Bug Bite & Once Controversial Treatment Saves Father of Six

Vol. 16, No. 2
Spring/Summer 2006

  • Winthrop Neurosurgeon Offers Patients Relief From Severe Chronic Pain With Neurostimulation

  • Bug Bite & Once Controversial Treatment Saves Father of Six

  • Winthrop's New Arthritis & Rheumatic Disease Center Offers State-Of-The-Art Treatment

  • Winthrop First NY Metro Hospital to Receive the ASA's Initial Performance Achievement Award

  • Fitness Program Gets Young Cancer Patients Back in the Game

  • Hagedorns' Extraordinary Gift Helps Make Miracles Grow Everyday

  • The Miracle Foundation Gives $50,000 in Support of Cancer Center for Kids

  • First Annual Mardi Gras Gala Benefits Cancer Education, Research and Support Services

  • Retired Bank Chairman's Exceptional Generosity Benefits Winthrop's Pediatric Facilities

  • A Smart Way to Give

  • Winthrop Attracts Newest Medical Talent To Residency Program

  • Gifts of Love for Winthrop's Littlest Patients

  • Cardiac Surgeon and Family Donate in Support of Heart Surgery Center Construction

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  • Henry Schmitt consults with Winthrop medical oncologist Jeffrey Schneider, MD.
    An infected bug bite quite possibly saved Henry Schmitt's life nine years ago. Suffering from the infection and bouts of fatigue, the 63-year-old father of six visited his primary care physician for an evaluation. Fearing Lyme Disease, Mr. Schmitt was surprised to find a blood test instead revealed multiple myeloma, a relatively rare form of blood cell cancer in which abnormal plasma cells form multiple lesions on the bones. The disease causes patients to battle bone pain, infections, anemia and kidney failure.

    According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 16,000 Americans are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year after a routine blood test, or an x-ray following a bone fracture.

    "I was quite shocked at the diagnosis," Mr. Schmitt explained. "However, I kept a positive outlook and started asking questions to determine what the next, and best, step would be."

    Mr. Schmitt spent months extensively researching the pros and cons of potential treatments, including medications, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or stem cell transplantation. He received varying opinions during consultations with physicians at hospitals around the metropolitan region. Considering all options, he chose the care of Winthrop medical oncologist Jeffrey Schneider, MD, who has been treating cancer patients for the past 15 years and currently manages more than 40 multiple myeloma patients.

    "When a young patient like Mr Schmitt is diagnosed with an incurable malignancy, it is time to start 'thinking outside of the box,'" explained Dr. Schneider, who considered Mr. Schmitt a candidate for tandem high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation. A relatively controversial treatment at that time, stem cell transplantation uses the patient's own stem cells to replace cells destroyed by the intense chemotherapy.
      Multiple Myeloma Symptoms:
    • Bone pain, usually in the back
    • Broken bones, usually in the spine
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Excessive thirst
    • Weight loss
    • Nausea or constipation
    • Frequent urination
    "He bravely chose to pursue that course and to become the first at Winthrop to receive the treatment as an outpatient," said Dr. Schneider.

    Prior to starting the transplant program, Mr. Schmitt's stem cells were collected, treated and frozen for storage. After the first cycle of high-dose chemo was completed in the spring of 1998, his stored cells were transplanted back to restore his ability to produce blood cells.

    "The chemotherapy not only killed the myeloma cells, but also his normal stem cells. Once the chemotherapy was excreted, the frozen stem cells were thawed out and transplanted back to Mr. Schmitt, allowing him to restore his blood and immune system," explained Dr. Schneider.

    Responding well to the treatment, Mr. Schmitt continued chemotherapy, and headed back to work before returning to Winthrop for a second transplant three months later. "I was very happy to receive my treatments on an outpatient basis at Winthrop," Mr. Schmitt explained. "I could keep my job and live as normal a life as possible."

    Today, Mr. Schmitt is off all anticancer medications, but continues to receive bone fortifying and other medications to protect him against myeloma recurrence. He also undergoes a skeleton survey every six months to monitor the disease.

    "My last follow-up evaluation was very good, and there's been no evidence of myeloma since 1998," Mr. Schmitt explained. "I hold Winthrop in very high regard, and I am very happy under Dr. Schneider's care because he's always five or six steps ahead of everyone else."

    "At Winthrop's Institute for Cancer Care, we continue to be at the cutting edge of treatment for many forms of cancer," added Dr. Schneider. "We don't give up on our patients and we are always exploring new innovative approaches to treating the disease. That perspective allows us to partner with our courageous patients, like Mr Schmitt, and move the field of oncology forward. We are all gratified by Mr Schmitt's success, and now recognize that the once controversial stem cell transplant approach is now a standard treatment option for all patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma."

    For more information about the treatment of multiple myeloma and other cancer care services, call 1- 866-WINTHROP.

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