Blood cancer treatment center coming to Austin


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 21 at 2:02 PM

AUSTIN -- A major collaboration will bring a new blood cancer treatment center to the Capital City. It will create the city's first bone marrow transplant center, saving Central Texans a lot of travel, expense and time away from their families.

St. David's Healthcare, in affiliation with the Texas Transplant Institute at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Network and Texas Oncology will bring new treatment options to Austin for patients with blood cancers, including bone marrow transplant services. St. David's Healthcare is investing $11 million toward the development of the state-of-the-art treatment center for blood cancer patients.

The only thing Erwin Carby of South Austin loves more than talking about his kids is playing with them, but for years he couldn't.

"When you have young kids like that, all you want to do (is play)," said Carby. "When you've dreamt of being a parent you just want to get down and play with them and run with them and play tag, whatever they want to do. With the hip pain and the bone pain, I couldn't get down and play with them." 

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma caused that pain. Diagnosed in 2006, Carby went through several chemo and radiation treatments.

"I was told now it didn't take or it's come back about five different times," said Carby. "The stem cell transplant was about the last shot that we had."

With no blood cancer centers in Austin to perform a stem cell transplant, Carby's nearest options were Houston and San Antonio. Both would be expensive, and he'd have to stay at a nearby hotel for frequent follow-ups. The time away from home became the most difficult.

"I'm pretty strong mentally, but that was the one time I felt like I was really getting to be depressed," said Carby. "The ones I loved and who gave me that support and reminded me everyday who I was fighting for, that was taken away from me."

When the new phase of the blood cancer center opens early next year at St. David's South Austin Medical Center, patients like Carby won't have to leave Austin.

"There are very few things that a resident of Austin who's lived here for 25 to 30 years make them feel like they've got to go down the street to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or New York," said Laurence Tokaz, M.D., an oncologist and the medical director of St. David's Healthcare Blood Cancer Program.  "This is a piece of the puzzle that's been missing, and it's significant."

Carby, who's now in remission, is equally excited.

"You just get to have your family and friends for support," he said. "Every day they can come up and say, 'hi' to you, and it's not going to make your go broke just trying to fight a disease such as cancer."

The center will open in early 2014 and will use only the patient's own stem cells in treatment. Go here to learn more.

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