i first “met” john kark back in 2006 when i was in the middle of fundraising for my second season with team in training. all the way in chicago, he had found my team in training page through the internet somehow, and he made a donation and told me to keep up the good work. he shared his story as we emailed back and forth, and i am proud to call him a friend.
last month, i received the following email from john. he’s also asked me if i’d run a mile for him in this year’s marathon. instead, i’m dedicating my race this year to john and asking all of you to please send positive thoughts and prayers his way. i know he’ll beat this cancer and continue to inspire so many of us… go john!
I just want to give everyone an update about what is going on with me right now. Last week I was diagnosed with AML – acute myeloid leukemia as a secondary cancer. In 2000, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which I have been in remission from ever since treatment. As a result of the treatment that I had for the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I have now developed AML. Amazingly, 90% of the patients who received the type of chemo that I did in 2000 develop AML within 10 years. It is just part of the deal.
I was supposed to start chemo last week but there have been a few hurdles. The first hurdle was obtaining my previous medical records from Michael Reese Hospital which closed a few years ago. My doctors cannot determine my complete chemo regime because Michael Reese Hospital did not retain all of my medical records when they closed. This is a great lesson for everyone. Get copies of you medical records and retain them yourself. I never thought this would be such an issue, but they couldn’t decide what drugs to give me because if they gave me the same one that I had in 2000 then it could cause heart failure.
I volunteered for an experimental drug that is being used in a study of secondary AML formed as a result of previous treatment for lymphoma. A lot of good things come from these clinical studies and if all goes well it could be the standard of treatment in the future. I have been testing all week to qualify for the study, which I did. That doesn’t mean that I am guaranteed to get the drug because the subjects are randomized, meaning there is a 50% chance that I will get the new drug or the basic treatment that is used today. The drug is not FDA approved meaning there is risk, but there is also increased hope.
I start chemo tomorrow and it is going to be 24 hours a day for a week, then I will have a week off and they will do a bone marrow tap to see how much cancer is left. This will repeat every two weeks until all is clear and then I will receive a stem cell transplant from one of my brothers or sisters given they are a match. If not, they will look to a national database to try to find a donor. I will be in the hospital the entire time and the doctors feel that I will be here a minimum of two months.
Please do not worry about me or feel sorry for me in any way. I have been fortunate to have beaten lymphoma and I shall overcome this too. I am young and in good shape and have a strong attitude which is key. I have been here before and know what I need to do. I am surrounded by good friends, family and the best doctors in the world. I couldn’t have better chances given the circumstances. The only thing that I ask is for everyone to expect me to beat this and then it will be so. I am ready, and those of you who know me well, also know that I will never stop fighting!
– John Kark