Local patient shares disease, hopeful attitude with Tom Brokaw

3:15 PM, Feb 13, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - When Tom Brokaw recently announced he's suffering from a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, a Colorado man named Kirby Kuklenski knew right where Brokaw was coming from.

"I think Tom Brokaw used the term, 'I'm the luckiest man alive,'" Kuklenski told 9NEWS. "He'd have to fight me for that one."

Kuklenski was diagnosed with the cancer in May 2013. Almost a year later, he's optimistic about his prognosis due to treatment at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute at Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.

Doctors there say the median age for diagnosing multiple myeloma is 70. Brokaw turned 74 last week.

Kuklenski is just 60 years old and has to undergo drug treatment every day for 30-40 days before the next phase of his treatment. But he considers himself lucky because of advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma.

"They felt like 20 years ago they were giving a death sentence to somebody, and right now I think you can live a really healthy life and live a pretty normal life. At least that's what I'm planning on doing."

Within the past 15 years, six new drugs have been approved to treat the condition. Many patients experience no side effects.

Dr. Jeffrey Matous from the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute says of 100 patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the 1980s, half of them would be dead within two and a half years. But now it's not uncommon to see patients live 10 years or more after their diagnosis.

"These drugs have made an enormous difference, not only in prolonging survival, which they do very, very well," said Dr. Matous. "But also improving the quality of life in patients."

Just this week, Dr. Matous saw a patient first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1999.

"I think we have a lot to offer patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and first and foremost among that is hope... For many of our patients, you cannot tell by looking at them that they're on treatment."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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