Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients Program Hits Home

As a CDC Foundation staff member, I’m always proud to share with my family and friends how we help advance the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lifesaving work through public-private partnerships that help protect our nation’s health security and contribute to a healthy economy. It’s exciting and fulfilling to work for an organization that makes a difference in the lives of so many. 

Over the last few months, though, one of our partnerships with Amgen focused on preventing infections in cancer patients has really hit home for me. I was recently diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and am currently undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy, which will be followed by surgery and radiation. It has been an overwhelming diagnosis that has impacted virtually every area of my life—from the wig I wear to cover my bald head to the fatigue and loss of appetite that I typically experience after each round of chemo. Someone compared chemo to “being hit by a bus,” and that’s exactly what it feels like.

Preventing Infections in Cancer PatientsAfter my diagnosis and development of a treatment plan, I recalled the CDC Foundation’s collaboration with Amgen, which is focused on preventing infections in cancer patients during chemotherapy. I visited the enhanced website, www.preventcancerinfections.org, eager to learn more. As I navigated through it, I learned that I was at high risk for neutropenia—or a dangerously low white blood cell count—during chemo. I also learned that a low white blood cell count could increase my risks for getting a deadly infection. There are so many things my oncologists have discussed with me, but we haven’t yet had an in-depth discussion about white blood cell counts and my health. Frankly, I had never heard of neutropenia until I attended a presentation about this partnership at a staff meeting. It’s a word I won’t soon forget.

Thanks to the campaign, I can now remember the simple phrase “3 Steps Forward. Prepare. Prevent. Protect.” I know better what to look for and what to do about it—from watching out for fever to cleaning my hands and knowing the signs and symptoms of an infection. It’s simple yet vital information that could save my life, and if routinely followed in health care settings could save the lives of so many others.

My colleagues at the CDC Foundation are a positive, optimistic force at this difficult time. My office is filled with flowers and cards, and people often stop by for a quick check-in or word of encouragement. Their actions are truly a reflection of the character and compassion of the CDC Foundation.

And on a very personal level, it’s reassuring to know that the interactive online education program made possible by this collaboration can help cancer patients like me take action to prevent and control infections during chemotherapy. I like being able to take positive steps to impact my health. As one colleague, who is also a breast cancer survivor, reminded me, “You have cancer. Cancer does not have you.”

About the Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients Program
The Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients program was created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation to help reduce infections in cancer patients. The program uses practical guidance and resources for patients, caregivers and healthcare providers about steps they can take to prevent infections. In conjunction with International Infection Prevention Week, the CDC Foundation is launching an enhanced website for www.preventcancerinfections.org, an evidence-based, interactive resource targeted to assessing a cancer patient’s risk for developing a low white blood cell count and subsequent infections from chemotherapy. Learn more


Lisa Splitlog is the director of CDC Value Communications for the CDC Foundation.