Leukemia patients understand Pagano's battle that lies ahead
Colts Coach Chuck Pagano is beginning a life and death ordeal that Jason All knows all about. Fifteen months ago, he was diagnosed with the same form of leukemia.
"There was uncertainty. There was worry of the unknown," said All. "Hands down," he said, it was "absolutely" the scariest day of his life. "Scary beyond belief."
All spent a month in the hospital and managed a few smiles while enduring aggressive chemotherapy and its debilitating side effects.
"The lowest point was the seventh and final day of my chemotherapy treatment. I could not get out of bed," he said.
More than 1,000 Hoosiers this year alone will be diagnosed with leukemia.
"It's a long road," said Shirlene Austin Carter.
It's a road 43-year-old Austin Carter is still walking, even though she's been in remission for the same kind of leukemia Pagano was diagnosed with.
"It's in the back of your head, you know, this can come back again, but you really can't focus on that," said Austin Carter.
Austin Carter found out she had leukemia last October during a trip to the emergency room for what she thought was a virus taking its toll.
"The next day, they informed me that I had leukemia," she said.
Before the shock could wear off for Austin Carter, "the chemo started the day after I was diagnosed. We got on it right away. I never went back home from the hospital."
Austin Carter said she spent the past year in and out of the hospital, sometimes for month-long treatments.
"There are days that I couldn't get out the bed. There were days that, um, couldn't talk, um. Didn't want to see anyone, you know, or talk to anyone," she added.
The mother of four said Pagano has the same kind of fight ahead of him.
"He's in the public eye. But this is what people go through every single day, not just with leukemia, but so many other illnesses that need more attention," said Austin Carter.
Chuck Pagano felt fatigued and noticed bruises on his skin, both common symptoms of acute leukemia. His wife convinced him to see a doctor. The diagnosis came Wednesday and treatments began that night.
"There is no doubt; he has received chemotherapy and he is feeling less well. But his spirits are good. We remain optimistic," said Dr. Larry Cripe, IU Health/Simon Cancer Center.
Pagano's doctor says it will be a difficult 4-6 weeks in the hospital, followed by two years of outpatient chemotherapy.
"Most people with this variety of acute leukemia will, in fact, achieve a complete remission," said Dr. Cripe.
All is in remission, still taking cancer-fighting drugs but working and feeling like himself again.
"I would tell him it is not going to be easy. It has ups and downs, but this is a battle he can win. I know he will win," said All.
"He can make it. You know, just say positive. Trust God. Trust God. Take one day at a time," Austin Carter said.
Those joining in the fight against leukemia hope the coach's diagnosis will help further their cause.
"With a figure as prominent as Coach Pagano, people want to rally around and they want to help in some way that they can," said Amy Kwas with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Doctors said there is now new hope for treatments that don't take such a toll on the body.
"There's an interest in developing treatments that do not rely on chemotherapy, so we can avoid all the chemotherapy side effects," said Cripe.
Cards of support to Coach Pagano can be sent here:
Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, P.O. Box 535000, Indianapolis, IN 46253