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Thankful for Appian: Support and Strength through a Tough Time

Blog: Leukemia Didn’T Stop Me From Running A Marathon Patrick Finley

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I started working for Appian right out of college in the Fall of  2020. Around my one-year anniversary at Appian, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). It’s a type of blood cancer that starts from a mutation in the white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow.

The benefits that Appian provides to its US employees include short-term and long-term disability insurance and medical leave which were my first lines of support. I didn’t think I would ever need to utilize them but was so grateful to learn more about these resources and use them through this tough time.

After six rounds of chemo and a bone marrow transplant later, I am back working at Appian as a Consultant on the Customer Success team. I also recently became the fastest person to complete a marathon after getting a bone marrow transplant!

Throughout this experience, I was always thankful. Everyone deserves to be treated the way I was by their workplace while going through something like this. This inspired me to share my story as a thank you to Appian, my coworkers who made up my support system at work, and to now pay it forward to others.

Not only do you have to beat cancer, but you also have to figure out how to pay the bills.

The Appian benefits offered including health care, disability leave, and medical leave, allowed me to focus on recovering and not have to worry about the expenses that come along with cancer treatment. 

I moved back to Philadelphia to get treatment at the University of Pennsylvania, which meant I was also still paying rent at the time in Washington, DC. The disability insurance took care of both the treatment and my rent. 

I was off for nine months as a combination of medical and disability leave after my diagnosis from October 2021 to June 2022. Anytime I needed something or had questions with insurance, Ivy Vo, on our Appian benefits team, was always there to help. 

There are a lot of logistics to figure out when you are sick, and it is easy to feel like you are the only one going through it, however, I felt supported the entire time.

Thanks to my Appian team, I could focus on getting better. 

After I got my bone marrow transplant from a donor in Germany, I was in the hospital for a month. Then it takes about six months after that to recover. You’re not allowed to see anyone or go back to work because you have a brand-new immune system. 

My team and my whole department at Appian were super supportive. They checked in with how I was doing and were so kind, sending me gifts and best wishes. They even sent me the newest Xbox that you couldn't get in stores anywhere which was awesome because I was alone in quarantine for months! I read about 55 books during that time. The support from my Appian team was more than I could have imagined. 

I also wasn’t sure about my timeline for coming back to work and they never forced the issue. It always felt like my team had everything covered so I could focus on my recovery. Like I said the entire time, I was treated the way I would want anyone to be treated. 

Big thanks to the specific Appian people who were so helpful: Richard Clos, Hayley Zauner, Anthony Reale, Ken Hinerman, and Ivy Vo.

My support system when I came back to work.

In early June, I had made significant progress and was feeling much better. I was ready to get back to a normal routine. I never felt pressured to return to work before I was ready or cleared by my doctor. My advisor Ken and project manager Anthony worked with me to help create a schedule that would ease me back into it.

Returning  to work was a big step in terms of my recovery. 

Going through chemo and radiation is tough both physically and mentally. Since my work at Appian is mentally challenging and stimulating, coming back was a great way for me to gain back that mental strength. It meant a lot that I could come back to Appian and be part of a team, after focusing on myself for so long. 

Being a contributor on the Customer Success team is a direct way of measuring how much progress I have made in my recovery. It feels good to finally help others on my team after I had been the recipient of help from so many people during my treatment. I have been able to start back at work at my own pace which aligned with client project work. My team is so happy to have me back and have been so understanding and accommodating when I need calendar adjustments to log off or take a break. There are still many appointments, checkups, and blood work infusions after treatment. This took time and energy and my team helped set up a schedule to prioritize this. 

Seven months after my bone marrow transplant, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. 

After being diagnosed, at first, all I could think about was how my diagnosis would change my life forever and handicap me from doing all that I wanted to accomplish in life, chief among them—running a marathon. 

In April 2022, I could barely stand up for longer than a minute without needing to sit back down.

In August, I couldn't run more than a mile because my body was still weak. It seemed like I would never reach the light at the end of the tunnel—my goal of completing a marathon in October. But I continued working out because I knew my body would continue to respond. 

September came, and suddenly, I felt like I could push myself to longer and longer runs.

In October 2022, I became the fastest person to complete a marathon after a bone marrow transplant(or so my research tells me)! Appian even covered the cost of the marathon with the Life + Health Spending Allocation as another added benefit.

Finishing that race was the sweetest vengeance I could give to cancer. 

I had never ran a marathon before. The event energy was incredible and brought me back to playing high school sports. Although I was running on my own,  it felt like I was part of a team and everybody was aiming to finish together.

I hope that my story can be an inspiration to help other people get through similar battles when they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The end is always there. Even if you can’t see it, you just need to keep pushing forward. The light might be just around the bend.

Feeling thankful and paying it forward to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 

It truly takes a village of people to beat cancer, and I was the beneficiary of so many different people's hard work and care. On another note, my sister is currently battling acute myeloid leukemia for the fourth time in four years and just had her second stem cell transplant this past September. She fought cancer before me and is a big reason why I ran and was able to stay confident throughout this process.

My sister and I have been the recipients of multiple treatments developed by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a global leader in the fight against cancer. 

We have come so far in battling this disease, but we still have much more to accomplish. I’m thankful for the support I received from my parents, family, coworkers, doctors, nurses, and my German donor. Without all of you, I would not have been able to do this. 

I would like to pay it forward to the next person and I’d love your help.

If you’re feeling inspired, you can donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through my GoFundMe here. All donations will be provided directly to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to support its mission. 

Blog: Leukemia Didn’T Stop Me From Running A Marathon

Written by

Patrick Finley

Patrick Finley is a Consultant on our Customer Success team at Appian.