Myeloma Patient in Remission, Grateful for Additional Time

Linda Reins of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and her husband Robert recently learned she is in complete remission.

Linda Reins of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and her husband Robert recently learned she is in complete remission. “Dr van Rhee has given me time and hope,” she said.

| Linda Reins, 73, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is no stranger to cancer. In 1985, when she was 40, her local gynecologist’s office floored her with the first diagnosis.

“They told me, ‘You’re pregnant and oh, you also have cervical cancer,’ said Reins, who had two teenaged sons at the time. “The next day, my husband at the time said ‘I can’t handle this; I’m out of here’ and left me.”

Reins had a full hysterectomy shortly after her daughter, now 33, was born and she didn’t require any additional treatment.

She has since remarried, and she and husband Robert, an executive vice president with a bank, will celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

Two years after her diagnosis of cervical cancer, Reins battled breast cancer, defeating it with a lumpectomy.

In early 2018, while being treated for a broken hip in Tulsa, a full-body CT scan revealed a lesion in the ball of her hip.

“The doctor told me ‘You have multiple myeloma and it is incurable,’” Reins said. “And I cried. We had never heard of this type of cancer.”

In retrospect, the location of the rare blood disease was a blessing.

“The cancer was contained to just the ball of my hip, they took it out and replaced it,” said Reins, who recently retired from the University of Tulsa as an administrative assistant following a long career with a private oil and gas exploration and production company.

Not long after her diagnosis, she discovered a friend of hers in Tulsa was a 14-year myeloma survivor of myeloma. They had dinner on a Friday evening and Reins’ friend, a patient of Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., urged her to seek treatment at the UAMS Myeloma Center. Her friend emailed Dr. van Rhee that night.

“The next day, which was a Saturday, Dr. van Rhee called and talked to me for at least 40 minutes,” Reins said during a recent checkup at UAMS.

Linda and her husband did a lot of research looking for the best place to have her cancer treated. UAMS with its long-term survival rate was at the top of her list. It is difficult to decide to leave home and be treated in another state, she said, but after speaking with Dr. Van Rhee, she decided UAMS is where she should be.)

She began seeing van Rhee, who diagnosed her myeloma as aggressive, high risk. She underwent two stem cell transplants, the latest one in February. She learned during her recent visit she is in remission.

“I am very grateful to Dr. van Rhee,” she said of the center’s clinical director. “He is remarkable and one of the smartest and caring people I know. No matter how busy the man is, I truly believe he looks at everything in each patient’s chart.”

She added that the protocols used at the center and the way treatment is structured are remarkable and lifesaving.

“If you really want to have a good chance of extending your life,  the place to go is the UAMS Myeloma Center,” she said.

The center does two tests that are unique to UAMS.

“One is the genome test and the other one shows what type of myeloma you have; whether it’s aggressive or regular,” Reins said. “Those are the two most important tests you can have.”

There were rough patches throughout her treatment. She contracted a rare fungal infection in her lungs following her second transplant and was treated by Mary Burgess, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine.

“My husband and I are very thankful we had the opportunity to come to the UAMS Myeloma Center and are even more grateful to have Dr. van Rhee as my physician,” Reins said.

“My experience at UAMS was made much easier thanks to the professional team assisting Dr. van Rhee, the exemplary staff people working in Infusion 4, and the process used by the center in its treatment protocol.”

“I have never met anyone there who wasn’t kind or helpful; he has surrounded himself with wonderful and knowledgeable people.”

“I have been so blessed,” said Reins, today a grandmother of six. “And to hear the words ‘complete remission’ was really, really nice. Dr. van Rhee has given me time and hope.”