was so serious that he was admitted to Emory that night to begin a series of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. As if that wasn’t frightening enough, doctors told him that his chances of beating the disease were slim.
“That was probably the first moment when I started to realize this was really happening,” Pinado says. “I cried, and I remember being scared, but as time went on I think the people around me-my parents, Melanie, my friends-were more scared for me than I was for myself.
“Once I understood what my illness was and how they were going to treat it, I put my trust in the people around me and just sort of resigned myself to getting through it,” Pinado continues. But getting through it would prove nightmarish at times. The chemotherapy made him feel weak and sick, he lost his hair, and began losing weight. As various treatments were tried and failed, he also struggled against the overwhelming tide of emotions that rolled like a rollercoaster through moments of high hopes and deep fears. But through it all, Pinado believed he’d pull through.
“I thought of it as a disruption, but I never thought of it as the end of everything. I knew so many people who had difficult lives growing up, and I’d always had it so easy. I started to see this as me having to pay my dues for having such a good life. I definitely got depressed at times, but things had always worked out for me. I really thought they would this time.”
Pinado spent eight months battling for his life. He was in and out of the hospital, and he endured several unsuccessful courses of treatment and medical crises as well as the harvesting and replacement of his own bone marrow. Ultimately, an experimental drug that his future mother-in-law read about in The New York Times sent his disease into remission. Pinado’s primary doctor, hematologist-oncologist Elliott Winton, called his recovery a miracle. Pinado doesn’t dwell on it, but he doesn’t disagree.
“I’ve always lived my life within morally ethical guidelines, but I didn’t go to church with any regularity,” he says. “In the hospital I started to pray, and it was an amazing thing. I had become friends with another patient. She was an Egyptian doctor, and she had what I had. I used to lie in my bed and visualize prayers until I could see them actually take form and move down the hall and into her room, making a connection to her.”
Pinado laughs, conceding that some of his friends would say he was tripping off of all the medication he was on. But to this day, he believes it was real, and he’s not the only one. “She told me later that she could feel it and her whole family believed it helped her. [The prayers] helped me too.” Like Pinado, she beat the odds and survived.
“I prayed a lot, but more for other people than for myself, and it was the most