Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Survivor
Jeffrey Davis went to see his naturopath in 2006 after coughing and realizing there was blood in the sink.
“I figured I just coughed too hard, but I went to see the doctor.” His doctor agreed with Jeffrey, but thought they should run some blood work just to be sure. What they learned was that Jeffrey had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow. The term “chronic” indicates that the disease usually progresses slowly. CLL is the most prevalent form of leukemia in Western countries, accounting for about one-third of all leukemias.
“My doctor said I broke the record for reflection,” Jeffrey says, looking back at getting the news. “It took me 35 seconds and I said, ‘OK. What can we do about it?’”
Jeffrey worked with this naturopath for a while until his blood count grew to the point where his naturopath said it was time for Jeffrey to see John M. Pagel, MD, PhD, medical oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Jeffrey did his homework before coming to SCCA. “Everywhere I asked, the answers came back the same: Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is a world-class institution.”
Treatment on a clinical study
“The lesson here is that you go in there, expose yourself to the experts, without fear of the answers, and once you know what you have, you take care of it,” Jeffrey says. “You have the technology now. You’d be crazy to ignore it.”
Jeffrey and his family went to see Dr. Pagel. “I made a deal with him: I walk in the door and you own me.” Jeffrey believes that you have to effectively meet cancer head-on. As he says, “You can’t be ‘half-pregnant.’”
Dr. Pagel enrolled Jeffrey in a clinical study to treat his CLL. It was a novel study using consolidation targeted therapy with a radiolabeled antibody, which would begin after remission was achieved from standard up-front chemotherapy. [www.seattlecca.org/clinical-trials/leukemia-NCT00476047.cfm].
“The idea is that we know, even though patients might be in a remission from upfront therapy, that their disease will return,” says Dr. Pagel. “However, we have data that suggests that if we can ‘consolidate’ these patients with more therapy that is well tolerated while in remission that they may be able to eliminate minimal residual disease, which has the potential to have a major impact on the natural history of the disease.”
Jeffrey was also treated on a second clinical study for directed targeted immunotherapy.
“Dr. Pagel said I have an unbelievable attitude,” Jeffrey says. “I do pray a lot, but I let the doctors do whatever they’re going to do. I have learned to trust the medical staff and the process.”
Jeffrey has completed treatment for the time being and is in remission. He gets blood work done every three months.
“CLL is a disease that will have periods of relapse,” say Dr. Pagel. “In Jeffrey’s case we will watch him closely and see how he does, and while he may require periodic treatments, he will continue to live a normal lifestyle.”
Living with a chronic disease
“SCCA is so good. I would be nuts to not do whatever they say—everyone on every floor,” Jeffrey says. “I’m leading myself to better health by listening to those who want to help me. I plan the work, then work the plan, and focus on what I'm going to, not going through.”
Jeffrey believes in the power of positive thinking: positive thoughts increase his opportunity for success, while negative thoughts deplete him. “This process has worked for me in the past and I'll continue on this path filled with hope until I need to change it,” he says.
He also puts a lot of faith in prayer and meditation. “I know I have a lot of people praying for me and sending positive vibes my way; I feel them, and those people tell me such. I’m ‘paying forward,’ for all the blessings I’ve been given, which really means something to me.”
Jeffrey gives credit for his survival to the “unconditional love and support of my family and friends, the leadership, staff and residents at Aegis Living (where he works), and everyone at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, from the receptionist, nurses and support staff, and my friend Dr. Pagel.”