Early morning, February 9, 2011; the telephone rings, I answer. This is what I hear: "I am sorry to have to tell you this, but you have leukemia."
My first response is, "What?"
My second response is, "Now what?"
And so the journey begins.
My journey is not unique, it is not uncommon and I do not travel it alone. It has been a journey filled with twisting, winding roads, which have led me into the depths of despair, the valleys of normalcy, and the mountain tops of elation.
I have Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia; keyword "chronic." Chronic meaning I will have a lifetime to understand and learn about this disease. Chronic meaning I will have a front row seat, to the ongoing research, in a cure for CML. Chronic meaning I will live to see the results of the many clinical trials, that are currently being conducted, with brave CML patients.
The first clinical trial for Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia, began in 1998, with a drug named Gleevec; through its success, Gleevec was FDA approved, for treatment of CML, in May 2001. This groundbreaking discovery has vastly changed the outcome of CML patients from a certain death to a bright future; one that often rivals the life expectancy of someone who does not have cancer.
Choosing to be a pioneer, in a clinical trial, is a daunting decision. There are so many unknowns and so many potential risks and dangers, yet the glimmer of hope often tips the scale. For many that enter clinical trials, the trial itself is their last chance; their last hope to beat the odds.
Knowing that they are facing imminent death, people courageously enter into clinical trials with much optimism; understanding that they are entering uncharted waters. They know that their outcome is not always favorable, but deem it necessary, and worth the risk. They know that the information gathered in these trials, is not only valuable, and their best chance at survival, but significant to research, which will help the lives of those who follow in their footsteps. I truly believe that these people are true warriors.
Not all clinical trials target patients who are in the end stages of their disease. Currently, there is an exciting new clinical trial, for people with chronic mylogenous leukemia. It is a trial monitoring whether or not a CML patient (who meets very specific criteria) can safely discontinue their CML treatment, and remain in remission. And, if their disease does become detectable once again during this trial, can the leukemia can be put back into an undetectable state, once resuming treatment?
There are many people interested in the long-term outcome, to these trials.
Because CML is chronic cancer, and because CML patients are now living normal life spans, many of us have had ample time, to research our disease. We are well versed, curious and determined to "find a cure." We want to return to our "old" normal; a normal without cancer and without side effects, from its' treatment. We want to live our best lives, without the financial burden of our life-saving medication.
Not everyone will be able to become treatment free, but I admire those, (who fit the criteria)who are willing to take the risk and enter a "Treatment Free Remission Trial," in order to give us all hope. The information gathered, will aid researchers in determining who will be able to someday discontinue treatment, and who will not; and the "why" it will be successful for some, and not for others. The goal is to treat CML patients, with the hopes of discontinuing their treatment, in the future.
Fortunately, there are clinical trials, and people willing to participate in them, which may allow this dream, to become a reality.
I greatly admire the brave souls, who are willing to take calculated risks, in order to aid researchers, in their quest; to find cures for disease. Without these valiant pioneers, we would not be witnessing so many medical breakthroughs, and I would not be alive, today.
I believe that Patients Have Power, and as a patient advocate, I strongly believe that we should use our power, for the greater good. No one chooses, or expects that their own "good health" will change or decline, and we often take our own "good health" for granted; right up until the phone rings, and you hear those words, "I am sorry to have to tell you this, but you have leukemia."
I am grateful to www.clarahealth.com for creating the opportunity to speak out on behalf of clinical trials, and believing that Patients, truly do, Have Power!
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