Tiffany traveled to Houston once or twice a week for chemo, radiation, and other trial treatments. She ended up getting a stem cell transplant too.
Tiffany Collins was working at the Post Office in her hometown of Timpson, Texas one day when she felt a nagging feeling in her left shoulder. She went to pick up a package and suddenly felt her arm pop and fall. It was clear she needed to go to a doctor. She lives in a rural area of about 1,200 people with no hospital but there was an orthopedist she could visit. After X-rays and an MRI, a mass was discovered, and she was immediately referred to MD Anderson Cancer Center – 2.5 hours away in Houston.
“Cancer doesn’t run in my family, and I didn’t have a clue what Multiple Myeloma was when I was diagnosed with it. I didn’t know where it came from. I was just stunned and wondering – why me?” she explains.
Practical considerations came into play quickly for the mother of three and grandmother of two who had to leave and figure out her treatment options. From the start, oncologists recommended she take part in a clinical trial. She agreed and started the back and forth to Houston once or twice a week for chemo, radiation, and other trial treatments. She ended up getting a stem cell transplant too.
It all worked.
A year and a half later, her cancerous masses are gone and Tiffany is in remission. She remains in the trial on a maintenance regimen to keep cancer at bay. While she’s thrilled at the results of the trial, she admits the finances of getting there and back have been challenging. “It’s been hard to afford,” Tiffany says.
“It’s been hard to afford,” Tiffany says. “My husband was helping me. My mom was helping me. The community was helping me. The church did some benefit programs for me. Any little thing I got went to mileage, gas, food and a hotel if we had to stay. But often I’d get chemo and radiation and turn around the same day to avoid extra costs.” She was working to cover the costs on her own until January 2023 when a friend told her about Lazarex. She’s now reimbursed for parking and mileage – which is at least $53 a month.
“It’s really hard and challenging when I can’t work a full time job but I’m doing it,” Tiffany says. “I have a bill at MD Anderson I’m trying to keep up with and a daughter in college and I’m taking it one day at a time. Every little bit helps, and I appreciate Lazarex helping me with that.”
Tiffany says her message to other cancer patients, particularly ones of color who aren’t well represented in cancer clinical trials, is to not let finances stand in the way of treatments that your doctor says is your best chance.
“The drugs are new, but I have faith in God. I also trust and believe the doctor I have chosen is recommending what’s best for me. My experience has been good,” Tiffany says. “I was tired, but I didn’t lose my hair in the trial. It was manageable. I’ve done really well and I feel like one of the lucky ones. It’s giving me more time to spend with my children, grandchildren, and family. Every day on this earth is a gift and it’s something I’m really grateful for.”
A year and a half later, thanks to her treatments, Tiffany’s cancerous masses are gone, and she is in remission. She remains in the trial on a maintenance regimen to keep cancer at bay.
If you or someone you know has Multiple Myeloma and needs help with finding a cancer clinical trial, or assistance with the costs to travel to clinical trial treatments, contact Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
Learn more about Multiple Myeloma from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.