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Bill’s Story

Bill taking a selfie in his home
Bill taking a picture with a camera and tripod at the beach
Bill and his wife at the beach after his fight with DLBCL

My wife looked over at me and said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’

—Bill

Grateful for new chances

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 two forces that have always been present: love and laughter.

Bill and his wife laughing while having lunch on a restaurant patio

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.

Watching and waiting

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.

Bill and a friend at a basketball game

That’s okay. I can handle whatever happens. I am prepared for whatever the future brings.

Bill and his wife at the beach

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 “Walky Talky.” 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.

A birthday to remember

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 previous 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.

Bill and a friend at a celebration

My scan showed that I was in remission forty-five 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 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.

Bill and his wife at her 80th birthday dinner

Love and laughter, the two main forces in our life, were still here.

Making a difference

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 on 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.”

Bill and his whole family at the beach

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.

See more stories from others treated with Breyanzi

Dan’s Story

Dan and Jodi dreamed of retiring and taking off on their boat when Dan was diagnosed with DLBCL. Despite the cancer progressing, Dan and Jodi remained hopeful, finding the good in every single day. Dan received several treatments before receiving Breyanzi.

Nick’s Story

Nick was facing the fight of his life when he discovered a new treatment for DLBCL.

David’s Story

David received Breyanzi to help battle his cancer after being diagnosed with DLBCL and failing multiple treatments.
READ MORE +

Important Safety Information

What is the most important information I should know about BREYANZI?

BREYANZI may cause side effects that are life-threatening and can lead to death. Call your healthcare provider or get emergency help right away if you get any of the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher)
  • chills/shaking chills
  • confusion
  • severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness/lightheadedness
  • severe fatigue or weakness

Important Safety Information

What is the most important information I should know about BREYANZI?

BREYANZI may cause side effects that are life-threatening and can lead to death. Call your healthcare provider or get emergency help right away if you get any of the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher)
  • chills/shaking chills
  • confusion
  • severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness/lightheadedness
  • severe fatigue or weakness

It is important that you tell your healthcare providers that you have received BREYANZI and to show them your BREYANZI Patient Wallet Card. Your healthcare provider may give you other medicines to treat your side effects.

How will I receive BREYANZI?

  • BREYANZI is made from your own white blood cells, so your blood will be collected by a process called leukapheresis.
  • It takes about 3-4 weeks from the time your cells are received at the manufacturing site and are available to be shipped back to your healthcare provider, but the time may vary.
  • Before you get BREYANZI, you will get 3 days of chemotherapy to prepare your body.
  • When your BREYANZI is ready, your healthcare provider will give it to you through a catheter placed into your vein. BREYANZI is given as infusions of 2 different cell types.
    • You will receive infusions of one cell type, immediately followed by the other cell type.
    • The time for infusion will vary, but will usually be less than 15 minutes for each of the 2 cell types.
  • During the first week, you will be monitored daily by the facility where you received your treatment.
  • You should plan to stay close to this location for at least 4 weeks after getting BREYANZI. Your healthcare provider will check to see that your treatment is working and help you with any side effects that may occur.
  • You may be hospitalized for side effects and your healthcare provider will discharge you if your side effects are under control, and it is safe for you to leave the hospital.
  • Your healthcare provider will want to do blood tests to follow your progress. It is important that you have your blood tested. If you miss an appointment, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible to reschedule.

What should I avoid after receiving BREYANZI?

  • Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other activities that could be dangerous if you are not mentally alert, for at least 8 weeks after you get BREYANZI. This is because the treatment can cause temporary memory and coordination problems, including sleepiness, confusion, dizziness, and seizures.
  • Do not donate blood, organs, tissues, or cells for transplantation.

What are the possible or reasonably likely side effects of BREYANZI?

The most common side effects of BREYANZI are:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher)
  • chills/shaking chills
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • headache
  • dizziness/lightheadedness
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • swelling

BREYANZI can increase the risk of life-threatening infections that may lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you develop fever, chills, or any signs or symptoms of an infection.

BREYANZI can lower one or more types of your blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets). After treatment, your healthcare provider will test your blood to check for this. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get a fever, are feeling tired, or have bruising or bleeding.

Having BREYANZI in your blood may cause a false-positive HIV test result by some commercial tests.

These are not all the possible side effects of BREYANZI. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see full Prescribing Information, including Boxed WARNINGS and Medication Guide.

Indication

BREYANZI is for the treatment of large B-cell lymphoma in patients when at least 2 previous treatments have not worked or have stopped working. BREYANZI is a medicine made from your own white blood cells; the cells are genetically modified to recognize and attack your lymphoma cells.