Hodgkins Lymphoma – 5 Years in Remission

2015-09-01 20.14.04Today is September 1, 2015, and I have been cancer free from Hodgkins Lymphoma for 5 years.  I have thought about this day over and over.  I have both longed for it, and feared it.  In the past two years I often dreamed of various exciting ways to celebrate the day.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January 2009.  I relapsed only a few months after the initial treatment, and on the first day of September 2010, I received a stem cell transplant.  If you are interested in clicking way back through the old posts on this site, you can read the whole day by day story.  Or, if you are here because you or someone you care about is considering a transplant for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, here is a video of my actual transplant as it happened.

Why is the 5 year mark so important?  Thank you for asking, that is an excellent question.  It will help to explore a brief bit of medical history.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is an old cancer, meaning, doctors have known what it is, and how to recognize it for over 100 years.  It used to be fatal, as were most cancers.  But the development of the ABVD chemotherapy regimen improved the odds, and many studies have shown that approximately 80-85% of newly diagnosed Hodgkins Lymphoma cases, survive at least 5 years from the date of diagnosis.   However, long term studies show that approximately 30% of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients will not respond properly to that treatment.  These are cases are called relapse and refractory cases and the odds of long term survival are lower for these people.  I was in the refractory group.

For those of us in that group of relapse and refractory Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a secondary or salvage treatment involving high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant is usually on the menu. Of this group of patients who are essentially on plan B, after failing plan A, the probability of success is less than 50%.   And for those who relapse within 1-3 years of the transplant, the prognosis is not good.  However, these same studies show that the patients who do not relapse, and achieve 5 years of survival without progression of the disease, very often go on to live normal Lymphoma free lives.  It is difficult to put percentages on survivability at this point, but the basic fact

Melanie, Me, and Amy. Melanie came to dinner with a latex bald cap to remind me what I looked like 5 years ago when I had Hodgkins Lymphoma

Melanie, Me, and Amy. Melanie came to dinner with a latex bald cap to remind me what I looked like 5 years ago when I had Hodgkins Lymphoma

is that reaching 5 years of survival is a really positive indicator that a person will continue to be free of the disease indefinitely.

So, the day has come!  I received my transplant 5 years ago today, and I am still here.  I have had no return of the disease, and I feel great.  So today I am thankful for the chance to keep going.  I appreciate the good people in my life and I respect that happiness comes from within.  There is no amount of money, cars, clothes, prestige, status or pixel resolution that can bring long term happiness.  Those things can help, but they are only band aids.  The real happiness, or healing of a wound comes from inside and being content with who you are.

I have not made any particular plans to celebrate.  I have come to the conclusion that just living my life is enough of a celebration.  Although I did receive some beautiful hand made cards and letters of encouragement from the kids, and Amy planned a very nice dinner this past weekend with a friend of mine who was there 5 years ago to witness all my misery.

It won't be me sitting in this chemo room

The End of an Era

Think back to January 9, 2009.  We were all trying to figure out what this new economic downturn was going to look and feel like, Barack Obama was about to be sworn into office for the first time, and the majority of the western world wouldn’t know the name Capt. Sully Sullenberger for 6 more days.  I was sitting in my car outside a non-descript doctors office on Medlock Bridge Rd in Duluth, Georgia replaying the past ten minutes when Dr. Gupta had told me, “You have Lymphoma,”  and “You will definitely need chemotherapy,” and “You need to see an oncologist, and I think you should go there right now.”

That day has become a pivoting point in the story of me, and I really think of my life in terms of “before cancer” and “after cancer.”  The problem though, is that the period I am calling “after cancer” includes all the surgeries, all the stress, all the chemotherapy, all the agonizing rides to the hospital, the uncertainty, and the pain.  And while the beginning of cancer was marked with a very precise and memorable encounter at Dr. Gupta’s office, the end of cancer seems far more ambiguous.  I wrote on this blog way back when that I was worried I would turn into a hypochondriac and never be content that a cough is just a cough.

