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Mother, grandmother: This is not the notoriety she planned on but she trusts her doctors

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Mother, grandmother: This is not the notoriety she planned on but she trusts her doctors

She’s been told her relapse is not very common. And now this mother and grandmother is putting a plan in place for treatment options.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Several years ago, following knee replacement surgery, Susan Hoover’s picture was on a billboard. The photo - with her two grandsons - was positioned along Interstate 70 in Hendricks Country to promote pain free travel.

At the time, she thought that might be one of just a few times she’d be in the public spotlight. Now, Hoover, 71, is in a position where she’s somewhat of an anomaly.

Fourteen years ago she was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a group of disorders caused when something disrupts the production of blood cells. At the time she was in the care of IU Health’s Dr. Robert Nelson, who died on Dec. 9, 2021.

“I give him a lot of credit for getting me through that time,” said Hoover. She received a stem cell transplant from her brother, remained at IU Health for nearly five weeks and then returned as needed.

“They say there’s a 90 percent chance of having a sibling being a stem cell match and both of my siblings were a perfect match,” said Hoover, who has been married to her husband, Mike, for 52 years. Together they have one son, one daughter, and three grandsons. As her condition continued to improve, Hoover enjoyed spending time with her family, vacationing in Florida with her husband, and cruising the Bahamas. A retired elementary education teacher with Avon schools, Hoover enjoys attending her grandsons’ ballgames and spending time at her son’s lake house. She and her husband live on two acres of wooded property and some days they just enjoy working in their flower beds and watching for deer.

“Things were going so well that Dr. Nelson said I didn’t need to come back other than for annual bloodwork,” said Hoover. “That’s what I was doing until October 2022. They said there was a one percent chance that the leukemia would return after a stem cell transplant. It’s almost unheard of.”

It was during a delayed 50th anniversary celebration cruise that Hoover began to feel tired. “I told Mike ‘something isn’t right.’ Grandma was always bringing up the rear and that’s not like me,” said Hoover.

“I had a comfort level with IU Health and so that’s where I came,” she said. In the care of Dr. Sherif Farag, Hoover underwent a bone marrow biopsy and learned the MDS had returned.

“Dr. Farag is the motherboard that drives the peripherals and makes everyone work together,” said Mike Hoover. “He’s always in the background planning the next attack and he’s very kind and compassionate. He reminds me to fight and he fights right along with me,” said Susan Hoover.

As she recently began chemotherapy treatments, Hoover talked with Nurse Chris Villegas, a clinical oncology coordinator at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. Her plan is to undergo another stem cell transplant.

“This time they’ll do a mismatch transplant that’s not a 100 percent match. It could be a relative or someone else,” she said. The plan is to get the stem cell transplant in February.

“This isn’t the way I thought it would go and this isn’t the way I planned it,” said Hoover. “I guess if I’m going to make it on a list of unusual things then I may as well be at the top of it and hope that the good Lord gets me through this stronger than ever.”

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Leukemia

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