Jennifer Carrieri was shocked when she found out she had multiple myeloma. The young mother of two was put on a clinical trial with Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist Pamela Drullinsky and received a stem cell transplant in October. Now she’s healthy, back to work, and looking forward to celebrating her 40th birthday.
- Jennifer Carrieri was stunned when doctors told her she had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.
- MSK Rockville Centre oncologist Pamela Drullinsky started Jennifer on a clinical trial.
- She underwent a stem cell transplant in October and is now healthy.
- She does her follow-up care in Rockville Centre so that she doesn’t have to travel into Manhattan.
Cancer broke all the rules when it snuck up on legal assistant Jennifer Carrieri.
First, she wasn’t the typical multiple myeloma patient. The blood cancer usually strikes elderly black men. And second, the symptoms that brought her to her local emergency room in June 2015 — fatigue, achiness, and weight loss — didn’t overly concern her.
“I thought it was going to be my iron and that I was just going to need some supplements,” she recalls.
But when doctors saw that her blood work was off, they admitted her and took scans of her body. The 39-year-old mother of two from Old Bethpage, New York, was stunned to learn she had cancer in her pelvic region.
“My jaw dropped,” Jennifer remembers. “You hear the word and you think, No, that can’t be. I’m 38 years old.”
Soon after, Jennifer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which affects the body’s virus-fighting plasma cells.
Her husband called Memorial Sloan Kettering for more information and was referred to Pamela Drullinsky, a multiple myeloma expert at MSK’s Rockville Centre location. Jennifer was thrilled that she could see a doctor so close to home.
“When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t sure where to go or where to turn,” she says. “Once my husband got the medical records over to MSK Rockville Centre, they called me in to see Dr. Drullinsky almost immediately.”
Joining A Lifesaving Clinical Trial
Dr. Drullinsky was taken aback when she first met Jennifer. “I can’t even describe how sick she was when she first got here,” she recalls.
She quickly put Jennifer on a clinical trial investigating treatment options for multiple myeloma. After analyzing her cancer cells, the trial’s leaders determined that she would be a good candidate for a stem cell transplant. But first, she needed chemotherapy.
As soon as she began treatment at Rockville Centre last July, Jennifer noticed a big difference in her health. “It was a mental thing and a physical thing,” she says. “It all just turned around.”
By October, she was ready for her stem cell transplant at MSK’s inpatient hospital in Manhattan. It was an autologous transplant, meaning the stem cells she received were her own. After three weeks of recovery, she went home and continued to heal. By January, she was back at work.
Jennifer takes a maintenance medication that’s being studied as part of the trial, so she’s still participating — and her selflessness will pay dividends.
“She’s a very altruistic person,” Dr. Drullinsky says. “It’s a double benefit because she’s getting the best care and researchers are going to be learning from her now that she’s in remission.”
Looking Toward the Future
Now, “life is great,” Jennifer says. She sees Dr. Drullinsky for follow-up appointments on her lunch break and after work. “I can’t imagine having to go into the city twice a month,” she says.
“I’m just thankful that I know I’m healthy,” she says, “and that’s how it’s going to stay.”