I believe the medical industrial complex has extended my life.

Thomas (Tom) - Golden, Colorado
Entered on February 12, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: illness

I am a 3 time survivor of leukemia and I believe that my survival is due to the medical industrial complex.

Seventeen years ago I was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia. If that had happened a few years earlier, it is very likely I would have died. But seventeen years ago, Interferon was available and was the drug of choice for hairy cell. I learned how to give myself injections and was doing that 3 times a week. The treatment was supposed to last 6 months. After 3 months, I had lost a third of my body weight and was so sore, my wife had to pull me up out of chairs so I could stand. It took several weeks in the hospital before the doctors figured out that the Interferon had induced Lupus and that my body was attacking itself. So I went off the Interferon and onto Prednisone. The pain went away overnight, and over the next 3 months my weight came back. So did the leukemia.

There was an experimental treatment called 2CDA that was in clinical trials. My oncologist got me into that trial. It involved a continuous infusion that lasted a week. After the infusion, a bone marrow biopsy showed that the leukemia was decimated.

For the next eight years I got blood tests every two months and had regular visits with my oncologist. As we saw the results begin to degrade, we realized the leukemia was probably coming back. When the bone marrow biopsy confirmed it, it was time for more 2CDA. The drug I had taken as part of the clinical trial was now the drug of choice. The leukemia was successfully pushed back again.

Eight more years of blood tests, visits and bone marrow biopsies showed that the leukemia had returned yet again. More 2CDA. But this time there was a new drug to throw into the fray called Rituxin. Several months after the last of the Rituxin, my blood chemistry is now normal for the first time in 17 years. There is a real chance that my leukemia will return a 4th time. Maybe in another 8 years, or 10 or 20. But there is also a very real chance that this time, it’s gone for good.

Through out these past 17 years many friends, relatives, and associates have offered their prayers for my recovery. I believe that prayer has helped them. But I believe that all of the support from my wife; all the blood tests, bone marrow biopsies, and x-rays; all the doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators, schedulers, and janitors; all the drug companies, hospitals, out patient services, and labs; All the various insurance company payments; the entire medical industrial complex has given me the over 6000 days of extra life I have enjoyed. For that I would like to say a collective Thank You.