In December 2008, Penny Garrett was diagnosed with Uterine Leiomyosarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer affecting four in one million people each year. It is so rare, that Penny's local oncologist had never seen the type of cancer before. She was fortunate to be directed to the care of Dr. Robert Benjamin at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She quickly learned that patients with a rare form of cancer should seek medical care from a Specialist - a doctor who has treated at least 100 patients with the same rare disease. Specialists will know the available treatment options and assist you in finding the right one for your case.
Penny endured three major surgeries, 17 difficult rounds of chemotherapy and numerous trips to Houston. In November 2009, Penny had a recurrence and had another major surgery in January 2010. Because she gets regular scans and check ups, the tumor was detected early and no chemotherapy was required. Her doctor reminded her that early detection is the reason she travels to Houston to see him every eight weeks. It makes a big difference in the way the tumor is treated.
At a routine check-up in January 2014, Penny was diagnosed with Myelodyplastic Syndrome (MDS), a type of blood cancer that was caused from the chemotherapy used to treat her first cancer (LMS). More chemotherapy, blood transfusions and trips to Houston ensued, and she learned that the only cure for MDS was a stem cell transplant. A perfect match was found in the bone marrow donor database and the transplant was on July 23rd. After the transplant, Penny had to stay in Houston for 100 days, the first 30 days in isolation at the hospital and the remainder of time in housing close by to continue being monitored. Five days before she was supposed to come back home to Virginia, she was admitted to the ICU with cytomegalovirus (CMV), pneumonia and other infections which compromised her lungs, eventually causing her death. She fought bravely, but died peacefully surrounded by family.