Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 53

53
confirmed she had acute myeloid
leukemia, or AML. The second most
common type of leukemia in adults,
AML greatly impairs the immune
system by affecting myeloid cells,
which usually go on to develop
into red blood cells and special types
of white blood cells but instead
aren't able to develop normally.
She started wearing a mask whenever she went outside, long before
it became the norm in the wake of
COVID-19. "I feel like everyone
is with me now," she says. "They
understand why sometimes I would
try to sneak out to go to Target. You
start to feel stir-crazy when you're
pent up at home."

UVA Health
Hematology/
Oncology Team

Indumathy
Varadarajan,
MD

PHOTO BY THERESA ZANETTI

PHOTOS BY UVA HEALTH

Finding a New Normal

Before her diagnosis, Zanetti
worked as part of a close-knit
team of UVA dietitians who help
people undergoing dialysis for
kidney failure.
"My colleagues have been tremendously supportive," Zanetti
shares. "Right after my diagnosis,
it was like a revolving door. I didn't
have time to think of anything
negative because I had that many
visitors." Her UVA Health colleagues continued to send cards
and sweet treats even after she
moved to Houston to participate
in a clinical trial. (See "Striving for
a Cure.")
Going from a UVA Health team
member to an on-again, off-again
hospital patient was difficult. But
Zanetti quickly found ways to cope.
"I'm comfortable with the hospital,
since I work here. But when I first
got here as a patient, I thought I
had to stay trapped in my room.
I'm not a good trapped person,
because I have a lot of energy,"
Zanetti says.
Before social distancing measures
were put in place, she set up her
hospital room like her dorm room,
hanging up pictures and a calendar. "And to try to feel as normal
as possible, my husband, Derik,
comes over for lunch and brings me
my mail," she says. "I'll take care of

Michael
Douvas, MD

When I meet
people in tough
circumstances-
diagnosed
with cancers
that are hard-
regardless of their
limitations, people
unbelievably rise
to the occasion.

-Michael
Douvas, MD

something with Hudson's school
or send an email. I'll log credits
for being a nutritionist. I try to
keep busy."
She loves to make to-do lists, but
as a full-time cancer fighter, she
realizes that some days she has to
just rest. "You really can't plan any
more, but definitely I continue to
have goals and hope," Zanetti says.
Above all, she shares, her illness has
given her time to reflect on what's
most important: "being able to slow
down and really connect and get
to know people that maybe I only
knew, for example, in meetings," she
says. "I have gained so many friendships and received so much support
throughout my situation. I have
been beyond blessed."

The Perfect Patient

Among her new friends are the
caring and skilled members of the
UVA Hematology/Oncology team,
including Indumathy Varadarajan,
MD, and Michael Douvas, MD,
whom she saw almost weekly for
more than a year after her diagnosis.
"Dr. Douvas has been nothing but
amazing. I feel lucky that I got him.
... He has a great bedside manner.
He could almost be your dad. I feel
so confident in what he tells me.
I do trust him 100 percent."
As a doctor who cares for patients
facing cancer, Dr. Douvas is accustomed to seeing resilience in people.
Even so, Zanetti is exceptional, he
says. "When I meet people in tough
circumstances-diagnosed with
cancers that are hard-regardless of
their limitations, people unbelievably rise to the occasion. In general,
most people really do amaze me," he
says. "That being said, Ms. Zanetti is
remarkable. She is always positive.
It doesn't mean that she's not realistic, but she's always doing everything
she can to make herself better. She's
always kind to everyone she comes
into contact with, whether it's fellow
patients or providers or someone
walking down the hall. When I face
a challenge, I hope I can face it like
she does." *

Striving
for a Cure

At UVA Cancer Center,
Theresa Zanetti's doctors
were able to get her cancer
into remission (showing
no sign of disease) for
nine months. But then she
had a setback. Her cancer returned and proved
resistant even to a strong
inhibitor drug that targeted
her cancer's type of genetic
mutation. Michael Douvas,
MD, suggested she join a
clinical trial not yet available locally. It was a difficult decision, but with deep
trust in Dr. Douvas, she
knew it was the right step.
On March 19, at the dawn
of the COVID-19 pandemic,
she flew to Houston. She
was put on three drugs, and
by mid-April, tests revealed
her cancer was in remission. She stayed in Houston
for a transplant to replace
her damaged bone marrow.
"This will give her a new
blood-making and immune
organ and hopefully a
cure," Dr. Douvas says.
Zanetti looks forward to
transferring her care back to
UVA. Until then, she keeps
everyone updated through
social media. "I promise I
am not full of myself," she
says, laughing. "But I do
enjoy taking these fashion
pictures and posting them
on Facebook along with my
medical updates. I feel so
fortunate to be loved by my
friends and family."

Why Turn
to UVA?

Because of its success
rates in treating leukemia,
UVA has been designated
a center of excellence
by many insurance companies. Discover more at
uvahealth.com/leukemia.

VIM & VIGOR WINTER 2020

V1_VVWI2088_52-53_Leukemia.indd 53

9/21/20 4:35 PM


http://www.uvahealth.com/leukemia

Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA

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Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 3
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 5
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 53
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover4
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