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Leukemia Survivor Pays it Forward After Unexpected Diagnosis

It was a scare that came out of nowhere. An active, healthy guy, Marc Rosenberg enjoyed early morning jogs from time to time through Chicago Botanic Garden. But one summer morning in 2017, all that Rosenberg took for granted changed abruptly while cooling down after a 6 a.m. run.

Marc Rosenberg

Bizarre Bruising
“I was stretching afterward and noticed two unusual dark handprints on my thighs,” said the 54-year-old Deerfield resident. There appeared to be bruises on his chest as well. Earlier that week, Rosenberg had been feeling tired. He was just home from an overseas business trip and had made a doctor’s appointment later that same morning for routine blood work.

“When my internist called me to discuss the test results, he was clearly choked up,” recalled Rosenberg. “He told me to get to the NorthShore Evanston Hospital Emergency Department immediately because my blood work was abnormal, and indicated a possible leukemia diagnosis. It hit me from out of the blue!”

Once at the hospital, Rosenberg met with NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center’s Lynne Kaminer, MD, the Virginia and James Cozad Chair of Hematology/Oncology.

“Marc was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia or APL,” explained Dr. Kaminer, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “APL is rare and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated quickly.”

Ready to Go the Distance
Thanks to fast-acting teamwork of internists, emergency medicine physicians, pathologists and hematologists, care and treatment progressed rapidly for Rosenberg. “This truly saved his life because collaboration and communication are key,” added Dr. Kaminer.

Rosenberg spent the next month hospitalized in a rigorous regimen of drugs and chemotherapy to treat his rare leukemia—a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. “I never felt I had a guardian angel until I met Dr. Kaminer. When you have an illness like this, you need a competent and smart doctor. I got so much more—an amazing person who was caring and involved in my care during the darkest time in my life,” noted Rosenberg. “My nurses also were awesome, and are still like family!”

After Rosenberg’s discharge, he continued daily chemotherapy over the next eight months through Kellogg Cancer Center. Today, the leukemia is in remission, and Rosenberg is regaining his physical strength through his early morning runs. He also has been working through the complex emotions of recovering from such a serious illness, in part by helping other patients in treatment at Kellogg Cancer Center.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world, and so grateful for the care I received at NorthShore,” added Rosenberg. “You don’t forget this, and I want to do whatever I can to help others going through what I’ve been through.”