In the eyes of fellow students, Michael Schiano is an average person, but the 20-year-old junior has been through more in the last four years than most of his fellow students can comprehend.
Schiano has chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, which is a rare form of leukemia that grows in the bone marrow and causes rapid growth of white blood cells.
He was diagnosed at age 16, after he returned home from the National Catholic Youth Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
“I had lost my appetite, lost a lot of weight, I was starting to get the chills all of the time, and I was constantly weak and tired,” said Schiano. “At first we thought it was the flu. My parents took me to the doctor and they took a blood test and noticed something was a little off. So they sent me to a specialist. They did a more extensive test and found the leukemia.”
To get through the day, the “Star Wars” lover focuses on his true passion and major–writing. When he gets home at night, he continues his cancer treatment contained in one moderately sized radiation pill called Gleevec. This pill that he has to consume every day inhibits enzymes and prevents excessive production of white blood cells.
“At first it was very brutal. It was causing massive amounts of nerve pain in my arms and legs. So much so that I was forced to stop going to school for over four months,” said Schiano.
Now, he happily takes the pill over what could have been the alternative–a bone marrow transplant. His doctor did not recommend the transplant because the risk of rejection was too high.
Schiano is in remission, but he has to take Gleevec every day for the rest of his life and continue check ups at Moffitt Cancer Center three to four times a year.
He openly discusses his treatment and does not shy away from the fact that it was, and still is, a struggle.
“It wasn’t easy at first. I wanted to give up, but friends and family pushed me along,” said Schiano.
Schiano knows that his battle is not over. He has days where he feels great, as well as days when his fatigue gets the best of him. For now, he hopes to maintain his energy and successfully complete school.