I am a cancer survivor and my story starts in the summer of 1999. On June 9, an MRI revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in my brain. A biopsy showed it to be a primary central nervous system non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I remember this date vividly because it was my wife’s birthday and she had to break the news to me. This marked the beginning of our journey.
After the fear and shock diminished slightly, I decided to take my diagnosis as a challenge rather than a declaration of death. Rather than worrying about my career path, I was forced to worry about my life span. All of my plans and goals were wiped of the board as I was forced into a world I knew nothing about. It was the most frightening time of my life.
My new world contained a new language -- words and phrases like PCNS non-Hodgkin lymphoma, large diffuse B cell with a marker of CD-20, pet scans with radioactive isotopes, whole brain radiation, monoclonal antibodies, intrathecal ports, Omeyya shunts and stem cell harvesting. Specific medications, many with names I still can’t pronounce, are too numerous to count.
To summarize, five years of treatment, including remission and relapse, led me to the lifesaving procedure known as a stem cell transplant in 2004. I would certainly not be here today without the team of dedicated medical professionals I was fortunate to meet and my personal support group headed by my wife Lisa. Simple things like holding my hand during a blood transfusion energized me and enabled me continue my battle.
I’ve been called a hero, given awards of courage, honored as a survivor and thanked as a supporter and fundraiser, but the true heroes are my family, friends, doctors and nurses, and God that aid me in survival. My positive experience with cancer leaves me with a moral obligation to help those who are going through or about to go through treatment.
I’ve helped patients through tough times as a First Connection volunteer and I've raised more than $13,000 in my 12 years of fundraising. During the past few years I’ve also been involved in patient advocacy, which will help fix roadblocks that lead to providing the proper medicine and treatments to patients. Eventually all these programs will help lead to curing cancer.