I had a pretty successful career and was thinking about starting a family of my own when I learned I had a blood cancer. At the time, I was working hard to advance my career as a design engineer for Bombardier aerospace. I did feel tired but nothing alarming until I started getting night sweats! So I made an appointment with my family doctor to better understand what was going on. In the fall of 2005 when I was 27, it was confirmed that I had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).
At first I did not quite understand what lymphoma was. 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. After multiple rounds 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 and eating was a challenge. I’d spend days just laying on my couch and my bed with my dog Diva. She followed me and laid down with me as she knew I could not be the active person I used to be. I also had great support from friends and family.
After an entire year of chemo and still not being cured, my positivity was on the decline. That’s when my oncologist suggested a bone marrow transplant. It was presented as one of my last options. I had the transplant in November 2006. That was the ultimate test of endurance for me. I spent 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 cheer me up until about two weeks in, when we started seeing my blood counts go up on their own. That was good news.
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. From that point on, I was feeling better every day. Medication was diminishing and I was feeling my body starting to build itself up. I knew that with a new immune system that was developing inside me that I had a chance of beating cancer for good.
In February of 2007, I was in remission! I was lucky enough to have had 2 brothers who were compatible as bone marrow transplant donors. My older brother was my donor and I am thankful to always carry a little bit of him with me.
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.
Today I am the proud father of twins.