It won’t be me sitting in this chemo room

Yesterday that changed.  Yesterday, I was at Emory Winship (aka The Cancer Factory, thank you Carcinista) for my scan results.  For the un-initiated, a quick lesson here.  I have been finished with active cancer treatment for 3 years, but the tumor that was the site of all my woes is still inside.  They tell me it’s all burned up and calcified and useless now, but it’s there.  So it is necessary for me to return to the hospital for a PET Scan about every 3-4 months.  This is how the doctors take a peek at my insides and make sure the tumor is behaving itself.  And these appointments do not always go as planned.  In May 2010, after 16 doses of nasty chemo, and 5 months feeling really good, a scan showed the tumor was raging inside my chest.  Another time, about 12 months after my transplant, the scan showed an unexpected change in cell activity.  So, walking into this appointment is always a tense moment.  They can send me home with smiles and cheer, or they can bring me back into the world of chemo infusions, sickness and fear.  It’s a little like waiting to hear a jury announce guilty or not-guilty in a criminal trial.  The defendants will immediately take one of two vastly different paths.

So yesterday, the news was good.  It was my third scan of 2013 and about the 5th or 6th in a row that showed zero change.  I was expecting that news, but the most surprising news followed the verdict.  My doctor is comfortable enough with the stability of my tumor that she says I don’t need to return for a scan for 12 months…and when I come back, they will use a CT scan instead of the powerful PET scan.  In essence, what they are saying is that my risk of cancer is now lower than the risk of more exposure to the radiation presented in a PET Scan.  They are betting on me!   This is easily the MOST positive news I have heard about my health since January 2009 and I was walking on air the rest of the day.


Maui Coastline near Haiku - At the beginning of the Hana Highway

Why Would You Go To Hawaii?

Maui Coastline near Haiku - At the beginning of the Hana Highway

I consider myself a professional traveler.  Not because I travel ALL the time (debatable), and not because I am so darn good at it.  But because I love it, and consulting people and companies on how their employees will travel is my profession, so I better know what I am talking about.  I am supposed to be one of those who are “in the know” and who possesses an ability to spew first hand insight and experience on a wide variety of destinations.  Anything less and I would just be a generic guide book.  So, when I travel to a new place, I am relieved to feel a sensation of, “Yup, this is exactly what I expected.”  It’s a little anti-climactic and maybe even boring compared to the wonder of new discovery, but it re-assures me that I would have done the right thing by my customers.  For example, you don’t want your cardiologist to spread your ribs open and suddenly declare to everyone else in the operating room, “Oh wow, this is totally different than what I thought a heart would look like!”  Not cool.

For many years, I have held an opinion that people who live in the eastern half of the United States shouldn’t waste their time traveling to Hawaii.  My logic says that if you are seeking beaches, oceans, palm trees, sweet fruity cocktails, exotic music, perpetual sunshine, golf courses and sunburned Brits, you would be a fool to fly 10-12 hours to Hawaii, when you could find all the same vacation staples in the Caribbean, Mexico, or even right here in our own Florida Keys, with only a 3 hour flight.

And then, I went to Hawaii.  Now I have been there before, twice in fact.  My previous trips to Hawaii both lasted only 2 nights and were confined to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.  This time, I had 6 nights, and I went to Maui and Honolulu.  As mentioned above, my profession is travel planning, and also as mentioned, I am more effective at this job if I have first hand knowledge of a destination.  Hotels have known this for a long time and they make a frequent habit out of getting travel managers out from behind their computers, and into their hotel rooms.  All the glossy brochures, and flashy websites money can buy don’t compare with a trusted travel pro saying, “Oh yeah, I just stayed at the Marriott Wailea last fall and it was fantastic!”  So, this trip was sponsored in large part by Marriott Resorts of Hawaii.  The hotel rooms were free and they even paid for part of my airfare.

