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Acute Myeloid Leukemia Survivor and Future Physician

Cancer patient Megan Woody-Fowler.

October 02, 2019

As a future physician, Meghan Woody-Fowler will bring special empathy and compassion to patients fighting complex conditions. She knows what it’s like to be a patient, having been one herself.

Meghan, of Overland Park, Kansas, was 19 and a premed student at Boston College when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of leukemia generally seen in older people. She was shocked at the diagnosis, but ready for the battle.

Meghan and her family chose to seek care in the Midwest, where she would be closer to family and friends. The family considered a number of nationally recognized regional cancer centers and ultimately chose The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s blood and marrow transplant (BMT) program.

Joseph McGuirk, DO, division director of the BMT and cellular therapeutics program, became Meghan’s closest medical ally.

“Meghan has been a superstar from day 1,” Dr. McGuirk says. “As a medical student, she has insight and understanding of her disease that most do not. Her experience will only enhance the exceptional physician she is destined to become.”

Meghan’s treatment consisted of multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Once her cancer was in remission, she had a bone marrow transplant.

“None of my siblings was a match for the bone marrow transplant,” she says, “so I am very grateful for a wonderful, nonfamily donor.”

Studying during leukemia treatment

During treatment, Meghan resumed her studies. “It took 5 years to graduate because of my illness, and I had to be pretty boring for a while, not going out on weekends,” she recalls.

While attending college, Meghan made many trips home for treatment at the cancer center, where she says her quality of care was outstanding.

“It was exceptional,” she says. “I loved the doctors and nurse practitioners, and several of the nurses became close personal friends. I’ve been to a baby shower for one nurse and a wedding for another.”

Speaking out about BMT

Through the course of her treatment, Meghan and Dr. McGuirk developed a strong bond. “It’s always fun working with Dr. McGuirk,” she says. “Even now, we occasionally do speeches at events for the BMT clinic. He speaks as a physician, and I speak as a former patient, now a student. We work together really well.”

Today, Meghan is in her third year of medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, after spending a year managing data at the BMT clinic. She’s leaning toward a career in anesthesiology and looks forward to helping others win their health battles as she did.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 7 years old,” she says. Meanwhile, she’s reflecting on her successful campaign against cancer. “I’ve been in remission for 6 years now,” she says. “I feel great, and I’m moving on with my life. I’ve traveled. I’ve gotten married. I’ve been able to do so many things that might not have been possible had I gone somewhere else.”

National reputation for BMT

Our nationally recognized BMT program is the largest in the region and has performed more than 3,700 transplants. We also offer one of the nation’s largest acute leukemia programs with outcomes second to none. As an NCI-designated cancer center, we provide the widest range of treatment options, including photopheresis and novel clinical trials.

Meghan intends to help carry a tradition of excellence into the future. She knows her experience as a patient will make her an even more dedicated and compassionate physician.

“Having been through it myself," says Meghan, "I have a lot more empathy for the patient."

Hear Meghan Woody's experience at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a national leader in blood and marrow transplant and cellular therapy. Meghan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and has been cancer-free for 6 years.

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