Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lucky Me

I have Leukemia.

I am extremely lucky.

I have a tremendous group of family and friends who have done everything imaginable to help me since I was hospitalized a few weeks ago and who continue to do so now that I'm at home recuperating.

I have a great team of doctors at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College who caught this thing in the early, chronic phase.

I'm fortunate to have fantastic health insurance, thanks to my job working as a graphic designer for Dow Jones & Co. Hopefully, Congress will do something soon so that this won't constitute luck.

I'm also sure that this is nothing more than a bump in the road, thanks to a wonderful drug called Imatinib, but better known as Gleevec thanks to the good people at Novartis.

Gleevec is not the traditional cancer treatment. Instead of bombarding the body with radiation or chemicals, this drug is a targeted therapy. Gleevec works on the cellular level to stop the abnormal build-up of white blood cells. Left untreated this condition causes white blood cells to crowd out others in the blood causing all sorts of problems. Because it just targets the overproduction of white blood cells I don't have to worry about too many of the traditional cancer treatment side effects like nausea, fatigue or hair loss. That means I'll look like my normal self in June when I get married.

So far, the treatment seems to be working. When I was hospitalized on September 22 my white blood cell count was 390,000. As of yesterday, it was down to 24,000. Normal is between 3,000 and 10,000. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting close. When my white blood cell counts normalize I'll be a third of the way to remission.

In May, 2001 it took the FDA just two-and-a-half weeks to approve its use. In the same month Time Magazine hailed it as a "magic bullet" in the war on cancer. What would have been a death sentence 20 years ago is now a manageable condition, akin to high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you'd like to help fund research for other, future leukemia treatments click here.

The image above was produced during the Great Depression as part of the WPA's Federal Art Project. I'm not planning on slowing down anytime soon. Hopefully I'll be cranking out images for years to come. I'm not even 30 yet. I figure I have a good 50 years to keep on drawing. If I'm lucky my work will be providing inspiration to another generation of artists, like the one above.

On October 15 I will be participating in the Light the Night Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with the Society of Illustrators team to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. If you would like to make a donation please click here.