But this post is not about Marriott (you can look up my Trip Advisor reviews for that, or call me to book a vacation or cruise).  This post is about Hawaii itself.  Everything I thought I knew was blown away.  If you have ever pondered the vacation dilemna of Hawaii vs. Caribbean, or Hawaii vs. Mexico, I can only say you are actually comparing Jerk Chicken vs Kalua Pork.  Yes, both are delicious cooked meats and very enjoyable in similar settings, but totally different in every way.

I’m being vague and this is getting long so here’s the poop.  The most obvious difference was the mystical presence of the

Another section of the Hana Highway on Maui. This is south of Hana, close to the unpaved section

Hawaiian landscape, yes the land itself is what impressed me most.  Of course, I am a visual person so that was easy, but the dramatic up and down of the mountains, valleys, river gorges and coast lines defied my notions of what the earth can do with it’s surface.  The word moonscape kept coming to mind which was ridiculous because the dry rocky surface of the moon is completely opposite to what I found in Maui (except for one particular black volcanic rock beach).  I think my mind kept going to that word because what I saw seemed unearthly, so my little pea-brain jumped to the conclusion that if this is not Earth, then it must be the moon.  Sometimes I hate that stupid pea-brain.  I wish I had taken a photo of a particular valley we drove through on Oahu that combined every superlative you can think of for steep, green, lush, tropical, but also expansive and grand.  If you get there, it is the Likelike Highway between H1 Exit 20 in Honolulu, and Kaneohe.  I drove the road completely by accident, after taking a wrong turn on the way to the interstate.  Thank goodness for wrong turns.

Reason number two I loved Hawaii…the local hospitality.  Maybe I just haven’t explored the right Caribbean Islands, but Hawaii seemed equally willing to accommodate the beach bums and pool loungers, as it was the cyclists, trail hikers and explorers.  In Hawaii, I felt comfortable and safe everywhere we went.  I cannot imagine stopping in at a locals store 30 minutes outside Philipsburg on St. Maarten, or exploring the rainforest and looking for waterfalls in remote parts of Jamaica.  Or even being present ANYWHERE but the main tourist drag in ANY PART of Mexico (Lo siento Amigos.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexico and I think it is a wonderful place to vacation, but stay near the resort).

There are many more reasons like the highlight of  Maui, the Hana Highway where my son and I hiked to waterfalls and bamboo forests, and also climbed like crabs over a bizarre beach of smooth black grapefruit sized rocks.  There was also the man made wonder of Pearl Harbor on Oahu.  I almost skipped this iconic locale as well because of the very fact it is iconic.  I thought I knew what it was about and what we would see, but I was so wrong.  No matter what you think you know about Pearl Harbor and WWII, go to Pearl Harbor.

I could write more, and there is more, but this post is also not intended to be a travelogue or guide to visiting Hawaii.  Those things have been written.  My purpose here is to apologize for my uninformed generalizations in the past, and to state my new opinion that Hawaii is a place all of its own and I wish everyone could experience it.  I will be back again, and again, and again.


If You Have An Opinion of Netflix…Read On

First a little apology.  I have not been writing very much this summer, because I am usually packing my suitcase or unpacking.  Just added up the numbers and I have been away from home 47 nights over the past 4 months.  That’s a lot for me, and tonight is one of those nights.

I am in Orlando, Florida (for the 3rd time this summer), and I am attending the annual KIPP School Summit.  KIPP is a network of high quality charter schools all across the country, and many of their schools book their student year-end trips through my company, VenueQuest.  Tonight, they were presenting their annual awards at a Gala Dinner which I had the good fortune to attend.

Early in the evening, we were treated to a stomp dance performance by 1st grade students from the stupUPbreakDOWN dance group at KIPP LA.  A little later in the dinner KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth came out on stage and told a story about how the team and their parents just explained to him backstage that they would be flying home late tomorrow night.  He assumed they scheduled a late flight because they would spend the day enjoying Disney World, but soon learned that the group had wanted to go to Walt Disney World while they were here in Orlando, but they did not have enough money to make it happen.  So Barth opened his speech with this story and then gave out his email address and challenged all 3,000 participants at the conference to pitch in by tomorrow morning to raise the approximately $5,000 it would take to get all these kids into Disney for the day.  The room was buzzing and I could tell that many attendees were already pulling out their phones and emailing Mr. Barth.

