Inspiring survivor

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Chad Hill has defied the odds and now shares a story that’s an inspiration to all.

Diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in February 2005, the North Texas man has been declared cancer-free, and two years ago, he became a father — something doctors doubted would be possible.

Representing the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Hill spoke to the Denton City Council on Sept. 11 and accepted a proclamation that declared the month of September to be Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

More than 1 million Americans are living with a form of blood cancer. In 2011, more than 13,000 people were diagnosed with blood cancer in Texas.

Hill’s story should give them hope.

One month after his diagnosis, he was asked to join a clinical study at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for a developmental drug named Gleevec. For the next two years, he went to Houston every three months for tests and treatments.

At the time of his diagnosis, Hill had a white blood cell count of 275,000, and 4,000 to 11,000 is considered the normal range. As a result, his spleen became enlarged and was pressing on his stomach, not allowing it to expand when he ate.

“It was my built-in lap band,” Hill said. “Needless to say, I lost a lot of weight.”

Hill lost 20 pounds in three months, changed his habits and continues to take the “miracle drug” every day, because there is no cure for CML, and he has a very small number of cancer cells in his blood.

Without the medication, he would have needed a bone marrow transplant. Hill said his doctors told him at the time that he had a 60 percent to 80 percent chance of finding a match.

But those odds were much better than his chances of fathering a child. Hill said his doctors know of only two children born after one of the parents had taken Gleevec.

In March 2010, Chad and Amy Hill celebrated the birth of their son, Caleb.

“He is the best thing — my greatest accomplishment,” Hill said.

Now 37, Hill said he considers himself blessed.

Since his diagnosis, Hill and his wife have become active in the North Texas chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which helps patients with blood cancers. Hill and his wife have raised more than $20,000 through the chapter’s Light The Night Walk and its Team in Training program.

He credits similar efforts with raising the funds necessary to develop the drug that saved his life.

“I am especially grateful for that,” he said.

Even with fatigue, cramps in his hands and feet, swollen legs and eyes — some side effects of the medication — Hill is preparing for his second half-marathon next month in Fort Worth. After seeing many children and seniors affected by the disease at MD Anderson, Hill wanted to run in the event to help raise funds for leukemia research.

The 2012 Light The Night Walk will be held Sunday, Oct. 21. More information is available at www.lightthe
night.org/ntx.

Like we said, Chad Hill is an inspiration. He shares his story to heighten awareness and help other cancer victims — just as he did in Denton a few days ago.

But he doesn’t stop there. He also leads by example, showing all of us what can be accomplished if we’re determined enough to try.

 


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