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A routine pre-op exam uncovered a blood cancer diagnosis for one local woman

Posted at 4:20 AM, Oct 06, 2021

BALTIMORE — It's a Thursday morning at the B'More Independent Way rehabilitation room at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. 83-year-old Nancy Ball is getting around pretty well after having hip replacement surgery that Monday.

"I feel one thousand times better than I did on Sunday that's for sure," she said with a laugh.

The road to a new hip was longer than Ball expected after she hit a serious roadblock a month before the surgery.

"When I had my pre-op in February, the discovery was made that I had an excessive white blood count," she said.

Her case was referred to Dr. Mahsa Mohebtash, the medical director of the MedStar Franklin Square Cancer Center at Good Samaritan. They did additional blood work and a bone marrow biopsy on Ball.

"We diagnosed her with two hematologic malignancies," said. Dr. Mohebtash. "One chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and one essential thrombocythemia."

Hematologic malignancies are also considered to be blood disease or blood cancer.

"They are both highly manageable. One of them, the CLL, did not need any treatment," said Dr. Mohebtash. "We treated the thrombocythemia. We lowered the platelet count so this way her risk of thrombosis, meaning blood clots, and the bleeding during surgery and after surgery was minimized."

Dr. Mohebtash said Ball was not highly symptomatic at the time of her diagnosis but there are things people can look for if they suspect something is wrong.

"Without a diet or exercise, people start losing weight. Fever and chills without any obvious infection, feeling very tired without a clear reason."

"The essential thrombocythemia can cause heart attacks, stroke, bleeding, blood clots in the legs or lungs," she said.

While not curable, Dr. Mohebtash said the hematologic malignancies are treatable. Ball said she is grateful to the staff at MedStar Health for quickly diagnosing and treating her blood cancer.

"If it weren't for Dr. Mohebtash, I would not be sitting here today, she saved my life. Absolutely saved my life," she said.

And Ball doesn't plan to waste a single moment of her life, especially with her new hip.

"Next week I'll be able to dance the flamingo."