He proceeded to introduce the winner of the KIPP Giving Tree Award, which this year was presented to Mr. Reed Hastings, Founder and CEO of Netflix.  Mr. Barth gave the typical rundown of all of Reed’s accomplishments and philanthropic efforts which lean heavily toward supporting education and charter schools.  I learned that at one time, he was even the President of the California State Board of Education.  Mr. Reed Hastings came out on stage and accepted his award.  Then, stepping to the podium he said, “Richard, I am sure that you are going to receive a lot of emails tonight offering money to help get those children to Disney World tomorrow.  My only request is that you decline all of them, and accept mine.”  And with that he smiled and walked off the stage.

Netflix had a major public relations snafu in 2011 as they changed subscription policies, then changed back…added a new division, then closed it down.  I was a subscriber back then, and I have remained a subscriber.  After tonight, I believe not just in the quality of their service, but in the integrity and humanity of their leader.  For me, his spontaneous action was the highlight of the evening, and there is a healthy stream of twitter and facebook chit chat that suggests I am not alone…and that’s saying something because not 20 minutes before he took the stage, we all gave a standing ovation to the closing keynote speaker, President Bill Clinton.

Dominic cheering for the TNT bike riders in Lake Tahoe

Cancer Is Like Riding A Bike

This is me at approximately mile 6 on that 7 mile climb.

Fact #1:  It is springtime and you have two dozen other friends asking you to donate to their walk, run, mud wrestle or competitive rope climb.

Fact #2:  At some point (maybe even at multiple times) you have questioned the effectiveness of donating money to medical research.  I mean with all the money you yourself have donated, shouldn’t we have a cure for something by now.

Fact #3:  I fought a form of Lymphoma for 2 years that would have killed me in the not so distant past, and instead of dying, I returned to a healthy life and will be there to see my son off to his first day of kindergarten in a few months.

So, this is my pitch to you.  If you are happy that I am still around, find a way to trim your annual budget by $10 (or more) and click right here, and make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Summer Cycling Team.

For anyone just tuning in, here is the back story.  I fought Hodgkins Lymphoma for 8 months in 2009.  But instead of responding in its usual and predictable manner and going into a sustainable remission, my cancer refused to go away.  So my doctors had to resort to what is called Salvage Treatment.  Hardly an encouraging term.  I received a whole lot more chemotherapy called ICE and VTEPA, weeks of mediastinal radiation treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a stem cell transplant in 2010 which is a process of bombarding your body with so much constant chemotherapy that it kills every cancer cell that ever even thought of reproducing. The side effect to this treatment is that it is also very effective in killing the body where the cancer cells live (that means me).  Like a knight in shining medical grade PVC tubing, the previously frozen stem cells are brought in at the last moment to help the body start producing a new supply of white blood cells, platelets and other important stuff.

My point is this.  As recently as the 1970’s this treatment did not exist.  And even well into the 80’s and 90’s the treatment was not reliable on a long term scale. There was a time when transplants were considered successful if you left the hospital alive.

So while the concept of a cancer free world is just a naive fantasy, the research your donations have made possible is providing the cancer fighters in the world with more and more options every year.  More and more chances to live.  More chances to see their children go to kindergarten.

The Georgia Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training Summer Cycle team has made me their Honored Hero this year.  I am proud to serve the role because I am without a doubt, a product of the past fundraising efforts by LLS.  Without the research they have funded, I might have survived the first year, but when the regular treatment failed, I would not have had a plan B to fall back on. And even in today’s world of what we all call modern medicine, there is still a lot that is unknown about cancer. A lot of the treatment relies on having plan B, or Plan C, or D, E, F… A common question for cancer patients to ask their doctor is, “okay, but what if that doesn’t work.”

Cancer is not like a cold or a flu. It will not “run it’s course and then leave you alone.”. It is a battle to the death.

