Anyone with a serious diagnosis knows it not only scares you, it scares the people who care about you. Hopefully, over time, your condition gets better, as it has for me with leukemia. You feel better, are less worried, become more knowledgeable, and you begin to go on with your life. The illness may still be there, and you still you need checkups or some treatment. But you move on. But for your friends who may not nearly be so much in-the-know, they may still be a few steps back in “worryland.” This past weekend I experienced that when I...

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Discussing cancer with adults can be difficult, but most adults have some experience with cancer and can relate to this in some way. How you discuss cancer with children is more complex but I believe there is important good news to share. Last Saturday I was the invited speaker at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event at the high school in my hometown, Mercer Island, Washington. There are many such events happening right now across the nation. A couple of hundred young people ages 15-18 sat on the grass in the sun as we kicked off the afternoon...

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I spent one day last week at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  I was there for a checkup, having first visited the center 16 years ago. There are several new buildings now and its much bigger, but the leukemia center is still on the 9th floor and many of the people who work there are still the same – only a bit older, just like me. One of the things I love about the leukemia center is that it hasn’t moved. The waiting room is sizeable but quickly becomes jammed with people. They have chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL,...

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There are big companies like Quintiles that run clinical trials around the world. There are local clinics that specialize in clinical trials and make a lot of money at it. There are, of course, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers who depend upon the results to gain marketing approval for new products. People in all those groups know a lot about trials. But the perspective that counts is the view from you and me – patients. Most of us do not enroll in clinical trials. We don’t want to get too up close and personal with anything “experimental.” And often our...

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I had breakfast this morning in Las Vegas with my friend, Dave Garcia. Dave is a pit boss on the graveyard shift at the Belagio Hotel where they made the modern day Ocean’s buddy movies. Dave is also a 52-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor. He reached out to me online and we have been friends since soon after his diagnosis in 2002. Dave is a father of two young kids. He dreams of seeing them grow up. But, understandably, he worries. Some days more than others. Today was his day to see his oncologist and get the latest blood test...

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This past weekend Oscar-nominated Hollywood and Broadway actress Jill Clayburgh died at age 66. The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which she had been fighting, privately, for 21 years. As you may recall, I, too, have CLL and I was diagnosed at the same age, 45. For me, I am 16 and a half years into that “battle” although, fortunately, I have been feeling very good in the ten years since I received treatment as part of a breakthrough clinical trial. While I have no symptoms and take no medicine I do not consider myself cured. So when someone...

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As Gale Fisher approached her late 60’s in Northern California she remained an active woman who loved to play golf and walk. But pain in her right calf  made walking very far difficult. And it was getting worse. Gale eventually saw her doctor and had an x-ray of her spine. One eminent doctor thought her pain was caused by stenosis, narrowing of her spine. He suggested fusion surgery might be needed. Gale knew back surgery all too often does not relieve a patient’s pain so she opted for a more conservative approach – injections. She also tried physical therapy. Neither...

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More and more people are telling me their own Powerful Patient stories. I love it! I heard this one at lunch today in Las Vegas as I reconnected in-person with CLL friend Dave Garcia, 50, a veteran pit boss at the famous Bellagio casino. Dave and I met via the Internet seven years ago after he was diagnosed with CLL. He searched for information and found my story of being in a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I told him to get on Southwest Airlines and fly to Houston to be evaluated there after he was...

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Caroline Hale, of Nashville, is an incredibly articulate recent college graduate who is an exemplary cancer survivor. I was delighted to have her as a guest on our Cancer Survivorship webcast earlier this week, sponsored by Vanderbilt Medical Center. We asked Caroline if she would write a guest blog. She responded with her usual passion to use her medical experience to help others. It is indisputable that the rise in cancer cure rates since the mid 1900s is an outstanding accomplishment by the medical community. If I had been diagnosed with stage III Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the 1960s, it is...

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I am a real fan of medical progress through science. Having met many drug researchers I know how it can take years and many millions of dollars to actually end up with a new, approved medicine. As you know, approval is based on clinical trials – trials where maybe a hundred or a few hundred people participate. If a drug is safe and effective and especially meets an unmet need, it typically gets approved. But it is in the months and years that follow that a more complete story develops. It is in this time following approval where we can...

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Page last updated on April 25, 2019