Published on September 12, 2022

Anne Latendresse’s 16-year journey with cancer is ‘Anchored in Hope’

Years before being asked to be a marshal for MaineGeneral’s 2022 Day of Hope, Anne Latendresse was closely involved with the event.

Daughters Colette and Kassidy performed there with their dance group and Anne, a gifted pianist, volunteered to play her beautiful music.

Cancer survivor Anne Latendresse

Anne also had a personal connection to MaineGeneral’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC), the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to support cancer patients through the Walk for Hope.

After a routine annual physical in 2005, Anne’s lab results showed an abnormality later diagnosed as polycythemia vera, a blood disorder in which bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.

So at age 35, with her daughters then 5 and 2 years old, Anne started receiving treatments at the HACCC as a hematology patient.

“I never thought that one day I could be a cancer survivor,” said Anne, now 51. “I was a hematology patient for many years and a member of the cancer center’s Patient Family Council, but I wasn’t a cancer patient.”

A 16-year journey

As Anne’s family awaited the results before her 2005 diagnosis, they were blindsided with her older brother Bob’s diagnosis of cancer in the form of neuroendocrine tumors, which came four years after her sister Cindy was diagnosed and successfully treated for endometrial cancer at age 37.

“My journey and Bob’s started around the same time,” she said, adding that her condition was successfully managed through regular treatments until 2016, when her symptoms progressed to where she needed to start an oral chemotherapy regimen. Four years later, her body stopped responding to the medication and she was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a bone marrow cancer.

“I was very fearful because everything I read seemed to tell me I might have five to 10 years to live. I wasn’t a hugely religious person then, but I prayed to God to let me live to see my girls graduate from high school. That’s all I asked for.”

As Anne dealt with the later stages of her disorder and her eventual cancer diagnosis, her family struggled with her father Robert’s passing in June 2016 from glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, just eight months after he was diagnosed. That was followed by Bob’s death in April 2020 after a 14-year battle.

The timing of Bob’s death was particularly difficult for Anne because of her worsening health.

“I stopped dancing and playing golf because I couldn’t do those things physically and I had a chronic cough because of my enlarged spleen,” she said. “Two months after Bob’s passing, I learned I needed a stem cell transplant and thought, ‘How do I tell my family we have to go through this when we’re still mourning Bob?’”

She also struggled in knowing she would have to leave her “family” of care providers at the HACCC for her eventual transplant out of state.

“To know I had to go somewhere else for the biggest part of my treatment done was really hard because the people at the cancer center are the ones who had taken care of me and who I was comfortable with and trusted,” she said. “Dr. Polkinghorn is amazing and, in addition to really knowing his stuff, he’s also great at harnessing the emotional side of things and letting you have a say in your treatments. So that transition was hard.”

Preparing for a transplant

As the search for a stem cell donor began, one with a partial match was found but Anne opted to delay the transplant to attend Kassidy’s graduation in June 2021. Later, another donor in Europe was found – a 100 percent match – and Anne prepared for the July 2021 transplant in Boston.

Her month-long stay began with 16 chemotherapy sessions over a four-day period to eliminate her bone marrow and immune system. A happy, positive person who had strengthened her mindset through years of self-improvement efforts, Anne said this extreme treatment made her fearful.

“I was afraid I was too weak for them to bring me back,” she said. “That was my low point, because I knew I was still in there, so strong mentally, but my body wouldn’t show it.”

She drew strength, however, from husband Mike’s daily presence during visiting hours, from conversations with God during solitary moments and from music – plenty of music!

“There were times when I had no energy to do anything but listen to music and feel all of the emotions it would make me feel,” she said.

Anne stayed in the hospital for several weeks after her donor cell infusion, where regular blood draws determined the transplant’s success and she regained her strength. She was discharged in August 2021 to continue her recovery in the home Mike kept sterilized to prevent complications such as an infection.

Continuing her journey

As her strength returned, Anne felt better than she did at age 35, and relied on healthy eating and regular physical activity to eventually return to the activities she loved.

Waking up the day after a successful golf clinic in late May 2022, she thought “I’m back!” That perspective changed hours later, however, when she learned from a nurse at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that recent lab results showed she was losing her donor graft. It seems a hidden pocket of her original cells were not eradicated by the intense chemotherapy.

“It showed I was 46-percent donor and my original cells were coming back. I went numb,” she said. “The Dana-Farber team contacted my donor to see if she would donate more cells for a T-cell infusion, which she did, so I’m now undergoing T-cell infusions and her white cells are being infused to fight my original cells. There’s a 50-percent chance it will work, but I’ve felt fine and the only symptom has been severe itching, which I’m told is a good sign. So my journey is not quite done.”

Anchored in hope

Anne is proud to be a 2022 Day of Hope marshal and feels a real connection to its theme of “Anchored in Hope.”

“I’ve lived it for 16 years and it means so many different things,” she said. “Hope is believing you’ll receive what you need to get through what you’re facing. It can be hope to live past 50 years old or that, when my current treatment ends, there’s another one available. I hope I can help others going through difficult situations. I’m always pushing myself to learn and grow; now I want to be someone who can anchor other people in hope.”

As she’s done for 16 years, Anne Latendresse is looking forward with positivity instead of dwelling on the past.

“If I could remove this disease from my life, I wouldn’t. I love my life and who I am. I couldn’t imagine not having the people I’m connected with at the cancer center in my life,” she said. “After everything I’ve gone through, I’m honored to be thought of as someone who can do something positive by sharing my story.”

To learn more about the Day of Hope or to register for the event, visit For information about MaineGeneral’s cancer care program, visit