Entering the finish area after 100 miles. Thank you to the doctors, nurses and research who made it possible for me to survive and thrive after cancer

So please consider standing up with my friends who are out there training 3 or more days per week. In a few weeks they are all going to pack their bikes and their spandex and hit the road to Lake Tahoe where they will each attempt to ride 100 miles around the lake in one day. This may sound romantic and beautiful, but it stretches a persons abilities to the breaking point. It is usually cold, the road is not smooth, and it is mountainous. There is a section toward the end where each of these riders will have to continuously pedal uphill for 7 miles. I challenge you to go jump on a bike and ride 7 miles on flat ground. You could do it, but it will take some time and you will feel tired at the end. Now imagine never having a spot to coast, or to spin the pedals freely as momentum carries you. And imagine warming up for that climb brid haunting your body over 70 miles of hills earlier in the day. When I rode with the team last year, I saw a lot of people give up on that climb. They just couldn’t do it anymore. I saw them cry, and I saw them load their bikes into crowded vans that picked up the people who quit, got injured, or whose bikes suffered irreperable damages.

That is what cancer feels like. It is constant pain, constant struggle, and not even knowing if you will make it. You see people who have been fighting with you die, and you wonder if you will join them despite all your efforts to fight. I have great respect for these people who are all trying to raise awareness and money. So please join me in giving a few dollars to them.

All of the donations I collect will be distributed to the fundraising accounts of the members of the cycling team prior to their event. I want them to succeed in their fundraising so that they come back to ride and raise money next season. I never know when I might need whatever treatments they are funding right now.

So, Do You Come Here Often?…

If you do come here often, then I suggest you seek additional forms of entertainment.  For anyone who had become used to my frequent but irregular blogging back during the Cancer days, you might think that my blog stopped working, or that I forgot how to type, or maybe even that I had died and nobody knew how to login in to my WordPress account to update the blog.  But none of that is true.  My lack of writing can be blamed on only one thing…me.  When I was sick, I had more time to sit around thinking and writing.  But I am proud to say that I have fully joined the world of the living and I am busy people!

Most of this winter, or as I have come to call it, “The Winter That Never Was,” I spent working.  For those who don’t know me personally, I own a Meeting Planning and Group Travel Management firm called VenueQuest.  We coordinate the logistical planning of conferences, training meetings, incentive trips and school outings.  Unlike the past few years, business has been good lately and is demanding my attention.  I am very proud that we took a big step last month and moved our little business out of its previous home which dominated my basement and moved into a real office space.  For my Atlanta readers, we are now located just down the street from North Point Mall.  The two things I have learned the quickest about commercial space is that I feel a lot more productive there than when I was working at home and alternately fielding client calls, feeding or walking the dogs, cleaning the kitchen, or occasionally tending to nagging yard work.  However, the flip side to the efficiency is that there are interruptions from total strangers.  People just come walking into the office wanting to sell us stuff.  I was not expecting that.

I think I should stop writing now.  This post sucks.  I know I don’t have anything to say and I just started writing out of guilt.  However, I did attend a conference last weekend that I am going to write about, so don’t unsubscribe yet.  I promise I won’t completely waste your time the next time I write.



Thanks. To my body for not quitting on me last year…we’ve got a lot more life to live together. To my lovely and brilliant wife Angela Wilkinson Gennari, for encouraging and inspiring me, especially when I need it most. To my little man, for making me laugh and even for sometimes making me grit my teeth. To the members of my extended family, Laura Gearhart, Ray Gearhart, Armando Gennari, Barb Gennari, Renita Wilkinson and Doris Macdonald for your love. To all the VenueQuest customers who have stuck by us and helped make 2011 a great year. To our VenueQuest team members Melanie Mottayaw Koenig, Karen Imperatore Kovac and Shenika Brown for your dedication and loyalty. To the members of the 2011 Georgia TNT Cycling Team for teaching me to ride on skinny tires and pulling me around Lake Tahoe. To my dozens of wonderful neighbors in Mayfair/St. Clair for making us feel like we are really part of a community and not just living in the burbs. To my distant friends spread from the west coast to the east coast and everywhere in between who inspire me and teach me new perspectives, new empathy and new skills all the time. We may not live near each other, but you remain high on my list of importance. And lastly, to Home Depot…like any good drug dealer, you are always there to enable our unbreakable addiction to home improvement. Now, let’s talk turkey!

