"Rutemiller's Army" Helps Brent Rutemiller Fight His Own Cancer and is Making Waves to Fight Cancer with Swim Across America
PHOENIX, Nov. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- In June 2023, Brent Rutemiller, former publisher of Swimming World Magazine and former CEO of the International Sports Hall of Fame (ISHOF), was making arrangements for hospice care after fighting a courageous battle with multiple myeloma. Over Thanksgiving weekend November 24-26, he will mark his remarkable journey and remission by swimming laps in three different pools around the Phoenix area. He is swimming to help make waves in the fight against cancer and to raise critical funds for cancer research with Swim Across America. In addition to Brent's personal swims, his "Rutemiller's Army," made up of professional and amateur swimmers and friends and family around the country, will also be joining him to do their own swims in his honor over the November 24-26 time-period.
"I'm grateful to be here today because of God, the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, and science. Together they gave me an emergency FDA-approved treatment that attacked my cancer to the point where it can no longer be found. Today I stand in a state of 'Very Good Partial Remission (VGPR)'," shared Brent Rutemiller.
Brent also gives thanks to Rutemiller's Army, the group of friends, family members, colleagues and Olympians from the swimming community, who came together to support Brent from diagnosis to partial remission.
"Over the past two years, all my treatments failed to conquer the Multiple Myeloma cancer circulating in my blood. I went through two stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, multiple drug treatments, and cataract, brain, and heart surgery. Along the way, I lost my eyesight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling in my face, chin, right leg, and toes. But I never lost hope because of the support from the swimming community and Rutemiller's Army. Now is the time to give back," said Brent.
Today, Brent has responded well to treatment, surpassing even his doctor's expectations. He has miraculously recovered and has regained much of his health so that he can swim once again. To mark this occasion, Brent will be swimming in two Arizona pools on November 24-27 and he is encouraging anyone who loves swimming to dive in and join him. He will be joined virtually at other locations by his faithful Rutemiller's Army, and special guests from his swimming career, including Olympic swimmers Rowdy Gaines, Debbie Meyer, Nathan Adrian, Aaron Peirsol, Elizabeth Beisel, Matt Grevers, Amanda Beard, Roland Schoeman and Darian Townsend. Those who live outside the Arizona-area and want to join in and swim and support Rutemiller's Army, can swim in their local pool and donate to Rutemiller's Army.
Brent's journey to remission is full of many ups and downs, and he has maintained a positive, yet realistic outlook. His story is documented in a self-produced video on swimacrossamerica.org/rutemillersarmy.
"There is no cure for multiple myeloma - there are only treatments," said Brent. "I am calling on Rutemiller's Army to swim for a cure."
Brent is no stranger to the strength of the swimming community. In 1985, he began his association with Swimming World Magazine and he went on to serve as marketing director, publisher, CEO and owner of the magazine. After a 37-year tenure with the publication, he became CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), re-establishing its home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and merging the magazine and its multimedia platforms with the Hall. His leadership was integral to the ongoing construction of the Hall's new facilities, which include the first high-diving tower of its kind in the world. He retired from his magazine and Hall of Fame positions in 2022 after his cancer diagnosis.
In June 2021, Brent discovered what he believed to be a kidney stone causing intense back pain. It was instead a rare bone marrow cancer called plasma cell leukemia or multiple myeloma. He started chemotherapy almost immediately with MD Anderson before being transferred to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.
Then in January 2022, he experienced the first setback by suffering a skin reaction to one of his major medications. Doctors took him off the drug and began discussions for a bone marrow transplant. They were hopeful that a stem cell transplant would help conquer the cancer in his blood. With the cancer growing at an exponential rate, they infused Brent with five million stem cells in March, 2022. Within a month his cancer was under control and in early remission.
However, seven months later in September 2022, his cancer returned. He received radiation for cancer in his jaw and began the process of receiving Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy in the form of another bone marrow transplant. CAR T-cell therapy is a way to get immune cells called T cells to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is also sometimes talked about as a type of cell-based gene therapy, because it involves altering the genes inside T cells to help them attack the cancer cells.
