RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — At just 34 years old, Dr. David Fajgenbaum is an accomplished surgeon, researcher and author. He is also a survivor.
Fajgenbaum grew up in Raleigh and graduated from Ravenscroft High School before starting an academic career which would take him around the world. It was during his time as an undergraduate that Fajgenbaum lost his beloved mother to brain cancer. He had no way of know he’d be fighting for his own life in just a few years.
“I personally became deathly ill with something called idiopathic Multicentric Castleman Disease,” said Fajgenbaum. “I had my last rights read to me in November 2010.”
In his book, “Chasing My Cure,” Fajgenbaum details his ongoing battle against a disease he describes as being at the intersection of cancer and an immune disorder.
Being in medicine, he naturally assumed that somewhere in the world there was a researcher or doctor who was working on a treatment or a cure.
“I assumed someone, somewhere must be working on, and I learned quite quickly no one was working on it. There were no new drugs and no promising leads.”
It lead Fajgenbaum to turn to the one person with Castlemans he knew would be willing to subject themselves to trial-and-error testing – himself. It was a struggle which involved multiple relapses, being pushed once again to the brink of death. He was treated with chemotherapy each time and managed to fight back and try again.
Then there was a breakthrough.
“I did experiments on my own samples. I identified a drug I thought could help. I started on it five and a half years ago and haven’t had a relapse since then.”
The drug is a treatment for people who’ve undergone a kidney transplant, so Fajgenbaum is taking if off-label. However, he is now conducting research with other Castleman patients to see their response to the drug.
Even with this pressing research, plus the added pressure of being a husband and father, Fajgenbaum found time to author a book titled “Chasing My Cure.”
It details his medical and personal trials as he looks for a cure, or at least a treatment, to this deadly disease. He also wrote it as a way to give hope to others, no matter their personal struggle.
“It’s given me the sense that I need to live like I’m in overtime. It is an important lesson for all of us. We all need to make every second count. It is what inspired me to write this book,” he said.
Fajgenbaum will be signing copies of his book on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books in North Hills in Raleigh.
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