I Came To WIN
It was March of 2017, earlier this year, that my Phoenix VA Hospital Oncologist Dr. Salvatore recommended that I be sent to Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona. I was reluctant to go, because I felt totally comfortable with Dr. Salvatore and he had been my VA Oncologist for 12 years. I remember leaving to head home for the weekend, saddened by Dr. Salvatore’s recommendation, but I knew he had my best interest at heart and wanted the best for me.
When I got home, I became sick and weak. For three years, since 2015, I had been battling side effects of lymphoma because the VA had denied my VA Claim. I decided to go to the VA emergency room, which I did, and they did blood work, took my IV, weight, and blood pressure and sent me home. I was also dealing with a surgical incision that would not heal on its own, and this was frustrating on so many levels. I headed back home so unhappy with the VA. No one could tell me what was going on and what I was dealing with. The VA Oncology Department finally diagnosed me with recurrence of lymphoma. This time it was Non-Hodgkin’s Disease Lymphoma, and now my new VA Claim was processed. The next day, I received a phone call from the emergency room doctor, saying I needed to come back down to the VA Emergency, they had found something wrong with my blood work, especially my blood protein. I rushed back down, and I was immediately seen by VA doctors. The doctor walked in and gave me the bad news. I was going to be rushed by ambulance to Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, Arizona, right next to Banner MD Anderson, two amazing, incredible medical institutions on the Banner Gateway/MD Anderson Cancer Center Campuses.
“The Fight is not as hard as the determination to win the battle, for the end is the goal, and the finish line is within our sights, Go WIN”
I was rushed into the emergency room and taken directly to the 5 North, the 5th Floor, ICU Care Unit of Banner Gateway Medical Center, and I was beginning to
understand, that this was a very serious situation I was in. I began meeting many different doctors and nurses. I would end up having 3-4 blood transfusions, treatments daily, and exams that would let me know the seriousness of the recurrence of lymphoma. I would be in the hospital for 2 weeks, and I would get the most impressive medical care, twice as good as the Phoenix VA Hospital Emergency Room. I respect my doctors at the VA, but I have fallen in love with the doctors, nurses and incredible volunteers at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. I headed to my first doctor’s appointment with my new oncologist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Javier Munoz, and I was nervous, uneasy, and 100% standoffish. I was not comfortable at first, and a nurse, Amanda walked in and saw that I had this mad look, like, “Who are you?” But Amanda ended up being like my best friend as a nurse. She overcame my uncomfortable, standoffish attitude and was the nicest sweetest nurse, I have ever met. Dr. Munoz walked in and he was a very impressive, acknowledgeable oncologist. He knew his stuff and was different, and had his own unique approach. He told me, we needed to get started and that I had two aggressive malignancies growing at a fast-rapid pace. I informed him that my VA Oncologist Dr. Salvatore had already started chemotherapy on me and he was very pleased. So, Dr. Munoz and the Executive Team at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center discussed my case, and Dr. Munoz presented me with a great treatment plan. I was ready to WIN.
The main thing I love so much about Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is the consistent, incredible, medical treatment I have received since coming to Banner in late April. For the past seven months I have been treated by the best doctors and nurses, and that is exactly what I wanted. I want to be the best and I want the best team. When I feel like I have the best team, I feel like I am going to win. It’s half of the battle. I want, whether it is the mindset to win, the best medical team to win, or the best determination in my faith in God to win, I Came to WIN is my mission slogan statement. I am now a three time cancer survivor, and it was wonderful to receive the news from Dr. Munoz and the entire team was super happy. Now I am working with the stem cell transplant team at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is a decision that was recommended by my VA Oncologist Dr. Salvatore, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Munoz, and Dr. Ulrickson.
After careful prayer, I have decided to undergo a stem cell transplant. I have been admitted to Banner Gateway Medical Center, which is on the same medical campus as Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. I am doing very well thus far. I have started high dosage of chemotherapy under the direction and care for Dr. Matthew Ulrickson and his entire medical team. They have been nothing but fantastic. They were able to collect 8.3 million of my own stem cells, which places me in a good position for a successful transplant. I am on Day 3 and soon on December 6, 2017, I will receive 5.3 million of my own stem cells and the entire medical staff will sing Happy Birthday to me. This will be the new start for my new immune system. I am beyond happy and grateful for myself and my 2 incredible kids, who are the big winners because they will have a dad for a long time.
As I am writing this blog, I have decided to write my 3rd book title, “I Came to WIN”, my journey at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. This book will take the
reader on my entire journey of battling Lymphoma for a 3rd time, with myeloma as my 2nd secondary malignancy I am battling this go around. The writing of this story, I hope, will touch another life with hope and most importantly save a life. I am residing well here at Banner Gateway Medical Center. I walk three times a day for my daily exercise. This helps me to maintain my strength. After Day 0, when I receive my stem cells, I will begin to feel fatigue and weakness as my counts begin to climb back up to my normal levels. I am beginning to ready myself for battle. I am reading a great book, and listening to my church sermon messages from Christ’s Church of the Valley. I came here to win and build upon my incredible story. And Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in partnership with Banner Gateway Medical Center is giving me the best treatment in the world, and for that I am thankful.