Jim and Leslie Donigan have been married for almost 50 years. Currently retired with three adult children, they have both faced a cancer diagnosis, but are in remission today.
In October of 2003, Leslie was diagnosed with a stomach cancer called GIST (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors) and was told it was terminal. But then her doctor tried a medication intended for blood cancer—and it worked.
Leslie was treated with imatinib (Gleevac®), a drug approved to treat patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The treatment that saved her life resulted directly from blood cancer research funded by LLS.
In the 1990s, imatinib (Gleevac®) was developed to treat CML. Since 2000, this treatment helped save the lives of 300,000 people diagnosed with CML. Now, it’s helping patients who have been diagnosed with stomach cancers and skin cancers.
In May 2016, Jim also faced a cancer diagnosis. He was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, and began treatment within a couple of weeks – a combination therapy, bendamustine with rituximab (BR). LLS funds dedicated to research were critical in advancing this therapy.
Between two cancer diagnoses, the family faced serious financial hardships to keep up with the cost of their care. Jim relied on LLS’s co-pay assistance program to help pay for his treatment. After four months of treatment, Jim was cancer free. But, he faced severe side effects.
Today, both Leslie and Jim are doing well. “There is hope. Never give up,” says Jim. They are thankful to LLS for its investment in blood cancer research, which saved both their lives.