Leukemia Survivor

Bodybuilder won biggest competition of all

Name: Dick Hathaway
Hometown: Lenexa, KS
Age: 66
Type of Cancer: Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
Date of Diagnosis: 1992
Current Date: August 2009
Current Status: Cured

1. How was your health when you were diagnosed?
Excellent – I was in the final stages of preparing to compete for Natural Mr. Universe, so I was 205 pounds with four percent body fat. I was ripped and ready to go – just two months out. My health had always been excellent because I was in bodybuilding, and we owned a health food store and restaurant.

2. Where were you initially diagnosed?
I was originally diagnosed at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. I had a swelling on the left side of my stomach. They did a sonogram and found that my spleen was five times its normal size. They did a blood test and the head of oncology informed me that I had chronic myelogenous leukemia.

3. What treatment was initially recommended (include facility name and location, doctor's name, pharmaceuticals, surgeries, etc.)?
They prescribed oral chemotherapy, which I took, but then they recommended that I have a second opinion for further treatment.

4. Did you get a 2nd opinion? If so, where?
Yes. The University of Kansas Medical Center, Department of Hematology.

5. What treatment was recommended with the second opinion (include facility name and location, doctor's name, pharmaceuticals, surgeries, etc.)?
I saw the head of the hematology department, Dr. Barry Skikne (Professor of Medicine and Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program) who confirmed the diagnosis. I asked what they recommended that I do to fight this. They did not beat around the bush – and I appreciated that. They said I could continue with the oral chemo as long as it kept my white blood cell count at a normal level of 5,000 – 10,000. (Mine had been as high as 250,000.) If, however, my blood count ever flared up again, a bone marrow transplant was my only hope.

6. Which treatment protocol did you choose and for what reason?
I initially decided to go off the oral chemotherapy, continue to work on my immune system, and see what happened to my white blood cell count. It quickly jumped to 80,000, so I decided to go ahead with the bone marrow transplant.

At that time, Dr. Skikne told me that the bone marrow transplant protocol had a 50/50 chance of survival, but I thought it beat the heck out of doing nothing. First I had to find a bone marrow donor that matched mine perfectly. Thankfully, my only brother’s bone marrow was a perfect fit, and he was willing to donate it to me.

In 1993, a bone marrow transplant was literally a journey to Hell. The goal was to kill every white blood cell that was in my body so that the transplanted bone marrow could make new, healthy cells. I began with a week of intense chemotherapy, and then for six days they added full body radiation for an hour and a half in the morning, and an hour and a half in the evening. I was fried, but I did what I needed to do. The treatment has changed now.

I was then moved to a LAF (laminar air flow) purified air room that consisted of three cement block walls and a plastic wall where the staff could take care of me while I had the transplant. The room was about five by nine feet and there was nothing to do but lie there and feel badly. The normal time to be in that room was about three weeks, but I set a record for KU and was out in 10 days.

Next I moved to the recovery room. By then I had lost 50 pounds, and it was all solid body tissue because I only had four percent body fat when I went into the surgery. They told me the minimum stay would be two months. I went home in two days. My body accepted the transplant, and I have not had any treatment since then.

7. Are you still in treatment?
No

8. Do you take any nutritional supplements? If so, what do you take?
I took several supplements including vitamin B complex, anti-oxidants and additional vitamin C - buffered. I also took beta-glucan, which is an immune system enhancer, dried shitake mushrooms – a cancer fighter, a calcium supplement and silymarin, which helps strengthen the liver.

9. Did you change your diet? How is it different from before your diagnosis?
I have always eaten a very pristine diet with organic foods, no red meat, and juices such as carrot, and beet juice. When I was diagnosed with leukemia, I immediately went on a macrobiotic diet, which is completely organic. I also took vitamins, antioxidants, and immune enhancers.

I am on the same diet before my diagnosis with no red meat, only wild caught fish, and organic chicken with no hormones. I drink a lot of filtered water. I also drink rice milk instead of cow’s milk, which is much better for your body.

10. Did you change your exercise program? How is it different from before your diagnosis?
I didn’t have to change my workout program, because it was perfect for me. I still do the same exercise program that I did to prepare for competition, but I don’t do it as often now. I only work out three times a week for 40 minutes – but it is intense and would put a normal person down. I also go to the steam room after every workout. That’s one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. The skin is the largest eliminative organ of the body, and you can eliminate more toxins and chemicals through the skin than any other organ. When you perspire – that’s what you are doing. You’re getting rid of poisons and toxins through the skin.

11. Are you currently considered to be disease free?
Yes

12. How long have you been disease free?
Since 1993

13. What are you doing to stay disease free?
There are two very important things – the first is to avoid contact with chemicals, both on the skin and breathing them. I think the environment is responsible for many cancers. Second, your diet is one of the keys to maintaining good health. Even though my immune system is probably weaker than most because of what I’ve been through, I don’t get the flu or even a cold. My diet is that good.

14. What do you think is the most important thing you did to combat your cancer?
When you have a bone marrow transplant, you are putting a foreign substance into your body, and it doesn’t want it. The medical team watches you very closely to see if your system is going to reject or accept it. Mine accepted my brother’s transplant. To help the process, I watched what I ate very closely so my immune system didn’t have to struggle with other things. I wanted the immune system to do what it was supposed to do, which was taking care of the body – rather than me putting chemicals and other harmful things in there.

15. Are you willing to have a newly diagnosed patient contact you?
Yes

16. Additional Brief Narrative:
Cancer is a very lonely battle, and other people who are diagnosed with cancer need to hear from survivors like me that it isn’t the end. Go in with the idea that you are going to make it. Staying positive helps the body's ability to be victorious.

When I was diagnosed with leukemia, I was preparing to return to the Natural Mr. Universe contest, which I had already won once. When I was in the LAF room alone, I told the Lord that if He would get me through this, I would go back and compete and try to be the first Mr. Universe who was a leukemia survivor – and I would give God the credit.

I went back to the gym after my treatment, and I was as weak as a kitten; my first work out lasted four minutes with a five-pound dumbbell. Each day I would add 30 seconds more, and 22 months later, I won the Natural Mr. Universe title again.

With faith, a working plan and determination, nothing is impossible.

 

Previous  

 



Register Now! Sign Up For Our Free E-Newletter!

Read Inspiring Cancer Survivor Stories

Order Your Guides Here