In His Own Words
It all started in 1999 while tailgating at a NY Giants game. The guys and I were in awe over NBC’s coverage of the Ironman that we had seen aired the day before. We discussed how challenging the Ironman seemed and how none of us felt adequately in shape to ever complete such a physical feat. It was at that moment that I decided that I was going to tackle this “thing” called Ironman.
The next day I googled “Ironman” and found that there was one in Lake Placid in July of 2000. I signed up and made the commitment despite having never cycled or swam. Excitement and fatigue filled the next nine months of my life. Training for the Ironman started to change my life in so many ways, some of which I wasn’t even aware of yet.
For the next eight years I trained and raced Ironman. In May of 2008, while racing at Gold Coast triathlon, my former neighbor, Patrick Kane – who I encouraged to get involved with the triathlon – lost his life in the swim leg of the race. It was devastating. He left behind his wife and two young children. So when I headed to Ironman Kona that year, I dedicated completing that race in the memory of Patrick’s life.
After Kona, I decided to take a year off of training to see what life felt like. Early 2010, I began my training regiment again, but something didn’t seem the same. Was this what it feels like when you take a year off? Is this just effects of getting older? I wasn’t sure so I decided to go see a doctor, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, so I continued my training.
Two weeks later, I was still feeling off. I went back to the doctor’s office convinced something was awry. “I know my body and I know something is wrong,” I told them. After a litany of tests, scans and blood work, my oncologist was happy to inform me, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we don’t know what is wrong with you. The good news, it’s nothing serious.” While the oncologists were pretty certain we wouldn’t find the cause of my symptoms, they proposed a bone marrow biopsy because “it’s the only other thing we can do.”
The very next day I got the call that has forever changed my life. “You have acute Leukemia, AML.” 100% of my bone marrow was cancerous. Having been on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) board for the previous 10 years, I knew what a diagnosis of AML meant. Not good. Statistically, the overall five-year survivor rate for AML is approximately 20%.
I was blown away. I didn’t understand how this could happen to me! I was a healthy 43-year-old man with a beautiful wife and three awesome children. This stuff doesn’t happen to people like me! I am sure this is the same train of thought that goes through the minds of many cancer victims. At the end of the day, cancer is a non-discriminating disease. Anything is possible.
I immediately started intense treatment. Within a week of starting treatments, things took a turn for the worse. My body was revolting and the extreme fevers started. Despite packing my body on ice (literally), the fevers raged on. My chances of survival seemed to be slipping away. I would occasionally experience thin periods of consciousness, usually opening my eyes to the sight of my wife and our church pastor. While slipping in and out of consciousness, I was aware that the end could be near. I was focused on surviving.
The 105+ fevers continued for the next four days before finally breaking. I then had an additional four months of treatment and monitoring in the hospital. Finally, on September 17, 2010, I was released to go home.
The next four years were “normal” years. I went on with my life, completed two more Ironmen and enjoyed the family and friends around me. It was after the August Ironman that I started feeling off again. I knew instinctively that something was wrong, although the teams of doctors could not pinpoint exactly what it was. I was lethargic and exhausted.
It wasn’t until I came down with the shingles virus in September of this year that they finally determined that I now have Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML), which is a form of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is a disorder of the bone marrow which is a result of the chemotherapy treatment that I underwent in 2010. The treatment for CMML requires chemotherapy – this time on an outpatient basis – which I am undergoing now, followed by a recovery period, and then a bone marrow transplant is tentatively scheduled for April 3. My donor is a 26-year-old male found by my doctor through the Be The Match registry. He is my only hope for survival.
More about John
How the Industry Is Rallying to Help John Hyland as His Cancer Returns and Why the New Jersey Advisor Seems Impervious to Fear
by Lisa Shidler
RIABiz, January 14, 2015
A Chance to Help One of Your Brothers
by Frederick P. Gabriel Jr.
InvestmentNews, January 11, 2015
Eighteen Months after the Fight of His Life, an Advisor Raises More Money for a Leukemia Cure
by Lisa Shidler
RIABiz, December 12, 2011
2010 Community Service Award
Invest in Others Charitable Foundation