In the span of a few days, 75-year-old Joe Yancey suffered a stroke and received a diagnosis for a chronic blood cancer. Joe and his wife, Pat Yancey, say they were worried about his health and apprehensive of what would happen next when they connected with the care team at Loma Linda University Health Cancer Center.
But working together with hematologist-oncologist Mojtaba Akhtari, MD, Joe achieved complete hematological remission within three months of his diagnosis. Akhtari says people with Joe’s cancer — a type of myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) called polycythemia vera — who receive proper treatment can live up to three decades.
Dr. Akhtari was so tuned in and on top of it, and we got started right away on getting Joe set up with the treatment he needed.Pat Yancey
Joe often jokes with Akhtari that he wants the “30-year warranty” on life with his chronic blood cancer. This is entirely possible, says Akhtari. With Joe’s blood cancer now under control, he can expect to live out his full life expectancy and continue tending to his passions and business.
Still working 12-hour-days six times a week, Joe and Pat have dedicated the past 30 years of their lives running a business for restoring, building, and supplying parts of World War II aircraft — Allison 1710 V-12 and 3420 W-24 engines in particular. They store their expansive inventory of engines, repair parts, and special tools in two hangars at Chino airport, in dozens of semi-trailers, and on a large plot of land.
One May morning, as the Yancey couple settled at their table for coffee, Pat noticed Joe was unable to speak — his words tumbled out in garbled speech. A hurried visit to LLU Emergency Department turned into a two-day hospital stay packed with medical investigations and tests that revealed Joe’s abnormal blood counts and that he had suffered from a stroke.
Pat and Joe met Akhtari for the first time and immediately established a strong relationship and mutual appreciation — Pat and Joe say they admire Akhtari’s attentiveness and medical expertise. On the other hand, Akhtari says he appreciates the couple’s engineering skills and dedication to their work.
“Dr. Akhtari was so tuned in and on top of it, and we got started right away on getting Joe set up with the treatment he needed," Pat says.
Joe’s type of myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) entails high blood counts of hemoglobin and hematocrit, raising the risk of stroke by causing blood to thicken and sluggishly circulate around the brain, heart, and lungs.
After a bone marrow test confirmed Joe’s diagnosis, Akhtari ordered he undergo phlebotomy thrice weekly to thin out his blood and bring his counts back into the normal range. Joe also started taking oral chemotherapy medication, and by July, he had reached complete hematological remission.
It is an honor and privilege to serve cancer patients alongside compassionate coworkers and amazing colleagues.Mojtaba Akhtari
“I’m getting better,” says Joe. “Dr. Akhtari is the greatest man I ever met in the medical industry. He has been a blessing that’s unreal.”
The patient-physician relationship is essential to establish trust and a good rapport for the patient’s and family’s healing and treatment journey, Akhtari says. “The relationships help patients have a better understanding of their underlying conditions and adjust to their life-changing diagnoses."
Akhtari maintains good communication with Pat and Joe, having visited their Chino hangars and helping safely guide them through a recent period of COVID-19 infection.
“It is an honor and privilege to serve cancer patients alongside compassionate coworkers and amazing colleagues,” Akhtari says. Joe’s personalized treatment and speedy healing trajectory would not have been possible without Joe and Pat’s teamwork or the cancer care team of nurse navigators, medical assistants, or LVNs, says Akhtari.
As the new year approaches, Akhtari says, "hold tight to your family, loved ones, and friends, and please do not forget kindness."
Loma Linda University Cancer Center offers patients comprehensive care that gives them the best opportunity to face cancer. To learn more about all of the resources provided to cancer patients at the center, visit lluh.org/cancer-center.