While waiting for the new, modified T cells to be transplanted, his cancer was intensifying. He received the CAR-T transplant in October and was briefly released from the hospital, though his marrow was not responding to the treatment. The following month while back in the hospital, he dealt with multiple setbacks including high fevers, poor clotting of wounds, and difficulty walking independently.
Ten days before Christmas, his marrow was still not responding. His wife suggested to his doctors to give Brent a stem cell boost with the five million of his stem cells that were still banked in cold storage. After the boost of three million stem cells, his initial tests showed no signs of cancer and he was released on December 28 - the day of his 37th wedding anniversary.
"I couldn't wait to get home, hold my grandsons, get back in shape, and dive into the pool as soon as I felt strong enough," said Brent.
In February 2023, Brent received test results from his doctors showing signs that the cancer was undetectable.
"They said I had the cleanest bone marrow they'd ever seen!" shared Brent. "We still needed to wait and let the cells do their job but that was fantastic news."
Then in March, Brent fought another setback as he received the news that his cancer had returned again, and this time, in the form of a brain tumor. Doctors acted quickly and removed the tumor, leaving a large U-shaped scar on the back of his head.
He then learned that cancer had attacked his heart and a new brain tumor formed after the surgery. Brent received radiation treatments for the brain tumor and a pacemaker in his heart to combat the new diagnoses.
After treatment, Brent was feeling well enough to resume hiking and work on regaining his strength, even though the cancer was still growing in his blood.
"Then everything changed. In late 2022, the FDA had granted emergency approval for a new drug called Teclistamab for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma," said Brent. "I was lucky to have my doctors know this and I underwent treatment in May 2023. It was my last hope."
After a 15-day treatment plan was implemented, Brent was feeling hopeful and healthy. His tests revealed that cancer levels in his blood were below normal and his brain tumor resolved. Brent was optimistic and slowly healing. In July 2023, Brent was in a state of "Very Good Partial Remission" and remains in that state today.
"Before that emergency FDA approval, we didn't know what our next steps were. And to be honest, we still don't know what will happen from here. But we're hopeful and grateful, and I want Rutemiller's Army to be my legacy and continue to fight towards a cure."
Funds raised by Brent and Rutemiller's Army will fund a cancer research project guided by the Swim Across America Research and Grants Committee.
Swim Across America was founded in 1987 with its first open water event in Long Island Sound. Since that time, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $100 million to fight cancer. In its 36 years of "making waves to fight cancer," more than 100,000 swimmers and 150 Olympians have swum the circumference of the earth three times, uniting a movement to fight cancer that has created a groundswell of support spanning all generations. Today, more than 24 communities hold open water swims and charity pool swims each year, from Nantucket to under the Golden Gate Bridge, which support innovative cancer research, detection and patient programs.
Swim Across America's funding of clinical trials for patients helped contribute to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy cancer treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda. In June of last year, a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed a 100 percent success rate in treating patients in a phase 2 clinical trial for advanced rectal cancer with dostarlimab, an immunotherapy treatment produced by GlaxoSmithKline. The clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was funded by early-stage grant funding from Swim Across America. More than 60 scientific grants are funded each year and there are now ten dedicated Swim Across America Labs at major institutions including: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, John Hopkins Medicine Baltimore, Rush University Medical Center Chicago, Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, Infusion Center at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and San Francisco, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, The Swim Across America Pediatric Research Lab at Columbia University Medical Center New York, and at Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine.
To follow Rutemiller's Army and support the cause, visit swimacrossamerica.org/rutemillersarmy.
Swim Across America, Inc. (SAA) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and past and current Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service. To learn more visit swimacrossamerica.org or follow on Facebook @SwimAcrossAmerica or on Instagram or Twitter @SAASwim.
SOURCE Swim Across America