December 15, 2016

Twenty Years and Going Strong

Patricia Harrison-Yates has been a myeloma survivor for a very long time. Twenty years, to be exact. She came to the Myeloma Center in 1996, underwent two transplants and has been doing well ever since.

Originally from California, Harrison-Yates moved to Joplin, Missouri, when she and her then-husband were ready to start a family. During a visit with relatives, they fell in love with the lush, green landscape and decided it was an ideal, rural area to raise children. So, they packed up and moved. Harrison-Yates’ in-laws, who had just retired, made the move with them.

Life was good, with three children, involved grandparents and expansive acreage of beautiful land. Harrison-Yates had a busy career and also pursued her passion for gardening by becoming a Master Gardener.

A diagnosis of myeloma hit Harrison-Yates when her kids were in college. Fortunately, the UAMS Myeloma Center was just a four-hour drive away. Not one to waste time, Harrison-Yates was determined to face the myeloma head-on and get started with treatment. Her “can do” attitude was in high gear.

In addition to being enrolled in a clinical trial for treatment, Harrison-Yates also participated in a research bone marrow and blood donation protocol for myeloma and related disorders; she has always had an interest in helping move the science forward. She has had more than 30 bone marrow biopsies done, all without any sedation. Her mindset is to “put on your big boy pants” and do what has to be done.

At home between cycles of treatment, Harrison-Yates found solace and confirmation in the land.

“Pulling out a weed — even just one weed ­— was my validation that everything was OK,” she said.

Although her children were not physically close by when she was undergoing treatment, they were able to follow her progress and provide support from a distance. Harrison-Yates thinks that probably inspired them to gravitate to health-related professions.

Reminiscing recently with Sonja Thornes, the Myeloma Center’s customer services manager and a 25- year employee, Harrison-Yates said, “When I had problems, Sonja took care of me.”

She was referring to insurance issues. Harrison-Yates met Thornes on her first visit to the Myeloma Center, when Thornes led the new patient intake and insurance division. They have been in touch on a regular basis since then, including the years when Harrison-Yates was back in California and was followed by a physician there.

Harrison-Yates has made special trips to Little Rock to attend two long-term survivor celebrations at the Myeloma Center – one in 2007 and one in 2012. There was no way she was going to miss the opportunity to gather with fellow patients and Myeloma Center doctors and nurses in the spirit of thanks, gratitude and hope for a cure in the future.

Harrison-Yates feels confident that she is cured. She enjoys each day, cherishes her time with her children and grandchildren, all of whom are in the Joplin area, and travels extensively (a trip to Puget Sound is coming up next). By continuing to participate in the research bone marrow and blood donation protocol, she is helping ensure progress in developing treatments that will bring a cure to many patients today and in the future. In her words, “Life
is good.”