Beyond a diagnosis, she found her destiny
The care and support Anna Cox received as a patient at UK Markey Cancer Center has led her to pursue a career as a doctor.
When she was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, Anna Cox relied on the support of her care team and her boyfriend, along with her faith in God. She found an inner strength to get her through treatment and a new purpose and goal to help others like her.
Cox was 23 when she developed severe stomach pain that got steadily worse over several days. She knew she needed to go to the ER, and her boyfriend asked where she wanted to go. Cox chose UK HealthCare. A CT scan of Cox’s abdomen showed an infected, swollen lymph node, and doctors suspected cancer. A biopsy several days later confirmed she had stage IV diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive type of blood cancer.
Treatment would be complex and involve a variety of UK HealthCare teams, including infectious disease specialists and hematologists/oncologists. Cox knew she’d made theright choice in going to UK HealthCare. “Reflecting on it now,” she said, “it couldn’t have turned out any better. I can’t imagine my treatment plan at any other institution.”
Cox started an outpatient chemotherapy regimen called R-CHOP, which is the standard therapy for her type of lymphoma. R-CHOP is a combination of three chemotherapy drugs, a monoclonal antibody and a steroid. The drugs work together to target and kill cancer cells. Cox visited Markey every three weeks for a six-treatment series.
Throughout her care, Cox leaned on the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers at the Markey Cancer Center. When she was scared or confused, they were there for her. “They brought so much ease and comfort into my life as I was going through the scariest time,” she said.
Cox completed chemotherapy in December 2018, six months after her diagnosis. She was in remission. Dr. Chaitanya Iragavarapu is the Markey hematologist who currently oversees Cox’s follow-up care. “The majority of those who go through R-CHOP tend to have a really good response to treatment, in that the cancer either disappears completely, or for the most part,” Iragavarapu said. “And about two-thirds of folks who go through R-CHOP chemotherapy tend to have long-lasting remissions.”
Iragavarapu sees Cox every six months for follow-up assessments, which have remained clear. Cox feels healthy, her hair has grown back and she and her then-boyfriend have gotten married.
All the support she received from her providers at Markey inspired Cox. She made the choice to return to school at the Bowling Green campus of UK College of Medicine and become a doctor herself. “Seeing that patient-provider relationship, the instant trust, and the fact that they literally had to guide me through this unknown, super scary situation — I want to do that,” Cox said. “I want to be on the other end. I want to help someone else get through their scary time.”
If it weren’t for her diagnosis, Cox says she never would’ve made the choice to become a doctor. “ It has done a 180 on my life, and I’m so thankful,” she said. “Because I never in a million years would have ended where I am if it weren’t for my experience. There’s always a reason that something’s happening. I got diagnosed with cancer, but there’s so much good — I know what I’m supposed to do with my life. And I really feel like I’ve figured out God’s plan for me.”