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11Alive's Donna Lowry battles same cancer as Tom Brokaw

8:52 PM, Feb 20, 2014   |    comments
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The news that veteran NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw had a cancer called multiple myeloma may have sent other journalists searching for more information on the disease. Not 11Alive's education reporter Donna Lowry. She's battled the cancer for several years. Here is her story.

Donna's words:

My multiple myeloma diagnosis came about eight years ago, during a routine physical exam. That's when blood tests revealed I had protein in my blood. At the time, I had no idea what that meant.

It means I have a blood cancer --- abnormal plasma cells inside bone marrow. The cancerous plasma cells build-up, crowd out the good, red blood cells and make a lot of one type of protein

"This protein, which is an antibody, floats around in the blood and if gets to a high enough quantity, it can actually get stuck in the kidney and causes kidney failure," said Dr. Laura Weakland, a Georgia Cancer Specialists oncologist.

Kidney trouble is one of four areas under close watch in multiple Myeloma patients, in addition to signs of anemia, increases in calcium levels and holes developing in the bones

About 20,000 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year in the U.S. It's most prevalent in African Americans and men. It's usually diagnosed in people 60 to 70 years old. I learned of it in my 40s

"Probably about 10 percent of patients that have a asymptomatic disease like you do, don't progress much and you're not," Weakland said. "It's the hardest thing to explain. Hey, you have cancer, but no, I don't need to really do anything."

For me with Dr. Weakland and GA Cancer Specialists, it's meant testing and watching. If the disease progresses, treatment can range from chemotherapy to stem cell and/or bone marrow transplants.

For now, Tom Brokaw's keeping specific details of his disease and treatment private. I'm talking about it as a reminder that routine doctor's visits are recommended for a reason. I'm getting treated early before things become worse. It's why I feel good right now.

PHOTOS | Tom Brokaw through the years

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