Joe survived recurring cancer with a blood stem cell transplant
Before being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), I thought I was invincible. I had the perfect life: a great marriage, three beautiful kids, a house, a dog, and a great job—I even had great in-laws. I thought nothing could stop me. But cancer did. It changed everything. I was given six to eighteen months to live. But I wasn’t going to let cancer take my wonderful life away from me. I had too much to live for.
Throughout the course of my treatment, I had a Hickman line installed, two extremely aggressive rounds of chemotherapy, my first stem cell transplant, a relapse of my cancer, another four rounds of chemo, a round of high dose radiation, and a second stem cell transplant. That was over three years ago. Recovery was extreme with exceptional highs, like having my Hickman line removed, and extreme lows, like my relapse. The emotional ride was difficult, but I always tried to keep a positive attitude, even during the hard times.
Everyone was surprised by my positive attitude and outlook. At first, I considered it like fighting a cold. Lots of people beat cancer, and I was going to be one of them.
Thanks to a total stranger, my blood counts are now within normal ranges. Thanks to Gift of Life, I was able to meet my donor, a young man from New York City. He’s a real slice of Americana and I couldn’t be more proud. I can only imagine how his family feels. We keep in touch on a regular basis, and I always look forward to our next visit.
I couldn’t have survived without the unimaginable support I received from my community. Some of my friends babysat so that my wife could visit me in the hospital. Several others brought me lunch or took me out to eat. The care and concern extended well past family and friends to total strangers who took care of dinners, child care, hospital visits, strengthening walks, and anything my wife and I needed. I will be forever grateful to everyone who supported us, and I now would like to do everything I can to help others in their times of need. I encourage families and set up donation and outreach opportunities for Gift of Life and other organizations. Though I am not fully back to “normal,” I strive for a new normal by enjoying my life with family and friends.