I have always considered myself to be a very lucky person, but I wasn’t feeling very lucky the day I was told I had chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL. That terrifying day was over 20 years ago, only a few weeks after Fathers’ Day in 1996. There was no cure for CLL back then except for a bone marrow transplant that only had a survival rate of 50 percent.
I was 49 years old and I had a wife and four kids. My boys were grown and out of the house, but my daughter was only 9 years old and I just could not bear the thought of her growing up without me, of not being there for my kids as they chose their careers, married and had kids of their own.
I was lucky, standard chemotherapy kept me in and out of remission for a number of years, but by 2010, 50% of my bone marrow was cancer cells and my CLL had become resistant to standard therapy. However, again, I was lucky; I was able to enroll in a new clinical trial that would use my own white cells to kill the cancer cells. My white cells were collected, programed to recognize my cancer cells and then reinfused. In less than 4 weeks no detectable cancer cells could be found in my body – my bone marrow was completely free of CLL.
At the time of my treatment, I was unaware that the clinical trial that saved my life was funded by ACGT. Without these funds, I would not be here today.