UNLESS you or someone close has experienced leukemia, said Dustin Wunderlich of Nesconset, it is impossible to really grasp what cancer of the blood is really like.
The chemotherapy is potent, weeks are devoted to hospital confinement and hope can hang on the results of a single blood test.
Wunderlich, 25, learned on Dec. 9, 2008, that his exceptional fatigue and inflamed, irritated and occasionally bleeding gums were symptoms of a malignancy developing deep in the marrow of his bones.
"It took quite a while, and several trips to the dentist and to the regular doctor, before somebody had the good idea to get a blood test and that's when everything hit the fan," said Wunderlich.
Only months after completing chemotherapy, Wunderlich also holds down a day job, working for a Ronkonkoma company selling electronic components to military contractors. As an advocate, he helps organize bone marrow donor drives and highlights patients' stories
On his Web site, www.2prevail.org, he has raised awareness about Penny Lindenberg, 39, a Ridge mother of two. She needs a bone-marrow transplant in her fight against leukemia. A bone marrow drive on her behalf is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ridge Fire Department, 20 Francis Mooney Drive, in Ridge.
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is rare in people younger than 40, but persists as a relatively common form of leukemia in older adults. It is characterized by aberrant myeloid cells - white blood cells that, when normal, develop into both red and white cells that populate the blood supply.
Doctors began a chemotherapy regimen for Wunderlich designed to wipe out the white cells crowding out healthy ones in his marrow. Wunderlich received the last of his many months of chemo doses in August - and a clean bill of health. He's in remission.
"From what I am being told I won't need a bone-marrow transplant," Wunderlich said. "And as I see it, I'm done [with treatments], and will live a very long time. I am 25, so that's my story."