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From Love Story to Cancer Trial Hero

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Published on January 6, 2020

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient Bob Azopardi of Long Island, New York believed in “paying it forward.” When he reconnected with his high school sweetheart as he was seriously ill with leukemia, she urged him to participate in a clinical trial. It added years to his life, and he spoke about it widely and often. As 2020 began, Bob died in his sleep. In this retrospective, Patient Power co-Founder Andrew Schorr pays tribute to Bob.

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You share your lives, your thoughts, your time. I am overwhelmed by all the help I have received to help me understand this disease. I can't thank you enough!

— Mary Ellen, CLL Survivor

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Transcript | From Love Story to Cancer Trial Hero

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Hellio, this is Andrew Schorr from Patient Power. I want to talk to you for a minute about my friend Bob Azopardi from Long Island, New York. Unfortunately, Bob passed away just a couple days ago at the beginning of the new year. He did in his sleep after a long battle with a condition I also have, chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL. But Bob’s story is not an entirely sad one, and I wanted to share that with you.

First of all, I wanted to tell you how grateful we are at Patient Power for knowing Bob, because Bob on his journey with CLL and participating in a clinical trial which worked for him wanted to tell other people. He did that at a big event at AT&T ballpark where he spoke to thousands of people with Genentech, the developer of one of the medicines he took. And then he did it numerous other times on Patient Power programs, and he did it directly talking to industry and scientists to say thank you for developing newer medicines that were able to help him.

Not that long ago, Bob and i talked about clinical trials, which he and I both believe in and have made a big difference for us, and Bob urged other patients to try clinical trials.

Bob Azopardi:

I feel real good. Quality of life now since the drug and everything has been improved. I got my life back. I feel terrific. It worked out very very well.

Andrew Schorr:

Bob’s story is really quite a memorable one, and I wanted to share that for a minute. Bob, when I first met him, told me how he had been divorced and very sick living in South Florida. And he thought he wasn’t long for this world. He told his doctor he really wanted to go to his high school reunion in Long Island in New York and could he be well enough to go. And the doctor said, “I think you can.”

Bob went, and across the room at his high school reunion he spotted his high school sweetheart who he’d taken to the senior prom decades earlier.He went up to her, Linda, and said, “Linda, do you remember me?” And, of course, she did. And she reached into her purse, and out of a little packet she had in her purse she pulled out a little bracelet that Bob had given her when he took her to the prom. Bob said, “Do you still have feeling for me? I have feelings for you.” “Yes.” He told her the story of his CLL and how sick he was. She urged him to come up to New York and to see world-famous doctors there.

They got married. He did move to New York. He did see a world-famous doctor, Dr. Richard Furman. He entered the clinical trial for a drug that became known as venetoclax (Venclexta). And it gave Bob years more on his life. Unfortunately, that is now ended, but we are so grateful for knowing Bob and how much of a difference he made to so many thousands of people—really a man who paid it forward. We will always remember him. I’m Andrew Schorr.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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