April 21st is AML World Awareness Day. This is an important day for people across the world to come together to bring awareness to this rare cancer. In honor of this day, we have asked four AML patients and an AML caregiver to share their perspective on why AML awareness is important to them.
Why is bringing awareness to AML important to you?
Steve Buechler, AML survivor and published author of How Steve Became Ralph (www.stevebuechlerauthor.com), provides three reasons why bringing awareness is important to him based off of his own personal experience with AML.
- Awareness leads to broader education about the disease among the general population. Because AML needs to be treated immediately, patients who are newly diagnosed often begin to receive treatment before they even know what the word leukemia actually means. Having a general sense about leukemia, ideally AML in particular, would be advantageous to any individual who may become newly diagnosed.
- Awareness leads to better screening for AML. Because it is possible to have AML and not know it, it's important to have regular, annual check-ups with your primary care doctor and possibly more often if you are older. Additionally, the symptoms for AML can be very non-specific. Symptoms such as abnormal onset of fatigue, irregular bruising or nightsweats warrant a trip to your doctor for evaluation and collection of a complete blood count if your doctor has not already ordered one.
- Awareness leads to more rapid treatment and intervention if someone does have AML. Because AML is one of the most aggressive blood cancers, it needs to be treated almost immediately after diagnosis. Early treatment is absolutely necessary.
Kerith Amen, former caregiver to her husband Rob, and Co-Director of our HealthTree for AML programs, shares several reasons why it is important to her to bring awareness to AML.
- Awareness will spur more research and progress in developing better treatment options for AML. While 9 drugs have been FDA approved for AML over the recent years, outcomes for many people are still poor. More progress and drug development still needs to occur. Awareness helps the general population to know that there is still so much work and research that needs to be put into treating this cancer.
- Awareness helps people who are living with AML to know that they are not alone. Only about 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with AML each year, making up 1% of all cancer diagnoses. While considered a rare cancer, if you are an individual with AML, it's likely you will realize someone else around you has experienced it too. It's important for people with AML and their caregivers to know that there is a community out there who can support them throughout this difficult time.
- Awareness helps to manage grief. If you have lost someone to AML, raising awareness can provide comfort by allowing you to meet others who have been through a similar experience while also knowing that you are bringing attention to the work that needs to be done to develop more treatments that lead to cures.
- Awareness encourages people to donate their blood, platelets and stem cells, all of which are life saving therapies for those with AML. Signing up to become a blood and/or stem cell donor are some of the most important things someone without AML can do to help those who do have AML. Awareness of this life threatening disease and teaching people about how critical these donations are saves lives. To learn more about becoming a stem cell donor, click here.
Rob Hale, AML survivor who was diagnosed a year ago in April 2021, has a strong interest in bringing awareness to AML and is doing so by documenting his journey on Instagram (@robs_cancer_journey). He believes awareness is important because due to it's uncommonness, funding for research isn't as high of a priority as other cancers despite it's extremely aggressive nature. He states many people are aware of the word leukemia, but don't necessairly know anything about the characteristics of the disease let alone that there are several different types of leukemia. When Rob was diagnosed, he experienced avoidance from certain friends and family simply because they had no idea what he was going through. Awareness lessens the feelings of isolation if people understand what you are up against with a disease like AML. Rob hopes that by raising awareness for AML that it will make the illness more approachable to others so that they will not be afraid to talk about it with those going through it. He also hopes awareness will shine a light on the disease so that it will get more funding that it so desperately needs and deserves. Rob agrees with Kerith that more stem cell donors are needed and awareness will hopefully encourage people to sign up to be on donor registries.
Julie Moser spent all of 2021 fighting for her life after being diagnosed with AML. Bringing awareness to AML is important to Julie because she realized first hand how critical time is to receiving treatment as rapidly as possible. She wants to bring awareness to the fact that while the statistics for AML can be scary, we as individuals are not statistics. The more we raise awareness about AML, the more we will learn about what it means for those who are impacted by this disease and be able to better support them.
Bring Awareness to AML by Sharing These HealthTree University Videos
Helping people to understand the basics of AML is the first step in raising awareness. Today on AML World Awareness Day, share the videos of Steve, Julie, Rob and Kerith along with these HealthTree University videos on your social media to help your friends and family learn about AML! To share, hover over the video and click the "share" button on the top right corner of the video.
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about the author
Katie joined HealthTree as the Community Director for AML in 2021. She is a registered dietitian who previously worked at the VA hospital in Dallas, Texas where she coached veterans with blood cancer on how to use nutrition to improve their treatment outcomes and minimize cancer-related side effects. Katie is passionate about health education and patient empowerment. In her spare time, she loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, spend time running outdoors and travel to new places.