My name is Ryan Luecke and I’m sharing my story because I don’t believe the toxic exposure from serving in LCCs is limited to Malmstrom AFB. In our training at Vandenberg AFB, we were told that we could serve in ANY of the 45 Minutemen III REACT-A Launch Control Centers (LCCs) as the equipment and layouts were extremely similar between the bases. In fact there is basically only 1 set of Technical Orders we followed as Missileers with only minor modifications making them base specific. The LCC and LCEB equipment is designed virtually the same amongst all bases. I want to help raise awareness that exposing young men and women to these harsh chemicals at ALL missile bases has consequences. I want to ensure that future missileers aren’t exposed to toxins that lead to more Cancer diagnoses.
Narrative: In May of 2020 I decided to go to my Primary Care Physician for a routine check-up. I was feeling 100 percent and didn’t expect any bad news. I noticed a lump on the left side of my neck the size of a large grape, but I figured it was just a normal size lymph node. I was physically fit working out routinely 3-4 days a week and maintaining a healthy weight. After having routine blood work at my first appointment, my PCP’s office called me and asked me to come back for some additional blood work. A few days later my PCP called me and broke the news that I had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I would have to wait about 2 months before I could meet with an Oncologist at the University of Kansas to learn more about my diagnosis. My Oncologist told me that we would “watch and wait” for my symptoms to progress before I would need any treatment. He said that the average CLL patient my age begins treatment after 4 years of being watched. I only lasted about 1 year before my symptoms progressed quickly causing extreme fatigue and rapid progression of cancer growth in my bone marrow. I felt like 40% of myself and had no desire to do anything but rest.
Diagnosis: More tests ensued including a FISH test that determined my Cancer had deleted my 11q and 13q Chromosomes. Because of my chromosomal deletions, I was told by my Oncologist that chemotherapy would not be effective, and that was why my CLL progressed faster than normal. I was in the Intermediate risk category of CLL. My Kansas University Oncologist advised that I travel from Kansas to MD Anderson in Houston to enroll in a clinical trial where I could get the best targeted therapy drugs available only through a trial.
Treatment: I’ve been receiving treatments of Acalabrutinib, and Venetoclax for over a year. I’ve made more than 15 trips to MD Anderson in the past 12 months, and have had 4 Bone Marrow Biopsies. In July 2023 I will get another biopsy to see if they need to add a third IV Infusion Drug – Obinutuzinab to my treatment. I’m finally feeling close to 100 percent as the drugs have reduced the CLL Cancer cells in my bone marrow from 85% before treatments, down to just 5% remaining. I’m hopeful that the drugs continue to reduce the cancer cells in my bone marrow so that eventually I can be taken off of medication.