On April 23rd, I spoke at a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man / Woman of the Year fundraising event in support of my good friend and Woman of the Year Candidate Cathy Peduzzi. The hall was filled with several Philadelphia Eagle players, alumni, coaches, staff, and media. It was a real treat for me to hang out with that crew and to be able to speak and share my story and experiences with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team in Training. The key points of my comments went something like this -
My involvement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society began 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia. The truth is that this disease has created more opportunities than it has taken away – and – opened more doors than it has closed.
I was a healthy and active kid and adult with ZERO health issues or concerns. After many years multisport racing, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia on February 24th 2006.
That required 4 immediate week-long rounds of chemotherapy as well as follow up treatment for 1 week every 6 months for 2 years. And even then at best the goal was to manage it and keep it off the radar.
I made some key decisions immediately following my diagnosis. These decisions allowed me to keep this in perspective and keep me in the driver’s seat. First, I signed on as a triathlon coach with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program where I get to feed my insatiable appetite for the sport while helping others attain their goals. That decision gave my disease a purpose. Next, I made the commitment to be vocal and open with my experience with the hope that others may benefit. And third, I vowed to never let go of my passions of running, racing and training. Even if it means scheduling chemo treatments around the race calendar or running home from treatment.
I was lucky and reached remission. But this is a chronic cancer and one that I need to monitor regularly with blood draws, checkups, and CT scans. I’ve had a few speedbumps through the years but I continue to respond well whenever treatment is needed.
I am a poster child for all of the things that can go right with a cancer diagnosis. today I remain in complete remission. I have treatment drugs that work and the future looks bright for my disease. Very bright.
People often ask me about the current state of my health. Recently, I have boiled my response down to a few brief words – “I’m not dying and I’m not contagious. So, I’M GREAT”
I owe much of that to the work being done at LLS as they have provided funding for 1 of my drugs and continue to fund some of what’s in the pipeline that will help me and those like me in the future. Simply put – my future is brighter because of the work LLS is doing and because of the support of people like you.
So while I’m proud of the fact that I have completed 26 marathons, an ultra-marathon in South Africa, 12 full ironman triathlons, and countless other events over 30 years of racing, I’m more proud of the fact that I’ve weathered 46 rounds of chemotherapy.
I’m more proud of the many athletes I’ve been able to coach through the Team in Training program.
I’m more proud of the fact that I can live and enjoy a happy and active life with my wife of almost 30 years, our 2 daughters, and 2 our grandchildren.
I’m more proud of the fact that I still have decades of racing ahead of me.
And I’m more proud of the fact that I have been able to be a voice and have been able to mentor many other patients and their families as they reconcile what it means to be diagnosed.
At the center of all of that is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In 2010 I had the honor and privilege of being LLS’s Man of The Year so I’m very happy to support Cathy in her Woman of the Year campaign efforts.
Thanks for being here tonight. And thanks for supporting such a wonderful organization.