My Life and Leukemia
In February 2008 I started experiencing flu-like symptoms that would not go away. I went to Dr. Pulverman for help. Blood work showed my counts were unusually low and I was in a lot of pain. On February 22, 2008 I was referred to Dr. Labib Hashimi. That same day I was admitted to
A week after my first chemotherapy treatment Dr. Hashimi had to leave the country for a week. In his absence another Oncologist took care of me. Before leaving on his trip, he filled out all of my disability and insurance forms while in my hospital room. He wanted to make sure I did not have any worries so that I could focus on getting well. On his way to
Because of the severity of the disease, I have to have all of my chemotherapy treatments and blood transfusions in the hospital. During all of these hospital stays on 3-South I experienced and continue to experience caring nurses who clearly go out of their way for their patients, doctors who listen and staff members who really listen to me and do any thing to make my stays as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Everyone at PVHMC has a mutual goal - to get me well. I have a phenomenal team to help me through this, and I thank God for having put these people here to help me. I know I would not be able to do it without them. I really appreciate the entire staff in 3-South. I always thank the Volunteers when I see them. They don’t have to be there, but are and they are always so kind and helpful. All of these people are passionate about what they do and are incredibly compassionate while they are taking care of people. I am very fortunate to have so many people help me fight for my life.
I will be having a total of eight cycles of chemotherapy, which consist of spending four to five days in the hospital and two to three weeks of daily blood draws to monitor blood levels for platelet and blood transfusions. All eight cycles should be completed by January 2009. After every cycle I do have severe bone pain, loss of appetite and feel extremely weak from chemotherapy and the drugs I take. This is all just part of being sick. There are many people who are sicker than I am and some do not get the opportunity to fight for their lives. I think having faith in God and being positive is very important. Having the illness and not letting the illness have you is most important. This illness has been a time of reflection for me—I’m getting a second chance to quit taking things for granted. Everything from feeling no pain to just doing everyday things—I won’t take for granted anymore.
My wife Lupe and I, have three sons, Anthony 19, Joshua 5 and Matthew 2.
In addition to Lupe’s full-time job as a Human Resource manager, she has to care for our children and run the household all while visiting me in the hospital as often as she can. I worry about her coping with it all and hate to burden her even more by worrying about me. Thankfully, my retired Aunt Carolina and Uncle Juan upon hearing of the news immediately came up from
My inspiration has been my mother who has lived with diabetes and its complications for as long as I can remember. In the early 1980s she had an automobile accident in which she almost lost her left eye. She experienced a blood infection in 1997 that put her in a coma, but she did recover. In 1998 she suffered from a stroke which left her with paralysis on the right side of her body. In 2004 she had to live through the loss of my dad after 44 years of marriage. August of this year she was diagnosed with kidney failure. She is now on dialysis three times a week. Through all of this she has managed to stay positive and strong. Now, while adjusting to her new lifestyle on dialysis, she has the strength to call me on a daily basis to encourage me and reassure me that I will get through this just as she has. What an inspiration my mom is not only to me, but my entire family.
One of the hardest things was being away from my children for almost a month when I was first treated. I missed them so much and when I came home bald and 60 lbs lighter my Matthew, did not recognize me. After hearing my voice and me chasing after him, he finally realized daddy had come home and sat on my lap for hours and he is a child who is never still for a minute! According to Dr. Hashimi, I’m now in remission and doing well. I look forward to returning to work and enjoying a long, loving life with my family. Thank you for taking the time to read my perspective. I wish you all long healthy and peaceful lives.
I Never Gave Up!
After participating in the STI-571 (Gleevec) clinical trial in October 2000 Eva Brubaker went into complete remission in April 2001. Shortly after sharing "My Journey with CML" in the October/ November/December 2001 edition of InTouch she starting experiencing an adverse reaction in her liver due to the Gleevec. Therefore, she had to stop taking the drug that was keeping her chronic myelogenous leukemia in remission.
Ever on the "look-out" for promising clinical trials that could benefit her patients, Dr. Linda Bosserman referred her once again to UCLA where she was enrolled in a Phase I clinical trial for BMS 354825. "I was running out of options and felt I had nothing to loose," said Eva. Her faith in God and the continued support from her husband, John, two daughters and her son, helped give her the determination to keep fighting.
So, in November 2003 she started taking a new drug. She was, in fact, the first human to take this drug! UCLA and MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, were the only sites where this new drug was being tested on those people who could no longer take Gleevec for their CML.
Eva started taking a 15 mg pill each day, which was slowly increased to the maximum of 75 mg. At first she experienced a few side-effects (diarrhea, headaches, fatigue) but not severe enough that she wanted to stop taking the drug. Best of all she responded very well—her blood counts continued improving until October 2004 when she was in complete remission.
Eva celebrated her first anniversary on this phase I clinical trial in November 2004. Her hope has been restored and she feels great! She has traveled to Australia to visit her son and daughter-in-law. And she also went to New York at the request of Bristol-Myers Squibb (the manufacturer of this new drug) to speak to students at the "Freedom to Dream" program for future scientists. She told her story and emphasized the importance of continued research. "When one treatment didn’t work, a second and third was there that offered me some hope. That’s why research is so important and why careers in science or medicine are so helpful to people...scientists don’t give up, and neither did I," Eva said.
The clinical findings from the study were present at the American Society of Hematology conference held in San Diego on December 6, 2004.
The trial showed that 86 percent of (31 out of the 36) patients treated with BMS-354825, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, achieved a complete hematologic response (complete remission).
Participating in clinical trials has literally made a huge difference in Eva’s quality of life. It’s so important to participate in research if it’s appropriate for your individual case—because it can make such a difference in how cancer is treated in the future. Treatments, and their side-effects have improved so much over the past 20 years and because of that, people with cancer are living longer with a great quality of life!
Eva is so grateful to Dr. Bosserman for her commitment to clinical trials and referring her to UCLA when it was necessary in order for her to get the opportunity to receive cutting-edge therapy.