A Daly City native and devoted family man, Jimmy Fong was cherishing his new role as a father when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Fong's oncologist referred him to UCSF's Dr. Jeffrey Wolf for a clinical trial. After one year of treatment, Fong is in remission.
Jimmy Fong: Clinical Trial Puts Multiple Myeloma Patient into Complete Remission
When did you first notice something didn't feel right?
I started having backaches that seemed to come out of nowhere. I couldn't carry my daughter on my shoulders or play with her on the floor. Back spasms woke me up in the middle of the night. My doctor gave me muscle relaxers but they didn't help.
Eventually, a back specialist ordered some imaging and that's when the doctors first suspected a malignancy. A bone marrow biopsy showed I had multiple myeloma.
How did you react to the diagnosis?
I Googled "multiple myeloma" and read everything I could find. When I saw that the average life expectancy after diagnosis was two to five years, all I could think about was that I would miss seeing my daughter grow up.
What did you do next?
I met with a Bay Area oncologist who knew about UCSF and Dr. Wolf. [The oncologist] told me he thought I'd be a good candidate for some clinical trials going on at UCSF.
I met Dr. Wolf a few weeks later. He explained to me what the study entailed and how the treatment plan would go.
What was your impression of Dr. Wolf?
He was calm, cool and collected. He exuded confidence, which put me at ease.
At the time, I didn't realize that I was dealing with "the man." Later, I learned that Dr. Wolf was the main person in charge of everything related to blood disorders at UCSF. I felt really lucky to have him overseeing my care.
What was treatment like?
The treatment had several stages, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. When I first started the treatment protocol, I thought, "Oh my gosh, it's going to take a year – I'm going to miss so much!" But I lived more intensely than normal because I was surrounded by friends and family the entire time. They were always there for me.
Did any one moment from that time stand out?
The day I got the "all clear" from my doctor was the day before the 49ers played in the Super Bowl. A friend had invited me to his Super Bowl party. Up until that point, my immune system had been so weak that I couldn't be in a crowd. But with my doctor's OK, I decided the Super Bowl party was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn't want to miss it.
On game day, I walked into my friend's house and every one of the guests was wearing a hospital mask just in case they might have germs that could make me sick. Seeing a big group of people wearing masks just for me made me laugh but it also made me feel loved. The 49ers didn't win the Super Bowl that day but it didn't matter because I was surrounded by friends.
How are you now?
I've been in remission since May 2013. It feels so good to be able to keep up with my daughter again. One of my biggest fears was not seeing her grow up. But thanks to Dr. Wolf and UCSF, I've got many more years ahead of me.