For the 17th consecutive year, Paige’s Butterfly Run will take place on Saturday, June 7, in downtown Syracuse.
The event began in 1997, three years after Paige Yeomans Arnold, 8, a student at Palmer Elementary School, died from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). CML is a disease in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells. It usually occurs during or after middle age and rarely occurs in children.
“We actually just had our 21st anniversary of her diagnosis,” said Chris Arnold, Paige’s father. “She was treated here in Syracuse from May 1993 through March 1994. In March of ’94, we went to Boston Children’s Hospital for a bone marrow transplant because at that point, that was her only chance of survival.”
This should have been her cure. Instead, it took her life.
“Paige got the marrow, but her new immune system did not recognize Paige’s body as home,” said Arnold, noting the woman who donated her marrow was the only one in the entire donor database that matched all six HLA, or human leukocyte antigen, markers. “Her immune system attacked her major organs and killed her. You expect a little bit of that with any unrelated match, even if it’s perfect, but it couldn’t stop it.”
The bone marrow transplant took place in June. Paige died in mid-August, leaving behind her parents and sister Alex.
About five years later, a new cancer medicine called Gleevec was introduced. It’s the first treatment for nearly everyone with CML — adults and children alike.
“It puts you in remission and it kind of makes it go away. It’s a good solution, a path to take,” Arnold said.
According to a 2008 article, “Gleevec: the Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment,” by Leslie A. Pray, some say Gleevec’s success rate has transformed CML treatment. In the past, the only options patients had were either bone marrow transplantation, like Paige had, or daily interferon infusions. Before Gleevec, only 30 percent of patients with CML survived for even five years after being diagnosed. With Gleevec, that number rose to at least 89 percent.