It was a devastating diagnosis for Richmonder Paul Zamecnik back in 2005.
“They basically came back and said I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, ” he recalled.
He was just 45 and a father of three.
“My kids were 15, 10 and 3 at the time,” Zamecnik said.
Doctors told him he about six years left to live.
“Currently, it doesn’t have a cure,” he explained.
As the disease began to progress in 2010, Zamecnik decided he wasn’t going to sit around and wait to die. He began to research and found Doctor John Byrd, a doctor conducting clinical trials for his disease at Ohio State University.
“He is someone who has gotten a number of different grants from the Leukemia Society,” says Zamecnik.
The chemo-based clinical trial brought Zamecnik another four years.
In 2015, he relapsed and went back to that Ohio State doctor that the Leukemia & Lymphoma society was helping to fund.
“Chemo was no longer the standard first line of treatment,” says Zamecnik.
Thanks to more funding from LLS, a new line of drugs targeting the actual cancer cells had been developed.
“I was patient number 39,” explains Zamecnik. He began another clinical trial with the meds.
“I have been on this for about two-and-a-half years now, I take two pills a day,” he said. “I have virtually no side effects, it is truly just a wonder drug.”
Now, 12 years since that grim diagnosis, Paul tells 8News his white blood cells look good.
“My counts are normal right now,” says Zamecnik. “I am clearly a success story.”
Zamecnik has had the strength to cycle Lake Tahoe in a fundraiser for LLS and recently he had the opportunity to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, something in 2005 he feared he would miss.
“I can say without at doubt that without the drugs that the Leukemia Society helped develop I would not be here,” says Zamecnik.
Inspired by the work of LLS, Paul now sits on the non-profit’s board hoping to help make a difference for others like him.
LLS has funded more than a billion dollars in cutting edge research; some of it at VCU and VCU’s children’s hospital.
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