About Gary Schine and FindCure.com
I started Schine Online Services and findcure.com after I was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that my oncologist told me was incurable. I did my own research and discovered that a new drug, announced just three months before my grim diagnosis, was showing very positive results against the type of rare leukemia I had. This drug was not announced in an unheard of publication of dubious quality. In fact, it was announced in The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected medical journals in the world. To make a long story short, based on my efforts, I was treated with this new drug and have been cancer free (what doctors would term "No Evidence of Disease" or "NED") for nearly 20 years.
About two years after I was diagnosed, I started writing a book titled If the President Had Cancer... The success of that book led to the founding of Schine Online Services and Findcure.com which has helped thousands of people, in over 20 countries find better treatment options for their illnesses. Here is an excerpt from the book:
"You have a lymphoproliferative disorder," the doctor told me. I had no idea what that meant, and the doctor knew it. He was just beginning to break the news to me gently and I guess that was the approach that worked best for him.
As the story unfolded it became clear that my depressed iron level noted at a recent blood drive had nothing to do with poor diet as I had naively surmised. I won't pretend to remember everything that Dr. Telder* said at that meeting but I clearly remember a few words like malignancy and leukemia and a few phrases of advice like "make sure your health insurance and life insurance policies are paid up." Mostly I remember thinking about my two year old daughter and my seven year old son growing up without a father and about my wife having to support them, raise them, and explain what happened to Daddy all by herself. "This can't be real," I thought. "I'm only 38; how can I have cancer?" It was very real indeed. The doctor had a little encouraging news by our next meeting two weeks later. He had completed his diagnostic tests and explained that I had hairy cell leukemia, a rare form of the disease. It could have been worse, in that HCL progresses relatively slowly. "Why I've seen people with HCL live for ten years," he told me. To keep me alive would require major surgery, a splenectomy. That might buy me a few years of relatively trouble free life. Then I might start on a drug called interferon which would manage the illness but not cure it. Interferon comes with side effects such as periodic flu-like symptoms and loss of mental concentration abilities. "There is no cure," the doctor cautioned. "What we want to do is lessen the severity and slow down the progress of the leukemia."
In the meantime my already compromised immune system would deteriorate further, my constant fatigue would get worse, and I might eventually be susceptible to spontaneous external and internal bleeding.
That was eighteen months ago. Things are different now. This morning I braved the 26 degree cold and ran 2 1/2 miles as I do on most mornings. Back then, I had difficulty walking two flights of stairs. I'm working full 8 hour days now. I could easily work more but I don't because I want to spend time with my kids. One thing my experience taught me is how important it is to spend time with them. Last year I could hardly stay awake for eight hours without a nap. My immune system is as capable as it ever was, and spontaneous bleeding is no longer a threat. There is simply no evidence of cancer to be found in my body.
You see, despite Dr. Telder's predictions, I am, by all indications cured of my incurable disease. The doctor simply was unaware of the latest developments in the treatment of HCL. He did not know about two recent treatments that were much more effective than his antiquated treatment proposal of splenectomy followed by interferon.
The treatment that I chose was developed and administered at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, California. The treatment, a chemotherapy agent called 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine (2-CDA), involved a seven day intravenous infusion. While the drug had short term side effects like nausea, fever, and flu-like symptoms, there are no known long term side effects. Two weeks after the treatment I returned from California to my home in Rhode Island able to carry on my life, albeit on an abbreviated schedule. Two months after my return I was working full time, exercising for the first time in years, and feeling like a new person. While I have no guarantees, I have been given every reason to believe I will neither suffer a relapse nor later side effects from the treatment. Had I not set out to find information on my own, had I not been assertive in seeking and getting the best treatment available, the prognosis offered by Dr. Telder would have been fulfilled.
Every person with a serious illness has the responsibility to be informed about that illness and its treatment options. The seriously ill patient must take responsibility for doing all he can to prolong his life and to strive for the best quality of life possible. As my experience (and that of so many others) shows, relying solely on one's doctor will not always be adequate. It takes some research and study and some assertiveness to assure that you know what the choices are and to make those choices based on the best information possible.
Clearly my own efforts resulted in a home run; I found a cure for an illness that was supposed to be debilitating and fatal. In my case (at least in retrospect) it was all black and white, there was a bad choice and a much better choice. Not every cancer sufferer will be so fortunate or have choices so clearly contrasted as I did. However, many patients will have choices as to how to battle the formidable enemy called cancer. To know how to make the best choices, indeed to know what the choices are, you need to become informed. You need also to use that information to derive the power you will need to give yourself the best chance possible.
*The name "Dr. Telder" is fictitious. Any resemblance to any person's actual name is unintended and coincidental.
Following my experiences, I founded Schine Online Services, a search service to provide information about the latest research and treatments available for other persons faced with a serious illness.
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