If Black Friday Hype Annoys You, Then Don’t Shop!

As if we didn’t have to listen to enough bickering from our elected officials and from the background noise of our wives favorite “reality” tv shows (this only applies to married guys), this week marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. However, retailers have been in dress rehearsal for Black Friday and this whole week since around Labor Day. I don’t like shopping and I especially don’t like shopping with chaos, crowds, lines, and over stressed people. And to make matters worse this year, we have the retailers on one side pushing non-stop retail ads like a meth cook with a bathtub full of Sudafed to get rid of. And on the other side, we have people whining and crying about how out of hand it is that so many big box retailers are opening at midnight on Thanksgiving. This is in response to Kohls, Macys, Target, and Best Buy announcing that they will open at midnight on Thanksgiving. Some people have named this concept of stores opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, Black Thursday.

Well, I have only one thing to say about the whole situation. If you don’t like the way a store advertises, or the policies they set, THEN DON’T SHOP THERE. Don’t take your Grandmas pumpkin pie to-go at 6PM so you can be first in line to go holiday shopping at Kohls and be first in line to buy luggage that is discounted an extra 20%. Money is tight for a lot of people, but people are valuable too. You are valuable. And your time, your happiness, your peace, your health, your sanity and your self worth is valuable. Probably more valuable than the money you will save.

If nobody lines up at the doors at midnight, and the stores are empty…guess what, next year this won’t happen again. But, the basic law of supply and demand mandates that if stores experience a rush of shoppers at midnight, next year they will open earlier and more of them will join the pattern.


The Best Bone Marrow Transplant Center in America…It’s Right Here in Atlanta

I don’t often re-post articles on this blog, but this one was to good to pass up.  It was written by Jonathan Copsey, Editor of the Milton Herald, a local newspaper in north Atlanta and part of the Appen Newspapers network.  In the article, he details how Northside Hospital, which is only 20 minutes away from where I live, but ironically, not where I received my BMT transplant, has just been named as having the highest survival rates of any bone marrow transplant facility in the United States.  Posted below is the full text of his article which was published last week.   Besides the organizations mentioned in the article, I think this is great news for BMTinfonet, and our local LLS chapter.

Northside Hospital blood, marrow transplant program reports best survival outcomes in nation

Re-Posted from the Milton Herald, written by Jonathan Copsey
September 14, 2011

ATLANTA – The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), the federally funded organization that facilitates most matched unrelated donor transplants in the United States, has released outcome data that indicate Northside Hospital’s Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program has, by far, the best survival rates for matched related and unrelated transplants of any program in the country. The most recently released outcome data was based on related transplants performed Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2008, and unrelated transplants performed Jan. 1, 2004 to Dec. 31, 2008, with 100-day follow-up post transplant. Rankings are among BMT programs that performed more than two transplants during the research period.

Transplanting healthy marrow may be the best and only hope of a cure for life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders. The BMT program at Northside is one of the largest and most comprehensive programs in the nation, serving patients who require bone marrow or stem cell transplants. Patients don’t need to travel far to have access to the full range of available hematopoietic transplants, including those from matched related, matched unrelated and haploidentical donors and cord blood transplants. All services are conveniently located at Northside’s Atlanta campus.

In 2010, 175 transplants were performed at Northside, placing the hospital among the top 10 percent of all BMT programs in the nation in terms of volume. The one-year survival of matched unrelated donor patients transplanted at Northside was 77 percent, the best of any BMT program in the country. Furthermore, the actual survival was 19 percent above the survival expected by the NMDP for Northside, based on the risk profile of the patients transplanted (56.3 percent). This is the greatest positive variance between expected and actual survival for any BMT program in the nation.

