PARKER, AZ — An Arizona grandmother is soaking in a renewed outlook.
Karla Davis admits she feels lucky to be alive and isn’t wasting a second. “I don’t know, I kind of think I made it,” said Karla with a laugh.
Karla, 72, is in remission and cancer-free after participating in a clinical trial aimed at eradicating her Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
“I was in glorious health my whole life, I’ve never been sick,” said Karla who remained active into retirement.
That changed in 2019 with the diagnosis. She battled it into remission with standard chemotherapy but sadly it returned a year later.
“Never scared me, never thought, 'oh my God I’m going to die,' I never thought anything like that, I just kept thinking, 'well what’s the next thing we have to do,'” said Karla.
That next thing turned out to be an experimental treatment now approved by the FDA called Car-T. The treatment is designed to teach her body to battle cancer more efficiently.
“I said well, let's give it a try, what the heck?” said Karla.
“We are removing cells from the patient, they’re called T-Cells and they’re genetically modified,” said Dr. Veena Fauble, Medical Director for the Cancer Transplant Institute at HonorHealth.
She says cellular therapy basically works like this: White blood cells are removed from the patient and promptly sent to a lab where the T-cells are genetically modified, trained, and multiplied to search out and destroy specific cancer cells.
“A few tweaks, a few modifications of these cells, it’s making their T-cells, which we consider the soldiers in the immune system essentially super soldiers,” said Dr. Fauble.
The patient, who has received a moderate dose of chemo prior to the treatment, is then re-infused with those new super cells that immediately get to work destroying cancer.
“When that pet-scan came back clear I was like, 'oh my gosh,' when that second one came back I was like, 'huh, oh my gosh,'” said Karla.
It’s an outcome she never gave up on but one that now means more time. Time with grandchildren and friends, traveling and soaking in experiences on her bucket list. Creating memories more meaningful than ever before.
“I feel like we just have to live every moment every day, and I know that sounds corny, I just savor each day,” said Karla.