Survivor since 2006
I began feeling flu like symptoms the last two days of our family vacation to Maui, over the Thanksgiving break in 2006. We decided to do something different for Thanksgiving, so my wife Donna, our two sons Justin and Cody and I flew out for ten days of fun in the sun. Just relaxing on the beach, or by the pool, no agendas, no big plans. Donna likes to refer to it as the calm before the storm, and I believe that’s exactly what God blessed us with.
We arrived home, and as is the case often times, going back to work is difficult after a vacation like this. It was even harder because I didn’t feel well. I went to our family doctor, and I got the usual, you know what I’m talking about. “I think you just have a virus, there’s a lot of stuff going around right now.” I was told to come back if I didn’t feel better in a day or two. I went back the next day, and informed them I was not leaving until they figured out what was wrong with me. I got a call that evening at home from a consulting physician, from our regional cancer center telling me that he was sure that I had Leukemia, more specifically A.L.L. Acute Lymphosetic Leukemia, and I needed to be in Denver at Presbyterian St. Luke’s hospital the next morning. That was a shock to say the least. Donna was on her way home from a business trip, so I called all of our friends from our small group, and one of my best friends in the world, Chalance Coit. She and her husband Tad are great friends, and she is a 15 year Leukemia survivor so she knew exactly where I was mentally. I spent a month in Denver at St. Luke’s for my induction treatment, came home and had five more treatments, and found out that I was going to need a bone marrow transplant. It’s called cytogenetic abnormalities. They began testing my 5 siblings, and I matched 2 of them exactly! That’s a God thing for sure! I went back to Denver in April of 2007, for my transplant at St. Luke’s. I had chemo, then 4 days of total body irradiation, my sister Ellyn donated cells on the last day of my radiation treatments, and I got my transplant that evening. I spent a month in the hospital before getting out, and 2 more months in Denver at a hotel where I could get to the clinic for my 3 weekly checkups, or in case of an emergency. I was given a book, one of many that I read while in Denver, called “It’s not About the Bike,” by Lance Armstrong. It inspired me to ride every day, and ride hard. Well, for me it was riding hard. I would ride every day, (most days it was a major accomplishment just to shower) but I rode anyway. 5 miles, 7 sometimes, but I remember being so mad because one day I had to stop! I made a vow that I would never stop again, no matter how far I rode. I rode the Cherry Creek trail every day. It was a great place to ride, pretty safe from the Denver traffic.
I was blessed to have no complications, and it began to be a game with all of the physicians at check ups, ‘when can I go home.?” They called me superman, or superpatient, or the boring patient, because everything worked perfectly after my transplant. I finally convinced them that it was time for me to go home at 85 days. Home for 4th of July, that was awesome! I began riding, training harder than in Denver, I felt better being home and it showed in my riding. I was doing 100 or more miles a week, and I began riding over the Colorado National Monument 2-3 times a week. It’s been 1 1/2 years since my transplant, and almost 2 years since diagnosis. I can’t help but quote Solomon, “Rejoice in every day of life.” Eccl.11:8.
I have since retired from my job, and I volunteer a couple of days a week at The Pavilion, St. Mary’s Cancer Center in Grand Junction, and I am currently a theology student with plans of pastoring a church.
Bless you all, I would love to hear from you. Steve