“Although transplant volume is important, our philosophy at Northside is focused on providing the most patient-friendly experience and the best clinical outcomes for patients undergoing BMT,” said H. Kent Holland, M.D., medical director of the BMT program at Northside Hospital. “The compassionate and state-of-the-art care provided surpasses that of many of the country’s most prestigious, academically oriented programs.”

In 2010, Northside also was selected to join the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP), an exclusive group of 30 community cancer centers. Northside is the only hospital in Atlanta and one of only three hospitals in the southeastern United Stated chosen for this prestigious honor.”The BMT program’s high level of expertise in blood and marrow transplant therapy and strong portfolio of clinical research play an integral role in Northside’s award from the NCCCP,” said Bob Quattrocchi, president and CEO of Northside Hospital. “We are extremely proud of the commitment to quality of the more than 200 professionals that work in our BMT program.”

An accomplished group of nationally recognized physicians, along with a team of highly trained professionals, spearhead the amazing work that takes place in Northside’s newly renovated inpatient and outpatient BMT units, laboratory and blood donor center. Together, they provide patients with promising hope for a disease-free existence.

For more information about the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Northside Hospital, visit www.northside.com and www.BMTGA.com. For more information about the National Marrow Donor program, visit www.nmdp.org or www.BeTheMatch.org.

CUREganzier Cover

My Birthday Wishes (on my first birthday)…

CUREganzier Cover

One year ago today, I was laying in a hospital bed, awaiting the arrival of two special little bags of fluid.  Those bags contained my own stem cells which had been removed two months prior and purged of the cells that were causing my cancer to keep growing.  For the past 6 days, I had been in that hospital room getting bombarded around the clock with enough toxic chemotherapy chemicals to kill me.  The gamble was that the cancer would die before I did, and my muscles, bones, tissues and organs would be brought back to life by the stem cells in those bags.  This is what happens in an autologous stem cell transplant.  It is a last resort effort to cure Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a normally predictable and curable form of blood cancer.  My case of Hodgkin’s Disease had been anything but predictable and normal throughout the 2 year ordeal.

It has now been 1 year, to the hour, since those stem cells were infused into my veins and I am still here, still serving all my roles as Dad, Husband, Business Owner, and now, truly, Cancer Survivor.  I think I have dealt with my first year pretty well.  I still continue to suffer from respiratory problems, but that is easing up more and more.  I have succeeded at most of the goals I set out to accomplish this year including a 100 mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe.

Angela asked me a few days ago if I plan to do anything special for my transplant birthday.  I told her I was not, because I feel like just being here is special.  But if she invited me to Marlow’s Alpharetta for lunch, that would be okay.  But the truth is, I am doing something special, and I do have a “birthday” wish.  I am officially launching CUREganizer today.  The book has been a work in progress for months and months, and in fact I started working on it almost two years ago.  Much of the delay was caused by my inability to work and concentrate during the stem cell transplant process.  The CUREganizer is a workbook, planner, journal and organizer for cancer patients.  It has been designed with great care and is available for purchase (pre-orders) starting this morning.  The books are $30.00 each on our website and 10% of profit’s will be donated to a foundation serving the needs of cancer patients and their families.  Please take a few minutes to review the website,  and if you know someone who might be able to use a CUREganizer, feel free to buy one!

My birthday wishes are:

1. I would love it if every single person who reads this article, goes to the CUREganizer Facebook page and “Likes” it.  The FB page also launched today and as for right now, I am the sole fan of the page.  Please help me bump that up a little.

2. My second wish is for you to simply keep my CUREganizer book in mind to recommend to anyone you know who has a new cancer diagnosis in their life.  I want this business to succeed because I view it as a vehicle to help me bring my dreams of helping and supporting patients to reality.  10% of profit from the book will go into a foundation that will in turn support other established and worthy cancer foundations, as well as be distributed by us through grants, scholarships and sponsorships.  I cannot do any of that without selling some books!