We play many roles in a given day or week — parent, sibling, caretaker, breadwinner, teacher and student. But few of us are prepared to play one of life’s toughest role — that of a patient with a serious illness. These people have stories that reflect their courage and determination in coping with their disease that inspire us all.
In April 2002, 54-year-old Naval Reservist, lawyer and arms control expert, Captain Jared Silberman was preparing to leave active duty when abnormal laboratory results from a physical exam suggested a problem. Jared, who felt healthy, had been treated for mantle cell lymphoma with CHOP chemotherapy, radiation and autologous bone marrow transplant a decade earlier. He requested a blood test and the results spurred him to call his former physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His doctor diagnosed Jared with another form of CD20-postive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and offered him RITUXAN® (rituximab).
Jared received his first infusion with RITUXAN and within a week began to respond to therapy, which enabled him to avoid a second bone marrow transplant. He proceeded to receive four cycles of RITUXAN treatment, and now continues to get infusions every four to five months of therapeutic antibody. “I feel great – you have to remind me to get treatment,” Jared says, noting that he has continued to lead a highly active life, playing tennis, running, weight training and other sports. He has also continued his work for the Navy as a civilian expert on international arms control negotiations, and as an adjunct professor, teaching securities and Internet law at the College of William and Mary. Moreover, grateful for his experience with RITUXAN, Jared volunteers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, sharing his experience and support with newly diagnosed people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Flying is a huge part of my life,” says Rick Kurner, age 51, who earned his first pilot’s license at age 15 and has been a commercial pilot since the mid-1980s. The Southern California native was nearly sidelined, however, when he was diagnosed in 1999 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to Rick, many of the chemotherapies commonly used against NHL were associated with adverse effects on the peripheral nerves and heart that would prevent him from receiving medical clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to keep flying. Fortunately, his doctor had been an investigator in clinical trials with RITUXAN® (rituximab), and suggested treatment with that therapeutic — which the FAA also authorized for Rick’s use without reservations on his ability to fly. After four infusions of RITUXAN, Rick’s tumor had shrunk by 60%, and following another eight weeks of RITUXAN therapy combined with cytoxin and prednisone, he achieved a complete remission. Rick says that he experienced no significant side effects from his RITUXAN therapy. Today, he remains cancer-free and still flying more than five years after treatment.
Please keep in mind that every individual experiences therapy with RITUXAN® (rituximab) differently. A patient’s own experience may be different than Rick’s.
Important Safety Information
The majority of patients experience infusion-related symptoms with their first RITUXAN infusion. These symptoms include but are not limited to, flu-like fever, chills/rigors, nausea, uticaria, headache, bronchospasm, angioedema and hypotension. These symptoms vary in severity and generally are reversible with medical intervention. In rare instances, severe and fatal infusion-related reactions have occurred, nearly all of which have been associated with the first RITUXAN infusion. These events appear as manifestations of an infusion-related complex and include hypoxia, pulmonary infiltrates, acute respiratory distress syndrome, myocardial infarction, ventricular fibrillation, cardiogenic shock and tumor lysis syndrome. Patients who develop clinically significant infusion-related cardiopulmonary events should have their RITUXAN infusion discontinued and receive medical treatment.
In rare instances, severe mucocutaneous skin reactions have occurred that may be associated with RITUXAN therapy. Many of these reactions have been described as paraneoplastic pemphigus and are known to be associated with various B-cell lymphomas, particularly NHL and CLL. Patients who develop a severe mucocutaneous skin reaction should have RITUXAN discontinued and receive appropriate medical treatment including a skin biopsy to guide therapy.
One morning in 1984, Greg Dunn woke up with a terrible, unremitting headache, extreme nausea, and blurred vision. After a week’s stay in the hospital, he returned home with no conclusion of what was wrong. He remained healthy over the next seven years and competed in the Chicago Marathon in 1990. But three months after the race, he began to feel an increasing numbness in his right hand, arm, and face, resulting in slurred speech.
Greg immediately went to see a neurologist, who after viewing his history of symptoms diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis. At that time, it felt like a death sentence, with no real treatments available and two young children at home to care for. He decided to immediately undergo an experimental intensive chemotherapy regimen in an attempt to shut down the attack.
The following year, he suffered a series of random, small attacks — never sure of when he would feel healthy again. But Greg’s future with the disease improved in 1996, when he was given the opportunity to take a new treatment, AVONEX. Since Greg has been on AVONEX, his symptoms have been minimized and he has had no additional attacks.
Two years ago, Greg fulfilled a life-long dream to be part of The Everest 2000 Environmental Expedition, a climbing team that cleans up debris left from 50 years of summit attempts. Greg and most of the group were successful in arriving at the Base Camp, at 18,000 feet, but unable to get to the top because of a team member’s illness. The local paper, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, carried daily stories of the groups’ climb, and Greg and the others were heartily welcomed back after they returned from Nepal.
In January 2003 Greg attempted to summit Mt. Kilamanjaro from the Tanzanian side. Altitude was a major obstacle in the expedition because base camp was at 6,000 feet, and the group had to climb to over 19,000 feet in just five days. Greg had been training by maintaining a regular schedule of exercise including running an average of 20 miles per week.
Throughout Greg’s illness, he has maintained a healthy body and equally important a healthy and optimistic attitude about his future. He believes that the mental component of any illness is just as important as the physical, and that it is essential that people with chronic diseases believe that they can continue to lead normal lives and look forward to their future. Greg truly believes that there are many mountains to climb ahead and views his future, and the future of others with MS as bright.
Please keep in mind that every individual experiences therapy with AVONEX® (Interferon beta-1a) differently. A patient’s own experience may be different than that of Greg.
Important Safety Information
The most common side effects associated with AVONEX treatment are flu-like symptoms including myalgia, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, nausea, vomiting, pain and asthenia.
AVONEX should be used in caution with patients with depression or other mood disorders and in patients with seizure disorders. AVONEX should not be used by pregnant women. Patients with cardiac disease should be closely monitored. Patients should also be monitored for signs of hepatic injury. Routine periodic blood chemistry and hematology tests are recommended during treatment with AVONEX. Rare cases of anaphylaxis have been reported. Please see complete prescribing information available at www.AVONEX.com .