As you know, I was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in February 2005. Fast forward three years to the summer of 2008. A few weeks after my routine six-month checkup with my oncologist, I get a message from his assistant asking me to call him at my earliest convenience. I immediately start to panic because I was convinced that he would only call me if he had bad news. Two days had passed before I heard back from him – quite possibly the longest two days of my life.
I had just arrived to my office when the phone started ringing. My oncologist told me that my body was no longer reacting well to my current treatment – which was Gleevec – and that over 50% of my cells showed cancer. It felt like I was punched in the stomach. The tears streamed down my face as he explained that he wanted to see me in the next week to explore different treatment options. I felt the room spinning as I hung up the phone. I pulled together all of my things, threw on my over-sized sunglasses and ran out of my office. As I started down the stairwell, a colleague quickly followed after me begging me to stop. When she finally caught up to me, I broke down. I leaned against the cold concrete wall and started crying uncontrollably. Between my hysteric sobs the only thing I could get out was, “It came back…the cancer came back.”
Hearing that the cancer had come back hit me harder than being diagnosed in the first place. The “miracle pill” was no longer on option for me. A bone marrow transplant was out of the question because I didn’t have a donor match. What more could be done? I was scared that the leukemia was going to win. Little did I know that a drug was recently developed for CML patients that had become resistant to Gleevec called Tasigna. My doctor started me on this new daily treatment of four pills a day in August 2008. I reached remission in May 2009 – something I never did during my five years on Gleevec. Today I celebrate three years in remission! Tasigna was my miracle drug; it saved my life.
I truly believe that I would not be here today if it weren’t for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – an organization that I am heavily involved with – and the amazing work that they do. Almost half of all new cancer drugs approved in the U.S. over the past decade were approved first to treat a blood cancer, and LLS helped advance most of these drugs – Tasigna being one of them. In fact, most of these newly discovered blood cancer medications are also being tested on other cancers and diseases such as breast, lung and pancreatic cancers and rheumatoid arthritis. So I ask you, if you feel compelled by my story and the work that LLS is doing, to please consider supporting me by making a donation to my Light the Night fundraising efforts.