BREYANZI is a prescription medicine used to treat large B cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, when:
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My wife looked over at me and said, ‘Are
you sure you want to do this?’ and I said,
When Bill reflects on 83 years of life, he’s grateful.
Grateful for the tender, yet tough, love of immigrant parents that formed him. For the basketball scholarship that led him to college and a career. For the woman, Rochelle, who would become his wife and partner of 60 years. And for the chance to play with his great-grandchildren—a chance Bill wasn’t sure he’d have as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) spread through his body.
No matter where life has taken him, and where it will go, Bill trusts the 2 forces that have always been present: love and laughter.
There’s just an enormous amount of love in our family. We love to laugh. That’s pretty much the central core of our lifestyle.
Raised by Irish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, Bill grew up on the tail end of the Great Depression. Those early years shaped a mental, physical, and spiritual toughness he’d carry with him through life—and later, his battle with cancer.
Bill left New York for Ohio with dreams of playing college basketball, but when an injury halted those dreams, his focus shifted to economics. Economics led to an MBA and the start of his career in finance.
Around that time, Bill met Rochelle, his “gift from God.” Together, they had 3 children, creating a home filled with love, laughter, and happiness.
In retirement, Bill and Rochelle were living life to the fullest—traveling, socializing and staying active. Health and fitness had always been important to Bill. During his annual physical that year, Bill’s doctor noticed an enlarged spleen. After a summer of tests from head to toe, the cause was determined: non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
That’s okay. I can handle whatever happens. I am prepared for whatever the future brings.
For the next 5 years, Bill rode the roller coaster of 6-month follow-ups, his anxiety rising before each appointment and falling when the test results showed no progression. In the meantime, Bill and Rochelle celebrated 50 years together with their first cruise.
Doctors had to remove Bill’s spleen, which weighed 12 pounds. But after that, it was back to 6-month follow-ups for another 5 years.
When Bill’s cancer returned with newfound aggression and presented as DLBCL, his oncologist responded with 6 rounds of inpatient chemotherapy, infused over a period of 5 days every 23 days.
During his time in the hospital, Bill earned the nickname “Walkie-talkie.” He’d walk the halls 6 times a day, talking to everyone he met. There was the fireman on his sixth round of chemo and the woman who’d battled leukemia, but was now in the hospital supporting her husband. Their stories inspired Bill.
“I enjoy listening,” Bill says. “I like to talk to people. I like to find out who they are.”
Six rounds of chemo later, Bill and his family learned he was in remission. They were overjoyed.
Remission lasted 6 months.
Bill noticed swelling near his groin. His DLBCL had returned, and the prognosis was grim. Fear threatened to overshadow love and laughter, but Bill held tightly to faith. He had learned the importance of positivity during his experience with testicular cancer years before.
“I pray every day to be filled with physical, mental, and spiritual positive energy,” he says. “I told my doctor to smile. We were going to fight this.”
Because he had received 2 prior lines of DLBCL treatments that didn't work or stopped working, including a chemoimmunotherapy regimen after his relapse, Bill’s oncology team asked him to seriously consider a clinical trial for a CAR T cell therapy, now approved as Breyanzi. Bill learned that this treatment would take a sample of his T cells through a process called apheresis (sometimes called leukapheresis) and reprogram them to fight his cancer.
He remembers reading through clinical trial documents outlining the risks of treatment. The potential side effects of Breyanzi that are life-threatening and can lead to death include cytokine release syndrome and neurologic toxicity, while other common side effects include fever, low white or red blood cells, severe diarrhea, or severe nausea. Still, he trusted the opinion of his doctors and wanted to give Breyanzi a try.
See additional Breyanzi Important Safety Information.
My scan showed that I was in remission 45 days after the infusion of the CAR T cells. My birthday was truly a celebration.
His T cells were removed and sent to a manufacturing site for reprogramming, and 1 month later, they were ready for infusion. Bill underwent 3 days of low-dose chemo to help prepare his body for the new CAR T cells. Then, surrounded by family and nurses, he received his CAR T cell infusion.
“I was awake the whole time and talking,” he says. “I was made to feel comfortable. I’m sure I had fear, but it didn’t paralyze me.”
Recovery was tough. In the days following his infusion, Bill experienced neurologic toxicity as well as atrial fibrillation (AFib). He remained in the hospital for 3 weeks before he was discharged to a nearby continuing care facility. There, he spent about a week doing physical therapy and regaining strength, and even after that, it took some time before Bill was able to walk without assistance.
Because of the risk of cytokine release syndrome, neurologic toxicity, and other side effects, patients like Bill must remain at, or close to, where they received treatment for at least 4 weeks after the infusion for side effect monitoring.
Forty-five days after his infusion, Bill’s scan showed he was in remission.
While Bill’s scan showed he was in remission, it does not mean he’s cancer-free. Bill continues to be monitored for possible disease recurrence and long-term side effects from CAR T cell therapy.
“My birthday was truly a celebration,” he says. “Rochelle and I made plans to participate in our annual surf, sand, and sun family vacation at Del Mar Beach.”
There, they spent time with the whole family—including 7 grandchildren and their 8-month-old first great-grandchild. The celebration continued with a cruise from New York to Montreal.
Love and laughter, the 2 main forces in our life, were still here.
Today, Bill is grateful for Breyanzi and the chance to share his experience.
“I feel blessed for my positive attitude, faith, a great medical team, and medical treatments,” he says. “Maybe I can make a difference for somebody as they’re trying to decide their next step.”
When Bill considers what else life may hold, he remains hopeful.
“You can’t have fear,” he says. “That’s where the spiritual, physical, and mental balance comes into play.”
Bill plans to continue traveling the world with Rochelle, growing as an amateur photographer, and spending time with his great-grandchildren. Above all, to continue laughing and loving.
“Quite frankly, I just want to continue to have a happy life and to continue to love life,” he says. “I love life. I love every minute of it.”
Quite frankly, I just want to continue to have a happy life and to continue to love life. I love life. I love every minute of it.