Eileen O'Donnell's Story

Ellen O'Donnell

“They put a team together, treated me fast, and treated me correctly.”

Eileen’s Experience

Eileen O’Donnell describes herself as “type A, highly athletic, and driven.” While training for two major marathons – New York and Boston – she noticed she was unable to run more than five miles without nausea and extreme fatigue. Her primary care physician at the time attributed this to simple aging, which frustrated her. She powered through. After becoming pregnant and experiencing the same symptoms while running, she continued to aggressively follow up with her physicians to understand what was wrong. The diagnosis finally came, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Once diagnosed, she came to NewYork-Presbyterian to meet with their medical team. “I immediately knew it was the right place,” Eileen says. “I needed a multidisciplinary team that could deliver my baby safely while managing my cancer at the same time. I met with Dr. Jeffrey Milsom the day I called to make my first appointment and his office helped to get my medical records. This was before they had even met me.

“Dr. Milsom brought in Dr. John Leonard, an oncologist, who said, ‘You need to start treatment tomorrow.’” Because of her pregnancy, Eileen was unable to undergo the traditional chemotherapy R-CHOP. Dr. Leonard worked around it, beginning the CHOP portion of the treatment immediately.

“Another reason I am so grateful to NewYork-Presbyterian is that Dr. Leonard called Dr. Sydney Wu, an obstetrician, who agreed to manage my care, late in my pregnancy and with cancer,” says Eileen. After the natural birth of a healthy baby boy, Eileen’s physicians discovered that her tumors had not responded to treatment. Dr. Leonard changed her protocol to R-hyper-CVAD, a more aggressive form of chemotherapy.

“Dr. Leonard’s ability to immediately change course when I wasn’t responding to treatment, and to have the confidence to do it, was so impressive,” says Eileen. “NewYork-Presbyterian put together a multidisciplinary team that treated me fast…and treated me correctly.”

Even more remarkably, Eileen and her husband have welcomed a second baby boy to their family. “I felt so lucky to be able to successfully deliver my first son and now, so blessed to have the opportunity to give him a sibling to love."