Whatever Happens, the Patient Has to be at the Center
In honor of World Cancer Day, we sat down with two Adapters to understand how their personal experiences with cancer intersect with their work at Adaptive. Kathy Thompson (Key Account Manager, clonoSEQ sales) is a stage 1 colorectal cancer survivor. Shannon Fatigante (Talent Acquisition Senior Program Manager) has a father currently fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Shannon: When my dad called me last summer, he very calmly shared that his recent bloodwork had revealed that he had cancer – specifically CLL.
In that moment, my whole world slowed down.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Once I collected myself, my brain caught up with me and it registered that he said CLL. Immediately a few things became clear and put my racing mind at ease: 1) We have a test for measuring cancer burden in CLL. 2) There’s longevity with this type of blood cancer. Treatment advancements are being made at an outstanding pace, which meant this could be a chronic condition. I almost immediately reached out to my colleagues on the diagnostic team to learn more about the disease and received so much helpful information, an example of which can be found here.
Kathy was an incredible resource who offered me comfort and reassurance and has continued to check in on me as my father’s journey continues.
Kathy: I was so happy to help. I’ve worked in oncology for nearly 20 years. But I know from experience, being on the patient’s side of things, it’s different. I didn’t understand how different until it happened to me.
Last February, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After two agonizing weeks waiting for test results, I learned that my cancer was stage 1 and operable. I was operated on robotically but was rushed back to the ER within days after going into septic shock, where I coded for 10 minutes. Against the odds, I survived the ordeal and spent two and a half months rehabilitating at the hospital. With my one-year surgery anniversary around the corner, I recently met with the trauma surgeon who saved my life and shared my gratitude.
Their empathy for me and willingness to go the extra mile made all the difference in my care. As a patient, you have to advocate for yourself or your loved one. I heard at a conference once that patients only retain one quarter of information received during an appointment. I always tell patients I meet to take a notebook to doctor’s appointments, ask to record conversations so you can refer to them later, and don’t delay your colonoscopy!
Shannon: Absolutely. After talking to Kathy and heeding her advice, I’m so much more prepared to be a resource for my dad and his caregiver, even if it’s just as a shoulder to lean on, or a person to vent to without fear of judgement. Recently, my dad was told he needed treatment and after speaking with his doctor, he was able to get tested for minimal residual disease (MRD) so he could better understand what was happening inside his body. Luckily my dad is feeling well today. Having access to information about his minimal residual disease that can potentially guide important care decisions has been an immense comfort to my dad and me.
We’re not lost here.
Kathy: That reassurance is priceless. For me, I have to get a CT and blood work every three months to catch any sort of recurrence. The weeks leading up to those appointments I’m making myself crazy, looking up symptoms and trying to identify if anything feels off.
As a CLL patient tracking his MRD, Shannon’s dad knows that there is a test that can find his cancer in 1 in a million cells, and that’s a whole different kind of relief. I don’t have that kind of reassurance, but I want that for every blood cancer patient.
Shannon: I know you do! You’ve made me feel so understood and proud to work at Adaptive. I’ve always felt so driven by the patient aspect of our work, but now I’m connected to it in a whole different way. I know what we do is helping my dad and others. I know I am helping to recruit and build teams, so this important work is in the right hands, and ultimately helping patients. I meet with diagnostic sales specialists, share my own story, and I can see how the right people connect with me and meet that level of passion, and that attracts them to Adaptive.
Kathy: You aren’t a good oncology rep unless you really care. A huge part of our job is patient advocacy. Shannon and I both know at the end of the day, whatever happens, the patient has to be at the center.
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