On April 19, 1999, Virginia Garner swallowed capsules of an experimental drug now known as Gleevec and became one of the first few people to take an effective dose of this miracle drug that would change not only the history of chronic myelogenous leukemia, but the history of cancer as a whole.
Even as Virginia was swallowing her first pills, melanoma was surging through the body of her husband Van. On October 1, 2001, it announced itself in the form of a tumor on his head. Like Virginia’s diagnosis, Van’s was terminal. Though he would fend off this nemesis with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, the experimental drug Ipilimumab, and radiation, he would be part of a continuing drama in which death and salvation vied for the final word.
In the midst of their treatments, Van and Virginia began running marathons. They entered races not only to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the fight against cancer, but also to prove to themselves that they were simply still alive.
In this book, Virginia and Van Garner describe their thirteen-year struggle with and triumph over terminal cancers. Together they chronicle the suffering, struggles to survive, research, and decision-making process that led them to the doctors and cutting-edge science that saved them.
Over the thirteen years that the Garners endured, there have been tremendous advances in the development of target drugs and immunotherapy. Unlike their doctors, the Garners are not being considered for Nobel Prizes, but they won the grand prize: They got to live.