Deflated to Determined: Facing Leukemia Head-On
Jay’s passion for biking started in 1988, when he was stationed in Hawaii with the Navy.
His knees paid a heavy price for his military career and years of football, but bicycling has allowed Jay to stay active in retirement while sparing his knees.
In 2006, Jay had knee replacement surgery. That’s when he got some unexpected—and unwelcome—news: He had leukemia.
The shock left Jay deflated.
Still, the diagnosis could have been worse. He had a slow-acting strain that can take years before requiring treatment. He recounted his doctor telling him, “If you have to have leukemia, you’ve got the type that you want to have.”
Despite the silver lining, Jay struggled to picture himself coming out on top in a toe-to-toe battle with the disease.
“I figured my time was up.”
Jay’s leukemia progressed slowly enough that his doctor decided to hold off on treatment after the diagnosis. But after five years, Jay’s tests began raising alarms. He started chemotherapy.
His cancer went into remission for more than a year after his first treatment. The cancer returned again “with a vengeance” eight months after his second chemotherapy session.
But when a promising new medication hit the market, his doctor advised him to give it a try.
Jay praised its success: “No more getting stuck with injections and infusions and laying on the table for six, eight hours at a time.”
He was introduced to Diplomat through this new prescription. Though he is “a very hard guy to impress,” Jay said Diplomat won him over.
“They call themselves partners. I call them family. They take care of me. I don’t have to remember when to renew my drugs. … They always call me five to seven days before I need my new script. [They] talk to me about the weather, talk to me about my activities.”
Nearly 10 years after his diagnosis, Jay said, “I don’t think I’ve felt better in 40 years.”
Thanks to his daily bike rides, his heart rate and blood pressure are both down.
“I’m up to 20 miles a day now and feel I could probably go 100 if I wanted to pretty easily.”
Looking back to his diagnosis, Jay said, “My mindset has changed dramatically since then. … I just feel good. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s just, I don’t feel lazy. I don’t take naps anymore. I feel energetic. I want to do things.”