In 1998 I was diagnosed with CML, a form of leukemia. I was 28 years old; married for three months; no previous medical issues; active, and on top of the world.
After my diagnosis and initial treatments at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, my cancer moved into an accelerated phase. I was hospitalized and struggled through some tough days with my family and friends by my side. It was determined that I would need a bone-marrow transplant to survive.
My immediate family was tested with no luck. We then turned to the National Bone Marrow Registry. Fortunately, a “good” match who was willing to donate, was found within a few months.
Since I had to have an unrelated bone-marrow transplant & the PSHMC did not perform unrelated transplants at that time, my Oncologist, Dr. James Ballard recommended Fred Hutch in Seattle, WA. My mother (Joan) and then wife (Jen), flew out to Seattle with me in April of 1999 as my caretakers. It was a very uncertain time, but we had hope, prayers & support of friends & family.
I spent four months in Seattle with my mom and Jen by my side with frequent visits from my father, brothers & other family members and close friends. The regiment/conditioning before a transplant is challenging – a combination of intense full body chemotherapy & radiation.
I can remember going to the basement of Swedish Hospital in Seattle for radiation listening to Pearl Jam on my headphones thinking, “what next”! I convinced myself that all the tough upfront treatments were killing all the cancer inside of me. The un-comfort I experienced was the cancer leaving my body. It was a form of visualization that helped me cope with that particular phase of my battle.
After weeks of treatments and the transplant, I began a slow recovery. Recovering from a bone-marrow transplant truly tests your patience as you closely monitor your counts each day to see if the transplant has been accepted in your body. The entire ordeal is an example of modern medicine working miracles!
It was during this time in Seattle that I began to focus on what I could do to help others affected by cancer & created our slogan, HOPE CURES. These thoughts motivated me in my own personal battle – they empowered me and allowed me to focus on my future. I also realized that I had/have unique opportunities and resources through my family’s business, Woodloch Resort, that could greatly enhance my fundraising efforts & results.
The funds we raise benefit cancer research and patient care in several worthy facilities and foundations such as:
- www.fredhutch.org: The Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center
- www.livestrong.org: The Livestrong Foundation
- www.cancer.psu.edu: committed to fighting cancer on every front: through education and prevention, early detection and diagnosis, effective treatment and survivorship programs
- www.leukemia.org: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- www.komen.org: Susan G Komen for the Cure
- takeabreakfromcancer.org: For Pete’s Sake – Cancer Respite
I realize I was lucky. On top of defeating cancer I have been able to regain my life to the fullest. I now focus on raising my three sons. Each one of them is a miracle story.
Another integral part to my survival was my donor, Drew. I would not be here today if it were not for the kind act of a total stranger. Drew & I met two years after my transplant. It was as if we were already brothers – a true bond was formed instantly, not just with each other, but our families as well. Our families remain close & always look forward to our next adventure together. THANK YOU DREW!!
Over the past 17 years my faithful side-kick, fellow cancer survivor & mother & I have organized several grassroots fundraising efforts. Some of this past year’s events are highlighted on this site. With the support of our family, friends, local businesses and many others, we have been able to raise over $1,072,306 to date.
People sometimes ask me if cancer has changed me. The answer is yes, it has changed me & in many ways – it has been a gift. It has reinforced what is truly important to me in my life, family & friendships. My disease has given me a clear mission in life to help and inspire others who are affected by cancer.
I thank all of you who have supported our cause over the years. Cancer touches so many of us – this disease does not discriminate. This year alone 560,000 Americans will die from cancer. 1.4 million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. We have a long road ahead of us, but progress is being made! We have been and will continue to create HOPE for others!