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Pilot Beats Rare, Aggressive Blood Cancer

Anthony Quirarte.

October 21, 2019

Born and raised in Kansas, Capt. Anthony Quirarte earned an engineering degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy. His Air Force job as a test pilot quickly ignited a passion for airplanes and aviation.

“I was testing aircraft for students and realized it wasn’t going to be enough to continue flying from the back seat,” he says. “I wanted to become a pilot. I found a training program with the Air National Guard in Washington, D.C., and the Air Force allowed me to transfer.”

Thus began 3 years of intense education in Colorado, Texas and Arizona. He completed the training and began to fly for the Air National Guard. He earned his rank as captain and spent several exhilarating months living his dream.

But then, life threw Anthony for a loop. He’d been feeling ill, not himself. A doctor’s visit delivered a tremendous shock: He had a large mass in his chest. He was soon diagnosed with a rare and aggressive blood cancer, a hybrid Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Another journey begins

Anthony had visited the doctor while on leave and at home in Kansas. He was advised to seek cancer treatment immediately, without taking time to return to D.C. He found The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and home of the region’s largest and most experienced blood and marrow transplant program.

“The cancer was advanced and had metastasized,” Anthony explains. “I had many rounds of chemotherapy, plus surgery, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. It was the transplant that worked. I’m now considered cured.”

The 5-year journey was grueling, with plenty of ups and downs. During Anthony’s treatment, his sister was fighting her own battle with a rare cancer.

“We both agreed that dealing with ourselves was easier than worrying about the other,” Anthony says. “We found strength supporting each other. We were raised to have positive outlooks on life, and that helped me through.”

He also credits his specialty care team at the cancer center.

“The doctors and nurses were tremendous advocates for me,” he says. “The entire staff was awesome.”

Power of positivity

Today, Anthony is managing a few treatment side effects, but feels much improved. His sister recently had her first child, and Anthony is relishing the joy of a new baby in the family. He likes to watch Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals games with family and friends and enjoys working on his parents’ land.

“I believe in being upbeat,” he says. “I feel very lucky. I fight my fights as best as I can, and I’m holding out hope I’ll be able to return to flying one day.”

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.
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