Hello,

My name is Jim Galvanek. As previously mentioned, I am coaching individuals to complete triathlons through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. Along with all of these future athletes, I am raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to fund research to find cures for blood cancers. This season is also dedicated to my dad who was recently diagnosed with leukemia (CLL).-w/o my permission!!

In the spring of 1998, I was a happy, carefree, 27-year-old architect, living with friends from Penn State University, from where I graduated. I had just bought my first home, my world was going full speed ahead, and I felt invincible. Then, one day, it became extremely difficult for me to see out of my right eye. I was experiencing a burning sensation, similar to the one you can get from staring at an incandescent light bulb for too long; but, it didn't go away. After three days of covering my eye while working at my computer, three coworkers convinced me to go to the doctor.

Two days and five doctors later, on May 5, 1998, I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia ('CML'), a blood cancer much more prevalent in adults in their 60s and 70s than those in their 20s. I have to say that my diagnosis was extremely difficult to accept. 'Cancer? Not I...That stuff happens to other people…people I read about in the newspaper or see on the news'. I have to admit it took me a long time to begin to understand the full ramifications of what it meant to have cancer and, later in life, to be a cancer survivor.

Over the next few months, I spent my time traveling to different cancer bone marrow transplant clinics across the country. Since my leukemia was testing at the 'accelerated' or 'blast crisis' phase at times, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle put me on their 'get him in quick' list. I would be receiving a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor – a man from San Diego – and I had been told that my chances of reaching the 5-year “cure'” rate were between 40 and 80 percent (depending on at which phase I was testing during my facility visit). Bone marrow transplantation was, and is, the only curative treatment for CML. It also is known as one of the toughest medical procedures to endure.

In October, I packed up my stuff in DC and headed to Seattle for four months, along with my mom and sister. My mom was my official caregiver and my sister did everything from shaving my head to providing levity when we needed it. It rained most of time I was there. In fact, it was the rainiest November and December on record at the time! It's a beautiful city in the summer, but those winters are tough – very wet and gray! I entered the hospital on the 11th of November and had three days of intense chemotherapy and three days of intense radiation to kill my own blood system so that a new one could come in and take over.

On the 7th day in the hospital – my 'Day Zero', I received the bone marrow transplant. I really don't remember much from those days. The medications kept the nausea and pain somewhat under control. The nurse coordinator told me that the transplant was similar to a three-month-long hangover. She was right; I threw up for weeks. I was in the hospital for 28 days after 'Day Zero', waiting for the new marrow, which contained different DNA, to graft with my system and organs.

Several weeks after my transplant, Graft Versus Host Disease ('GVHD') set in. Basically, the marrow that I had received from my donor was attacking my body and I was unable to eat for over a month; thus, I walked around with an IV in a backpack to give me nutrition. When I was taken off the IV, I had to drink over 100 ounces of water a day to keep my kidneys flushed; otherwise, the medications would have damaged them.

After my four-month stay in Seattle, I returned to DC and, at age 28, my mom moved in with my roommate Jimmy and me to be my caregiver. She left in June, when I finally was able to do things on my own and began getting my life back. I couldn't return to work until December of 1999, over a year after I had left for Seattle. Since I had a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, it took a full year for my immune system to develop to a point where I could return to a normal, everyday lifestyle.

Twelve years have passed since my diagnosis and the full ramifications of being a cancer survivor have become clearer to me. While I initially thought that I would just be able to pick up where I had left off, life had moved on without me; things had changed and I had changed. Re-entry into 'normal' life was difficult for many years. Then, five years ago, while I still was searching for a way to donate my time and energy to something productive, I saw a flyer advertising running a marathon and raising money for blood cancer research through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program.

I can honestly say that Team in Training changed my life: it gave great purpose to my life, allowed me to give back to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and to raise money to help patients and their family's battle blood cancers. I am looking forward to training with my team and continuing to raise money for a cure. All together, over the last 5 years, you and I have raised over $241K !

  • 2005 Alaska Marathon: $6,020
  • 2006 Marine Corp Marathon: $3,550
  • 2007 Escape from Fort Delaware Triathlon: $7,775
  • 2007 San Diego Marathon: $28,991
  • 2008 Man of the Year Campaign/Lake Placid Ironman: $161,000
  • 2008 Walt Disney Marathon: $4,100
  • 2009 Wisconsin Ironman: $30,386.30

This year will be my twelfth-year anniversary of 'DAY ZERO' (my bone marrow transplant) and I will be taking on the challenge of coaching a triathlon group for  team in training . We will be training for the Nation's Triathlon in Washington, DC and a half-Ironman in Augusta, Georgia.  Since I am a coach, I physically will not be taking part in the events, but I hope to help a couple hundred participants cross the finish line. They will be swimming, biking and running for a cure-I know it will be very rewarding.

I will be running the NYC marathon in the fall and maybe another ironman in November-we will see!!

Please help me in my quest to reach my fundraising goal and to help eradicate all blood cancers by making a tax-deductible contribution to support researchers who are working to find cures for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Your donation will make a difference.

If you prefer to donate by check, please make it payable to:
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
and mail it to my home address:

5027 Fulton St NW,
Washington, DC 20016

My sincere thanks for your support,
Jim Galvanek