Marla Marriott (pictured above with her 6 grandchildren) wasn’t concerned when she scheduled a video visit with her doctor. She’d just been feeling some pain and heaviness in her arms that she wanted to have checked out. Her doctor recommended routine blood work. She was able to get the testing done that same morning at her local Kaiser Permanente medical center. Within a few hours, her doctor got the results and told her to go the emergency room right away for additional testing. Her care team didn’t like what they saw, so they scheduled a bone marrow biopsy for just one week later. "There was very little downtime from one appointment to the next," Marriott said. "I couldn’t believe how easy and fast everything was." Just hours after her biopsy, Marriott received a call from Michael Green, MD, a blood cancer specialist at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, 1 of 3 specialty care centers for leukemia in Northern California. The news he gave her was completely unexpected. She had a rare form of blood cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia. "Marla had symptoms, but not the kind of symptoms we’d usually attribute to a blood cancer," Dr. Green explained. "People with leukemia can have fever, night sweats, weight loss, weakness, fatigue, and bleeding or bruising. But that’s why we run the tests."
Getting the care she needed
Marriott was told she’d be in the hospital for 1 to 2 months, and her treatment started the first night she arrived. In cases like hers, the first 3 weeks are the most critical. If patients survive that crucial period, their prognosis improves dramatically. As part of her treatment, Marriott volunteered to participate in a cancer clinical trial working to improve care and outcomes for patients with the form of leukemia she had. After about 30 days of treatment, she underwent another bone marrow biopsy. It didn’t show any cancer. Additional tests offered more good news. And 39 days after entering the hospital, she was able to go home. She began chemotherapy treatment, and between sessions a home nurse and a physical therapist visited her at her house. Marriott appreciated the support she received during every step of her treatment and recovery. Dr. Green believes Kaiser Permanente’s integrated system enables care teams to do their best work. "During my residency and fellowship training after medical school, I spent a lot of time trying to piece together the information I needed to care for my patients from different providers and systems," he said. "But at Kaiser Permanente everything is integrated — all the clinicians, the labs, the radiology department. It’s all right here, so I can just practice medicine and take care of people. That was a big part of why I wanted to work here."
When every moment counts
Marriot has been in remission since March 2021, and her recent blood work and cancer screening all looked great. She’s returned to her favorite activities, including watching her grandchildren, meeting her friends for walks, and spending time with Archie, her new puppy. "I tell everyone that being a Kaiser Permanente member saved my life," she said. "All my doctors and all my appointments were connected, so I didn’t have to wait. I was able to get the care I needed when every moment counted." Learn more about cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.