Mary Johnson

HERWorld18: The diagnosis that taught Aera Energy's Aimee Blaine the value of resilience

Blog Post created by Mary Johnson on Mar 3, 2018

Aimee Blaine cartoonAimee Blaine’s life is a study in resilience.


Now senior vice president, technical for Aera Energy in Bakersfield, Calif., her career got off to a strong start. She joined Mobil as a drilling engineer fresh out of Louisiana State University, then moved to reservoir engineering. By the time she was 31, she was a technology manager for Aera, which had been formed during the merger of the California assets of Mobil and Shell.


Then, in 2004, two years into her management role, Aimee was diagnosed with cancer — Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.


Her son was a year and a half old at the time. Her career was on the right track. She had a loving husband with a fulfilling career of his own. And now, cancer.


But Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is highly curable. Her chances of survival were good. She dug in and signed up for 13 weeks of straight chemo as part of an aggressive, then-new treatment plan at Stanford.


I said, ‘I want to get this done. It’s 85 percent curable. I’m going to work through it and be done,’” she recalls.


Aimee, a speaker on our Resilience panel at HERWorld18 in Houston on March 8, had no idea that she was in for the toughest battle of her life.


When she began treatment, she was diagnosed at stage 2. She relapsed the fall after she finished treatment and was diagnosed at stage 4. Her only option was a bone marrow transplant — and taking a year off from work.


The transplant saved her life, but it didn’t cure her. And complications from the surgery left her with a very rare disease called bone marrow necrosis, which meant her bone marrow was dying.


“That really compromised me. After that, my immune system never really rebounded. It took years,” Aimee says. “When I talked to my doctor about going back to work, she said, ‘Are you crazy? Not only is your cancer back, but you have something that is killing your bone marrow that we can’t even really figure out.’”


Her career was off the table — at least for the time being.


It was at this point I realized, ‘forget about my career. My career is over. I’ve got to figure out how to get healthy and focus on my child,” Aimee recalls.


For the next few years, Aimee suffered multiple relapses. Then, five years after her diagnosis, she was accepted into a clinical trial at Stanford and started taking the then-experimental drug that would save her life.


She had 13 tumors when the trial began. Now, she’s cancer-free.


“I finished the trial at the end of 2010, beginning of 2011. And my doctor said, ‘I think you’re OK.’ And I said, ‘So what am I supposed to do now? I’ve lived my life for the past seven years not knowing what the next year was going to bring. And my career was non-existent. I just cut it off because that was just the way I had to deal with things,’” Aimee recalls.


“She gave me the confidence that we know how to deal with this and what works for me now. She said, ‘You do what you want to do; don’t worry about this,’” Aimee says.


So she called Aera and asked for a job. Aera said yes.


That’s my story. Some people called me crazy for going back to work. I think I’m fortunate that I work for such a terrific company that they gave me another chance,” Aimee says.


Now, as she looks back on her cancer journey, she sees parallels between the resilience required to battle an illness, and the resilience the industry needs to thrive in a rapidly shifting reality.


When you’re resilient, you’re able to overcome things because you can see the other side. You have a vision for it, and you stay true to that,” Aimee says. “The oil industry has gone through a downturn, and I see that it’s refreshing right now. There are a lot of new opportunities out there. There are a lot of exciting things that our company is doing right now.”