Here is a time-line of my almost four-year battle with leukemia:
- Dec 17 2009: First diagnosed with leukemia, as a result of a routine blood test from a yearly physical.
- Jun 1 2010: Definitively diagnosed with de neuvo pro-lymphocytic leukemia (PLL), with a nasty mutation called C-MYC. Very rare — only a handful of cases every year in the US — but very aggressive. The only cure would be a stem cell transplant.
- Jun-Oct 2010: Monthly three-day chemotherapy cocktail to put the PLL into remission, a prerequisite to having a transplant.
- Nov 1 2010: Began nine-month medical leave of absence from Saybrook and Yale.
- Nov 12 2010: Admitted to Smilow Cancer Hospital. Began daily chemo and full-body radiation to entirely kill off my immune system.
- Nov 18 2010: Underwent unrelated allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Which means receiving bone marrow stem cells from someone unrelated to me. My donor was a 20-something male found through the international bone marrow database.
- Dec 1 2010: Released from Smilow. Moved into an apartment with Cathy which we had to keep sterile. Germs are bad.
- Dec 2010-Jul 2011: Hospitalized three times for either GVHD (graft-versus-host disease) or infections.
- May 9 2011: My father passed away. I never told him I had leukemia, but, like my mother who passed away just before my diagnosis, he was an inspiration for me on how to leave this world with grace, dignity, and peace of mind.
- Aug 1 2011: Moved back into Saybrook College, resuming duties as Master, as well as teaching and conducting research in Computer Science.
- Aug 2011-Apr 2012: Hospitalized three more times for various infections (average stay: nine days).
- May 21 2012: Gave my commencement speech in Saybrook College with an oxygen tank under my robe and breathing cannula in my nose.
- Aug 11 2012: Attended my daughter Cristina’s wedding in Utah — a major milestone!
- Sep 8 2012: Rode in the 25-mile “Closer to Free” bike-ride fundraiser for Smilow Cancer Hospital. The “Saybrook Climbers” team raised over $7000 for Smilow.
- Nov 18 2012: Two-year anniversary of my transplant — happy birthday to my new DNA!
- January 2013: Discovered who my donor was — a 26 year old who lives on a farm in Germany with his girlfriend. We’ve exchanged email and hope some day to meet in person. Thank you Matthias, for saving my life!
My immune system is still compromised, and I still have lingering chronic health issues related to the various treatments, but the leukemia is gone and will hopefully not come back. I grow stronger every day, as does my energy, muscle strength, and enthusiasm for life! With God’s good will, loving family and friends, and the amazing staff at Smilow, I’ve been able to get through all this. Thank you all for your support!