• By Cynthia Weiss

Sharing Mayo Clinic: “Divine design” gives multiple myeloma patient transplant, care at home

September 5, 2021
multiple myeloma patient Ann Arneson smiling and sitting on the couch with her husband

Ann Arneson describes her journey to Mayo Clinic as “divine design.”

Ann — a retired teacher, a leader in her church and ministry, mother, grandmother, and line dance enthusiast — is Mayo Clinic’s first bone marrow transplant patient to recover at home thanks to the new advanced care at home program.

“I know that people and circumstances are not by chance, but for a purpose — part of a bigger plan,” says Ann.

A brush with death and devastating news

Ann was living in California with her husband, Don, in March 2019 when she received a devastating diagnosis: She had multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.

“We were going in for a routine doctor’s appointment and getting our labs,” says Ann. “They called me that night and told me to get to the hospital first thing in the morning.”

Ann was quickly admitted to the hospital where she received her life-changing cancer diagnosis. But her battle was just beginning. Two months into her chemotherapy treatments, she contracted pneumonia and cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial skin infection.

“I ended up going into respiratory arrest,” says Ann. “My friend called 911. In the ambulance, I understand I quit breathing and they had to revive me.”

Ann and her husband knew they needed more support — and they knew where to go. The couple, who had discussed moving to Florida in the future for long-term health care needs, say they hadn’t imagined the need would be so immediate. They packed their belongings and relocated their life to Jacksonville.

“I knew I needed to be here at Mayo Clinic,” says Ann.

Stem cell transplant offers hope

Ann continued chemotherapy to treat her multiple myeloma as well as radiation to treat a lesion at the base of her skull.

A year later, in March 2021, a scan showed the cancer had jumped from her bone and bone marrow to soft tissue. She had a tumor in her small intestine. Ann underwent abdominal surgery to remove the cancer and then met with Vivek Roy, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist, who specializes in treating patients with blood cancers, including multiple myeloma.

“That’s when I found out about the option for a bone marrow transplant,” says Ann.

Dr. Roy shared that Ann was a candidate for autologous stem cell transplant, a procedure that replaces damaged blood-making cells with the patient’s own healthy cells.

Read the rest of Ann's story on Sharing Mayo Clinic.