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Home > Our Patients > Jim Bryant: Still Fishing After a Life-Saving Clinical Trial

Jim Bryant: Still Fishing After a Life-Saving Clinical Trial

Jim Bryant: Still Fishing After a Life-Saving Clinical Trial

On the banks of Lake Anna in Mineral, VA, sits a comfortable house overlooking the peaceful, blue-gray water. James (Jim) Bryant is often found fishing on the lake in one of his beloved boats or riding his motorcycle around the perimeter of the property. While spending time with his wife, Meg, and partaking in his various hobbies, the furthest thing from Jim’s mind is the disease that almost took everything he loves away from him.

A Career in the Navy

Jim received his undergraduate degree at the Naval Postgraduate School and began his career in the Navy flying from aircraft carriers. While in the Navy, he experienced something he’ll never forget. Jim was working as a catapult officer in Norfolk, VA, when he launched a Phantom F-4 from the flight deck of the USS Independence. The blast from the launch sent a steel plate skidding down the flight deck, right toward him. When it stopped exactly between his feet, Jim instantly knew that “something larger than himself was keeping him alive.”

Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Although this was his first life-saving experience, his second experience came years later, thanks to his wife. In 2007, Jim felt a swollen gland in his neck. He didn’t think much about it, but he decided to put his mind at ease and schedule a doctor’s appointment.  The first test, a needle biopsy, came back negative, spiking hope between the couple. However, moods changed when the open biopsy diagnosed Jim with stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymph system, blood and bone marrow.

Meg took to the internet, desperate for research and pertinent information. One of the first things she came across was the life expectancy of an individual with Jim’s condition: only three to five years. “The news was so grim,” says Meg, “it was absolutely a punch in the stomach.” Although distraught, they forged on and visited a local oncologist.

Meg was uncomfortable walking into Jim’s first appointment and seeing the office and doctor for the first time. Her immediate intuition told her this was not the right answer. She knew Jim needed help but felt there had to be another way. 

A Trip to UVA

After two clinical trials that momentarily treated Jim’s condition, Meg searched again for a more permanent answer. She stumbled across clinicaltrials.gov and found a clinical trial hosted at UVA Cancer Center featuring the anticancer drug, Ibrutinib. Led by Michael Williams, MD, this clinical trial featured a breakthrough therapy more convenient and tolerable for patients with mantle cell lymphoma. Ibrutinib is administered orally instead of the traditional intravenous infusion-based chemotherapy. “I had to lose the idea of what I thought about chemotherapy,” says Jim.

After a short time on Ibrutinib, Jim has regained his energy, and his lymphoma is now in remission. Had Jim participated in the treatment offered by the original oncologist, he would not have been a candidate for this clinical trial. The couple encourages others to seek out clinical trials because of the cutting-edge research and technology they develop to help improve and extend life.

A True Partnership

Jim’s successful recovery is not only due to Ibrutinib, but also to Meg’s intuition to seek out a better option. From the day they wed, the couple vowed to never give up on each other. Jim attests to the unspoken agreement in relationships that each partner promises to always be there. Both he and Meg wouldn’t let that agreement be broken, no matter how many clinical trials it would take.

The support and love Jim and Meg provide each other strengthened their relationship in a time of chaos and uncertainty.  The couple also felt that they had another unconditional support system through this process, UVA Cancer Center.

No one ever fancies a trip to the hospital, but Jim and Meg were instantly drawn to the convenience of the facility and the courteousness of the staff. They explained that at every visit they were greeted by genuine smiles, hugs and optimism. “It’s sort of like being at Cheers, where everyone knows your name,” says Meg.

“They’re treating the whole person, the whole family,” says Meg, “[UVA sets] the gold standard for patient and family care.”

Today, Jim and Meg once again enjoy life on Lake Anna. Jim writes and mentors those on their spiritual journey, while Meg catches up with girlfriends or enjoys a good book. “I don’t live from appointment to appointment, I don’t live to survive; I live fully to the extent my physiology will support,” says Jim.

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Meet Jim

Jim Bryant and his wife

A clinical trial for mantle cell lymphoma at UVA saved Jim Bryant's life.

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