When fell in September 2004 the diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia, the Montreal lawyer William Brock thought he just received a death sentence, and so in the very short-term.
"The diagnosis fell seven years almost day for day after my father had received the same diagnosis. However, he died after six weeks, and he was previously in perfect health, so imagine how I felt.”
This verdict of leukemia was like a punch in the plexus for this man then his in flourishing forties, father of two children aged 9 and 11, and whose working life was at its pinnacle
"For me, it was as if I was face to face with a carton of milk on which the expiration date was inscribed in large letters. One minute you think you still have 40 years to live, to carry out your projects, the other, you have six weeks left and six weeks of suffering in total isolation."
If he speaks today in a light tone, almost humorously, William Brock remembers all the anguish carried by this sudden upheaval. Soon, he was caught in the vortex of the treatments:
"I suffered a first chemotherapy treatment, which failed, and then a second one, which worked, that one, and that gave me a remission".
A respite, but also a sword of Damocles: the average remission lasts eight months, but each relapse following remission duration is shorter. A dark prognosis. William Brock explains that the type of acute leukemia which he suffered was slightly different from the one that had struck down his father.
"I needed a stem cell transplant for a lasting chance of me surviving".
At the Jewish Hospital where he was treated in Montreal, this type of intervention was not practiced.
"I then did some research throughout North America to find the place where I could receive the best treatments, starting with the United States because, often, in Canada, we tend to think that it is our American neighbors that offer the most advanced treatments rather than here at home".
But ironically, it is the U.S. who told him that Montreal had a true gem in advanced healthcare, a centre where stem cell transplant and cell therapy where provided at the highest standards.
"I was told about Maisonneuve-Rosemont, that it was a place renowned internationally for its research and treatments, says William Brock laughingly, and for me, this name only evoked a boulevard, an area, I didn’t know we had such excellence right under our noses.”
William Brock owes his recovery to the excellence this cell therapy centre and to that of his physician Dr Jean Roy. He received an allogenic graft at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
"My brother was a perfect match, and I received exceptional care. The staff was incredible. I was admitted on February 2nd 2005, and received the graft on the 17th."
Obviously throughout the course of care, William crossed terribly hard moments:
"The phase preceding the graft is very painful, it is no secret." One must undergo a grueling chemotherapy to put the cancer down, you feel very small, very sick, and if the transplant fails, it is death, because there is no more defense system.
Fortunately, the graft of William Brock has proved a complete success:
"The day of the transplant, is called day zero, the first day of your second life. "It really is like this, a second life".
A second life focused on gratitude and the desire to devote himself to helping researchers and physicians to provide the growth required for these advanced techniques that are stem cell transplants, research on blood diseases and more widely all the declensions of cell therapy. The return to full health was made in baby steps, paved by progresses and relapses. But in the end, the force in the voice of William Brock today bears witness of its newfound vitality.
"When I emerged from my treatments, I asked Dr. Roy what I could do to thank him. He told me: find a million dollars for research.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, William Brock committed to create the conditions to meet the pressing needs of the research grants. He has thus contributed to fund education and research on blood cancers. Recently his work and that of his wife Maryse have been highlighted with the creation at the University of Montreal Chair of applied research in stem cell transplantation, with donations amounting to 2.3 M$. William Brock resumed his law practice while using his creative vein to collect funds as well as raising awareness on the suffering caused by cancer. He will publish shortly a second book combining texts and photos around poignant testimony of cancer survivors, all this for the benefit of the Research Chair, hoping that others will, like him, survive the disease to testify that hope exists and that it is closely tied to the progress of research and its applications.