My blood cancer story started in 1987 when I was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer with surgery and chemotherapy. As I progressed to the end of the chemo regimen, my blood counts would not return to normal. A bone marrow biopsy showed that I had developed treatment-related acute myeloid leukemia (AML) as a result of the chemotherapy for the testicular cancer.
In spring 1989, I went through the standard (really rough) chemo course for AML. I had a successful remission and underwent an autologous bone marrow transplant (also really rough) in July 1989. It took awhile to recover fully from that experience: I pretty much had a low grade fever for almost three years after the transplant and was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia three or four times. Also, I didn't know it at the time, but I also picked up hepatitis C from platelet transfusions just after the transplant.
I'm happy and fortunate to say that I've been in remission from both cancers since the transplant. I didn't actually discover that I had hepatitis C until 2002 when upon a crazy whim, I thought I'd apply for life insurance. A required blood test revealed the hepatitis, and I went through about a year of treatments for that. Fortunately, I was also cured of that disease.
It is really a miracle that I'm still here today, typing out this story. In addition to surviving deadly illnesses, my wife and I had three healthy children during and after this ordeal. Life finds a way.
I owe my survival to outstanding family support, excellent doctors, a loving church family and the right medicines at the right times. I have no doubt that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) had some part to play in all this, especially in the development of the medicines I was treated with. That said, I also know there was an element of luck in all this: the five year survival rate for AML was about 25 percent back when I was treated, and it's about the same today.
I'm a long time cyclist (since I was about 12 years old), and so a few years after the transplant, I began riding again. I feel that cycling has been instrumental in my full recovery. I ride regularly, and have completed 17 or so century (100-mile) bike rides since the late 90s, as well as hundreds of shorter rides. In 2008, after much procrastinating, I began riding with Team In Training as a way to give something back. Due to my incredibly generous donors, I've been able to raise over $50,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, something I just wouldn't have dreamed of back when I was originally diagnosed. As well as doing something I love for a cause I very much believe in, my TNT teammates are like family to me. We are brothers and sisters in this battle against blood cancer.
Every year on the front of my Team In Training event jersey, I write the names of fellow survivors, people who are currently dealing with blood cancers and folks who are "fighting the good fight" with whatever besets them. On the back, I squeeze in the many names of friends, acquaintances and loved ones who are no longer with us, mostly due to blood cancers. This is the sobering part for me: while it's wonderful to be here, and there has been tremendous progress in the war on blood cancer, I know we still have a long way to go. I will love and honor those people in the best way I know how: I will keep riding as long as I can and do what I can to help LLS find the treatments and cures that are effective and more humane.