My Knight Cancer Story: Ed McLaughlin

Ed McLaughlin had hoped to complete an Ironman Triathlon before being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2008. He would eventually reach that goal in 2012.

edI thought I was in the best shape of my life after I had just completed a 100-mile bicycle ride and a half-marathon in 2008. But a routine blood test the following week found otherwise: It revealed that I had a rare blood cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

I wasn’t optimistic: I had known a close friend whose brother died of CML in the 1990s, and I felt it was a death sentence.

But, as it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have any symptoms, and my cancer was caught early enough to be treated effectively. I talked with my oncologist about a variety of options and soon thereafter contacted Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, about taking Gleevec®, the first treatment of its kind.

Gleevec® had received FDA approval seven years earlier, proving it was possible to attack cancerous cells in CML patients without harming healthy cells in the process. Thanks to the new treatment, CML was no longer a death sentence, but rather a condition managed by the once-a-day pill.

At the time, my disease had progressed; I went from having no symptoms to sleeping 17 hours a day because of fatigue. Dr. Druker thought I may never have the energy to run a marathon again, but I remained hopeful; I had run more than 40 marathons to that point and was determined to run again, no matter the odds or outlook.

After taking time off from training to acclimate to Gleevec®, I was fortunate enough to get my life back. I have run six marathons since being diagnosed, and I completed an Ironman triathlon in 2012— finishing in the top 20 percent of my age group.

It was a very emotional experience, but I wasn’t going to let this disease get the best of me. I feel eternally grateful each and every day to Dr. Druker, the staff at OHSU and to everyone involved with the development of Gleevec®. Thanks to them, I am able to live a very fulsome and active life, and I never take a day for granted. I am truly blessed.