Susan Butcher has leukemia

Susan Butcher, four-time Iditarod winner, has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia:

Seattle – Susan Butcher, four-time champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and once the most dominant athlete in her sport, has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a malignant disease of the blood and bone marrow, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, Seattle.

Butcher’s husband, David Monson, said she was diagnosed late last week and began treatment December 6. Butcher’s protocol calls for several months chemotherapy. Then once the leukemia is in remission, she probably will undergo a bone marrow transplant if a suitable donor can be found.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the National Cancer Institute report that about 12,000 people are diagnosed with AML every year. About 50 cases have been reported in Alaska.

“We’ll be in Seattle for at least six months,” he said, “and my job is to take care of Susan. Susan’s job is to not worry and focus on her healing. But we’ve been overwhelmed that people want to help any way they can.”

A bone marrow donor is being sought.

It’s really too bad to see a great musher like Susan Butcher going through a horrible ordeal like this—it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. If anybody is tough enough to triumph over the disease, she is.

15 comments… add one
  • John Cunningham Link

    What horribly sad news. I lived in Alaska for 25 years, and I met Susan several times at book signings and forums. She is very personable and down to earth. She and husband Dave Monson were rare among mushers in treating their dogs in a more pet-like manner, bring pups into their house in rotation. Too many mushers keep the dogs on chains except when running. Let’s hope the treatment works!

  • From your mouth to God’s ears, John.

    I also think it’s remarkable how little press attention this has received. An athlete with the position that Susan Butcher holds in sleddog racing who was in practically any other sport would at least get a mention or two.

  • Howard (Butch) O'Neal Link

    My family and I lived in North Pole for almost 18 years. I was diognosed with AML in Sep 04, received Chemothearpy and have been in remission since Jan 05. I agree with Dave, must be Alaska or what they don’t know. Look at the attention Lance Armstrong got. What about the legendary musher, Norman Vaughan? The today show only mentioned that he had turned 100 years old!! Susan is one of our great athletes and a wonderful person. She will survive this ordeal.

  • Pam Hart Link

    I am a huge Susan Butcher fan and am terribly saddened to hear of her illness. Only by logging on as I do annually during Iditarod did I learn this news. I agree that this should have gotten more press. I visited her kennel this past August and was disappointed that she had to return home (Cambridge) for her mother’s death. I truly wanted to meet my idol in person. Let’s keep her in our prayers.

  • Kay Castagnoli Link

    Dear Ms. Butcher,

    I have had breast cancer and lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s disease – it is never fun and can be horribly frightening and difficult.

    Having read about your Iditarod years ago, I was so entranced and have followed that race since. Please know that I was terribly saddened when a dog we adopted who proved to be a true snow-must pull dog died. Beautiful creamy white, black tongue – looks like the “white team” she died 6 months ago after running over 18,000 miles with me – I wish you all the very best.

    Kay Castagnoli
    68 years old -University organic chemistry teacher and research scientist

  • Dear Susan:
    We have never met but we have great respect for your accomplishments. Our daughter was diagnosed with AML on September 11, 2002, the Hutch found a donor for her and she was transplanted in February of 2003. She is doing great, got married last October (her donor, a 32 year old German male, came to the wedding) and is back teaching developmentally delayed four year olds. The Hutch is the best and they do great work. We wish you lots of love and luck and if there is anything we can do please let us know.

  • i had been following susans troubles but my computer crashed and have lost the web site please advise thank you carol j burchfield

  • Sure, carol. Susan’s web page is here. And you can get the most recent news on her treatment by going here and entering ‘butcher’ as patient name and ‘butcher1’ as password. Her husband, David, is keeping us up-to-date on Susan’s condition.

  • Helene L. Arseneau Link

    Hi Susan,
    I watched your profile on abc Goodmorning America today May 10th and I was so shocked to hear this! I’ve watched you race and win in the Iditarod as I was growing up. I admire you your a strong person your in a different type of race now but I know in
    my heart you will beat this! Hang in there, think positive and I’m sending a whole bunch of prayers for you.
    GOD Bless

  • Laura Link

    I am currently at the Fred Hutch receiving treatment for my leukemia and Susan and her husband are such a bright spot! I lived in Alaska briefly and heard so much about her. The Anchorage VFW has her picture up on the downtairs wall four times, one for each year she won the Iditarod, and she sort of became my hero. Women really can do anything they put their mind to was the message I took from the knowledge that she won a race so grueling and won it four times. It is such a shame that wonderfully strong people are suceptible to such terrible disease. However, I hope she knows what an inspiration she is to me and probably to so many others receiving treatment. She is upbeat and positive and she and her husband seem to handle things so well. It has been 14 days since her transplant and she is in my prayers every day.

  • chris lebo Link

    hi my name is christopher lebo , i am so sorry to hear what your going through. i my self was diagnosed with a rear leukemia(cmmcl,5-12 ratio ) i am one of five people to have this type of leuk. in the U.S. the odds of getting this was 1-276,000,000 people .
    diagnosed me 2months to live .

    has been a yr now.ever since may 2005 , im more stroger than i can ever be. thanks to the dr.’s of cook county hospital of chicago il .
    they gave me a cemo drug called gleevec,
    its a mild oral cemo pill thats been out for four yrs.
    the pill did not work for others that have my kind of luek.

    but its worked for me , and they dont know why .its a
    mystery for the dr. why it worked for me only in the entire world .
    next month im going in for a bone marrow bioptsy to see if the magic pill cured me .

    they are saying therr is a really good chance that this drug cured me .

    im am praying that you get well
    and every thing works out well ,
    i hope to see you in the future cherishing the things you love so much .
    sincerly a friend ,
    chris lebo
    p.s . may god bless you !

  • Tim Fox Link

    I had oral cancer when I was 29 beat it. It came back last year at 43. I thought i beat it again but it came back in my lungs and backbone. Very painful in the back!! I have 3 kids, thanksfully they are older. My youngest is 12. I said prayer for yoiu and your family today and I am sending GOOD VIBES and healing thoughts your way. It brings teqars to my eyes knowing that this lot in life is ours. We can but accept it, fight it and be the best example for our family and community. I gather great strength in thinking that living my life in a positive way minute by minute is doing good. Sometimes a smile is all I have to give. Best of luck from someone who knows. Do your best and be courageous. All the best!
    Tim (Anchorage)

  • Alvin Lee Link

    David and family,
    I never met your wife/mom, but like many people feel in love with Alaska and the Ididirod because of her. We visited Alaska a few years ago and was only sorry we did not have time to get near your home. We did visit a few race sites because of our respect for Susan. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. She was a tremondous person and will be missed.
    Alvin – New Jersey

  • Sharna Rowe Link

    I am an aussie dog lover (and cancer survivor) and I have been enthralled by the iditarod ever since I saw a documentary many years ago. I only learnt today of Susan’s death. I was stunned. I never met Susan but I have admired her from afar and wished I could have followed the path she did. I so admire her achievements and her passion for mushing. I did get to see her training facility whilst on holiday in Alaska in 2004 when she did a presentation to us tourists who were on the boat. I was like a kid who gets near their idol. Yet another wonderful inspirational person has been taken too early.

  • God Speed! To everyone whos fighting Cancer! Chris Lebo

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