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Advocating for Loved Ones: Caregivers Weigh In on Immunotherapy

Phone calls with the insurance company, drives to the doctor's office, preparing meals, making and remaking arrangements, finding new health service and care options... The list of responsibilities for a caregiver are endless, even before considering the mental, physical, and emotional support required. When it comes to a new treatment option like immunotherapy, caregivers play a key role in ensuring that treatment is right for their loved one. 

In this webinar for patients and caregivers, caregivers Casey Zmudzinski and Benny Juarez, alongside his partner and cancer veteran, Kristin Kleinhofer, discuss their role in advocating for the best care possible for their loved ones and the support they offer, big and small. Moreover, they discuss how to cope with the sometimes overwhelming amount of information and responsibilities involved, especially when it comes to immunotherapy and clinical trials. 

Casey and Cheryl ZmudzinskiCasey Zmudzinski is caregiver for his mother, Cheryl Zmudzinski. In March 2017, Cheryl was diagnosed with stage IV cancer of unknown primary origin, after complaining of gastrointestinal symptoms for months. After front-line chemotherapy, a combination immunotherapy clinical trial, and a targeted therapy clinical trial for bladder cancer, it was finally discovered after a biopsy that she had pancreatic cancer the entire time. Casey learned quickly that patients need to advocate their own interests to get the best care possible and helped his mother navigate through these multiple therapies and doctor visits.

Kristin Kleinhofer and Benny JuarezBenny Juarez is caregiver for his partner Kristin. In August 2010, Kristin Kleinhofer was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and began a two-year journey of intense inpatient chemotherapy that ultimately failed to keep her in remission. By February 2014, the cancer had returned. With support from Benny and her mom, she began seeking clinical trial options. At the recommendation of her doctor, Kristin enrolled in an early phase I/II clinical trial of chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR T) therapy. Kristin was one of the first patients to receive this therapy in an outpatient setting and was among the 93% of patients with ALL in her trial that reached remission. Today, Kristin remains in remission with no evidence of disease, and both Kristin and Benny are passionate about helping fellow cancer patients and caregivers navigate through challenges.

The "Cancer Immunotherapy and You" webinar series is produced by the Cancer Research Institute. This webinar was hosted by our associate director of patient engagement, Caroline Offit. The series is made possible with generous support from Bristol-Myers Squibb, with additional support from Regeneron, Sanofi Genzyme, and Adaptimmune.

Browse our Cancer Immunotherapy and You Webinar Series playlist on YouTube or visit the Webinars page on our website to see other webinars in this series.

2018 Cancer Immunotherapy and You Webinar Series Sponsors Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi Genzyme, Regeneron, Adaptimmune

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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