My life was good, my life is even better now…I must say I had it pretty good, I was a young adult working in the automotive and aerospace industry. I had a pretty successful young career and was thinking about building a family of my own. Then, on October 23rd 2005, when I was 27, I was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).
At the time, I was working as a design engineer for Bombardier aerospace and was working very hard to build my career. I did feel tired but nothing alarming until I started getting the night sweats! A lot of you must be thinking, but...I get night sweats also. Let me tell you the sweats would wake me up every night to the point where I went to bed wearing a good pair of long johns to keep me warm because all the bed sheets would be wet! It was impressive.
So I made an appointment with my new family doctor at to better understand what was going on. One evening after a visit to the hospital for a CT scan (which my family doctor requested due to many abnormalities), I received a call from my doctor who wanted to give me the bad news… At first I did not quite understand what a Lymphoma was even thought my doctor explained pretty well. Like many people looking to better understand I started doing some research.
A couple of days later a biopsy confirmed that the CT findings were indeed an aggressive form of Lymphoma. Being a typically positive person, I took on the diagnosis with the will to fight and get better soon; there was no other choice. At that time I firmly believed I would be cured after the 6-month chemo treatment prognosis. After multiple rounds (about 12) of chemotherapy, my doctors told me my body responded well to the chemo but my form of NHL was continuing to grow. At first the chemo was really hard…
I spent weeks on my couch not being able to even sit up without massive headaches, eating was a challenge…I’d spent days just laying on my couch and my bed with my dog Diva. She was a hyperactive 1.5-year-old chocolate Lab, but did not ask much of me. She followed me and laid down with me, she knew I could not be the active person I used to be and she made me understand the saying “man’s best friend”, she was indeed my best friend. I did get great support from friends and family but since all my time was spent with Diva she was the best partner.
After a complete year of chemo (being at home full time apart from hospital visits) and still not being cured, my positivity was on the downside. That’s when my oncologist suggested a bone marrow transplant. It was presented as one of my last options.
I had my transplant on November 10th 2006. That was the ultimate test of endurance for me; 33 days in the hospital room where anybody coming in had to wear a blue mask and a clean blue hospital gown. I had no immune system! Chemo was tough but this was tougher...my energy was low, I could not eat and there was not much to me cheer me up until day 14, when we started seeing my blood count go up on their own, that was good news. It meant that brothers’ stem cells were setting inside my bone marrow and my body started generating its own blood cells. That is the first cue of a successful bone marrow transplant.
I started believing this was really going to work. I was still being fed intravenously and had very little energy but I knew I was going to get better. I remember the doctors and nurse staff telling me in the beginning it was going to get worse before it gets better...the worst had to be behind me now! I had the chance to really appreciate how powerful our body’s immune system can be. From that point on I was feeling better every day, medication was diminishing and was feeling my body starting to build itself up. I knew that with a new immune system that was developing I had a chance of beating cancer for good!
In February of 2007 my doctors gave me and my family the great news that the bone marrow transplant was successful, I was in remission! I was lucky enough to have had 2 brothers that were compatible as bone marrow transplant donors, my older brother Jonathan was my donor and I am thankful to always carry a little bit of him with me! I was blessed to have so many people around me that loved me, that cared for me and were there to help me.
I am grateful for it and my wish is to share my story with as many people as possible. I feel that the main reason why I have had the opportunity to have a successful bone marrow transplant is that 30 years ago people no different than you and I got together and raised money which allowed researchers to develop advancements in treatment and improve our knowledge of cancer. I am living proof that coming together and raising money saves lives...
l am sharing my story so that more people can understand the process and importance of medical advancements. I want to enable even more cancer patients to have a successful outcome as I did and am positive that one day a cure will be available for everyone. Today I am the proud father of 4-year-old twins that were born with the help of in-vitro treatments. They were born on October 2nd 2012, just over seven years after my diagnosis, again advancements in medical treatments has allowed my kids to have a chance at life! That’s my story, please share it ...or share yours with your friends and family, hope is what drives us, and success will keep driving others. Sharing is great...life is even better! Jay.