with lumpectomy and radiation, which is really standard of care,” Dr. Sarah Cate, lead physician for the Special Surveillance Breast Program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, previously told SurvivorNet.
Recovering from Breast Cancer
After a cancer diagnosis, it feels like a tablecloth has been pulled out from under you. It’s extremely overwhelming. Getting opinions and condolences from family, friends, survivors, doctors, and nurses. It’s hard to know where to turn as you adapt to your new normal.
Some women have surgery, some chemo sessions, and it’s over. They seemingly bounce back to their normal lives. Others can have complications after surgery for years and suffer trauma, or an experience more in the middle. There is no journey that is the same.
One thing that many cancer survivors will agree with, is that although their futures may seem more uncertain after a life-changing experience, they live to appreciate each and every day.
“My patients who thrive, even with stage 4 cancer, I kind of am pretty good at seeing who is going to be OK,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
“Now (that) doesn’t mean I’m good at saying that the cancer won’t grow,” he said. “But I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patient (is) going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest. Those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
Many patients will say that their lives, overall, changed for the better and shaped them into different people. So, no matter what part of the journey you are on, it is important to hold out hope that this dreadful disease happened for a reason, and always keep pushing forward.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff