stevesanfordbw

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

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  1. Teresa Lukaszewski Mitchell says:

    Steve… God Bless You!! I am so glad you are so a strong and fighting person. You come from good genes. I know your whole family is strong. I’m so happy you have come so far and Ellyn could help you. That must be such an awesome feeling for her. You keep being tough. I’m sure your family is very proud of you. Best of luck. You are in my prayers. Have’t seen you in years and I hope one day we get to visit again soon. You take care. Love your cousin Teresa

  2. Donna Lukaszewski Lyons says:

    Hi Steve,
    I haven’t seen you for many years…I went with your family to Ocean City Maryland to help keep the 6 of you in line back in the 60’s. Barb (your Mom) is my cousin. I was touched deeply by your article. I followed in your Moms footsteps and became a nurse, specializing in pediatrics. I am so in awe of your outlook on life and the way you handled the cards life has dealt you. You are an inspiration to all of us. My evenings are spent teaching medical assistants and preparing them for dealing with patients. I intend to share your article and those of others on this website with them to instill the caring and compassion they need to help the patients cope and heal when dealing with the struggles life deals them. You will be in my prayers and my heart. God will truly care for you and yours. Love and best wishes for continued good health, Cousin Donnna and her family

  3. Alycia S. says:

    Steve,

    You are an amazing person! It’s not easy keeping a positive attitude when you are given a diagnosis like you were, and I am sure that this had alot to do with your recovery. I am very involved with the A.C.S. Relay for Life in Kingston and I am always touched by the amount of survivors that are at the event – and they are all smiles that day. I am happy to hear that you are doing better.

    Your cousin – Alycia

  4. Aunt Rita Riggio says:

    Hi Steve,
    We met many years ago when I visited your Grandmother Mildred Stalter. She was my older sister
    by 12 years. A wonderful woman, who by the way would be so proud to call you her Grandson.
    I was inspired by your story and your struggle with poor health. You are an inspiration to
    any who will hear your past problems and your acceptance of God’s will.
    We do not know why we are given the crosses we have to bear in life, but it is a loving tribute
    to God when we accept His will humbly.
    You will be in my prayers.
    All our love and best wishes for a healthy future.
    Rita and Ed Riggio

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