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How To Save A Life

A letter from the editor of the August 2018 issue of 5280.

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I’ll never forget getting the call. My younger brother, Craig, had been suffering from severe headaches and dizziness for months. Doctors had ruled out a number of serious health issues, but the symptoms didn’t abate. A neurologist suggested one last test—a spinal tap—and the results were terrifying. My parents called me with the news: Craig had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He would start chemotherapy immediately. He was 26 years old. Most people associate cancer with the elderly, but it also attacks kids and a demographic doctors call “AYAs,” or adolescents and young adults, as assistant editor Mary Clare Fischer explains in her poignant and hopeful feature, “Inside The Fight To Beat Childhood Cancer.” My brother was an AYA, and after a couple of false starts with his treatment, he connected with two oncologists who thought a drug regimen similar to those used to treat pediatric cancer would give him the best chance for survival. Craig was blasted with high-dose chemo for about a year; he received radiation as well and had two more years of maintenance chemo. It was brutal. But his doctors and nurses were supportive and encouraging. And it worked: Craig has been cancer-free for 14 years. He’s married, has a two-year-old son, and just celebrated his 40th birthday. Craig is grateful—so grateful that he still regularly checks in with one of his doctors in person. And this month, he’s taking a road trip with his family and our parents to visit his other oncologist. Both of these physicians have become much more than medical professionals in my brother’s life; they’ve become friends. But, like the doctors Fischer highlights in this issue, I refer to them by a different moniker: I call them heroes.

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