When & How I was diagnosed
I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia on March 17th 2000, when my doctor and best friend of 40 years told me without effective treatment, my prognosis was 3 years. Effective treatment proved to be difficult to find.
My experiences with treatment
I found no matching donors for a bone marrow transplant and instead was treated with daily injections of a chemotherapy cocktail. Despite the need to continue this treatment for the remainder of my life, after 6 months the cancer was progressing and treatment was stopped as non-effective. At that point in time, my diagnosis became a death sentence and I put my house in order. It felt like I wanted to battle cancer but had no ammunition. 9 months later, a new drug was released in pill form and Gleevec allowed me to reach remission within 6 months and I remain in remission to this day thanks to daily Gleevec therapy. Better than 90% of CML’ers respond in a similar manner and it can be effective in Gastro Intestinal Stomach Tumors, and certain breast cancers.
What I have learned
The drug pipeline and ongoing trials produce new drugs all the time. And thanks to a fast track FDA approval – and tremendous financial investment and commitment by Novartis – within 6 months of submission for approval, Gleevec was approved and available for consumption. Today CML is a treatable disease and Gleevec is the front line ammunition.
I have learned that Gleevec was discovered by Dr. Brian Drucker, a researcher who was funded by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (TLLS). HeadStrong Foundation continues to make generous donations to TLLS for various fundraising campaigns – recently giving $50,000 to the October’s 2010 “Light The Night” Campaign. I would not be alive today if not for such people who continue to provide such generous funding through such creative fund raising events.
How I am feeling now
I continue to be in remission and feel very lucky to have been diagnosed at the cusp of a new generation of “targeted cancer treatments.” But I realize that other blood cancer survivors still seek their ” Magic Cancer Bullet” and the work is not done until no one dies from these nasty diseases.
How I got involved
One of the hard working ladies at TLLS asked my to participate as a survivor/honorary captain and when I learned of the work of HeadStrong foundation, I was anxious to assist. October 10th, 2010 is the third year I have participated in this event. I look forward to attending every year. It is inspirational to see the family put together such an outstanding event where two closely knit communities – the cancer community and the Lacrosse communities join to help fight and eliminate blood cancers.
My blood cancer has shown me that every situation (good and bad) contains gifts and limits. In “bad” situations we usually recognize the limits long before finding the gifts which may take considerable time, healing and effort. When faced with a good situation, we usually appreciate the benefits before the limits are evident…. We should look for, focus upon and find the gift.