Meet Jay Steiner. Jay is a cancer survivor. Jay is also a superhero. It takes a superhero to beat cancer and then to support a family member who is also battling cancer. Below, in question 8, you’ll find Jay’s Tips on being a superhero for your loved one who may be battling cancer.
1. You are a KU Fan – predict their record for this year.
Jay: Crimson & Blue all the way through. 5-7 in football. 33-3 in basketball.
2. What is the food that you are best at making?
3. If moon travel becomes available in the next 10 years, are you going?
Jay: Too many exciting things to see here (on Earth) first.
4. If you could throw a party for your donors with an unlimited budget, where would it be and what two bands would play?
4. Why did you want to join the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society team?
Jay: I’m a survivor of Pediatric A.L.L. (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) so finding cures for Leukemia has always been at the forefront of my mind. I’m fortunate to work for an organization who’s primary objective is so aligned with my personal objectives.
This is the story of how a 72-year-old man won a battle with cancer, and how you can help men and women like Richard who are battling cancer.
Self-deprecating and wry, Richard Todd is the kind of man who could only come from the American Midwest. He believes in personal reasonability and the right to make his own happiness. His speech has the gentle laziness of a man who has all the time in the world. On the surface there is nothing particularly striking or heroic about Richard’s brand of quiet dignity. Yet Richard Todd managed to become a medical miracle by beating leukemia in 44 days.
To understand how Richard Todd overcame his illness, you must first understand his story. His recovery wasn’t the result of fabulous genetics, (his father and sister both died of heart failure), perfect health (at 72, he’s already survived two heart attacks), or an amazing HMO. The only thing Richard had on his side was a supportive community to help him, and the healing power of his own faith and positive attitude.
Early this year, Richard Todd was a man in recovery: he had survived his second heart attack, and though his heart was healing, he was still short of breath. Both Richard’s GP and his cardio-pulmonologist found nothing wrong—he seemed completely healthy. But on February 3, Richard came home from church sick, vomiting and nauseated. Recognizing what he thought were the signs of another heart attack, Richard had his wife of 55 years drive him to the emergency room. It was there that the blood tests came back: his white blood count was 132. He had leukemia.
At first Richard’s reaction was one of total disbelief: he told the doctor’s he wouldn’t accept what had been put in his body, and he would be healed. After two bouts with his heart, after watching his mother slowly die of Alzheimer’s, Richard was not about to give up now, after he had worked so hard for health and happiness.
Richard’s sunny outlook was soon clouded over by doubt. Immediately after his diagnosis, Richard came down with acute bronchitis and had to be hospitalized. Then as he was being discharged, his insurance company told him they weren’t going to be covering his cancer therapy. For Richard, this was the first blow that had the power to shake his faith that he would be alright. At $4,000 a month, there was no way to pay for even a fraction of the medical costs. His HMO had abandoned him.
Because of the red tape that surrounds pre-existing HIPA laws, there was no way for Richard’s doctors to advise him on alternative funding for treatment. But help was still able to find Richard, where he least expected it. A devout Pentecostal, Richard has a close-knit relationship with the members of his congregation, all of whom have a deep faith in the power of personal healing. At church the following Sunday, an acquaintance asked Richard if he had heard of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a non-profit group which helps provide financial relief to families battling cancer. Richard was put in contact with a representative from the society who consulted with Richard and his doctor to discuss the best treatment options available. A few days later, Richard was handed a month’s supply of Gleevec, a cutting-edge new drug from Novartis.
Unlike traditional chemotherapy medicines, Gleevec doesn’t target rapidly dividing cells blindly. It’s a drug which is drawn to a particular type of enzyme produced by a particular kind of lymphoma cell. Richard had a hard time taking the drug, knowing how much others had sacrificed so that he might receive a $26 pill. Yet Richard was supremely grateful: a grandfather of 14 and a great-grandfather of 5, he felt as if God was answering his prayers.
What makes organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society so effective is that they allow patients to fully concentrate on recovery. A huge number of cancer patients die from issues only tangentially related to their disease. They die of malnutrition, they die of pneumonia because of their weakened immune system, and they simply give up because they are overwhelmed by the burden of finances and insurance headaches. Optimism and a positive outlook are more than just new-age mantras; they’re just as vital to the success of a patient as a drug like Gleevec. Richard’s insistence that he would indeed survive is one of the reasons that he did. All of his energy was focused on healing his body; everything else was taken care of by his friends, his family, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
April 11, just 44 days after he was diagnosed with leukemia, Richard Todd returned to the hospital for a check up. His doctor was absolutely shocked by the results. In less than two months, Richard’s white blood cell count had gone from 132 to a mere 5.9. The cancer hadn’t just gone into remission; it had been cured. Richard would be around to see the birth of his 6th great-grandchild. Richard Todd had survived.
Richard Todd’s story is one of amazing odds: because of a rare combination of medical support, a fantastic new drug, and a positive attitude, he was able to beat leukemia with astonishing speed. While his results are truly miraculous, it’s easy to see how things could have ended very differently. If Richard had not found the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Kansas City, he would have died months ago.
This story is the reason why Cells for Cells is recycling and supporting groups like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. By helping Richard and his family every step of the way, the Society gave Richard the peace of mind to concentrate on his own health. Asked if he had any advice for those who struggle against the odds, Richard said (with his characteristic bluntness) “Stay positive—if you don’t you’re a fool.”
By donating your old cell phones to Cells for Cells, together, we can help raise money and awareness for those who are battling cancer. Just like with Richard Todd’s story, sometimes little things make all the difference.
Note: We had published Richard’s story last year and in our website upgrade, lost the links to the original. This is a powerful story so I wanted to get it back up. I hope you enjoyed it – Jason
I am in that group of people where my life has been changed by words of kindness and simple acts of love and caring.
Even though Cells for Cells mission is to help families battling cancer, I feel the responsibility to help anyone that is facing a difficult situation.
Kind words can change a life. Kind words can bring joy and happiness. Kind words can turn away fear. Kind words can increase bravery and strength.
That is why I asked Gary Vaynerchuk, “During difficult times, Gary, what do you say to someone to help them stay strong?”
Having trouble watching on viddler? Try our YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zXM00-rM3A
Jennifer Hancock, from Carl Junction, Missouri is April’s Extreme Medical Bill Makeover Recipient.
Jennifer will receive a check from Cells for Cells for $1000 to spend as she needs as she battles cancer and will receive $1000 in services/consulting from Your Wellness Connection in Shawnee, Kansas.
Here’s her story:
At age 25, I went from “bad hair days” to “no hair days”. Thinking that losing my hair would be the hardest step for me as a young woman with cancer, I soon figured out that it wasn’t – the hardest step was going to be the life-long fight I had in front of me.
On January 18, 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was in total shock. I had hardly ever had the flu, common cold, or any other illness. I seemed perfectly healthy. That day was hard to absorb all the information the doctors had given me. The main thing that kept running through my head was how I was going to tell my mother…
…it was her birthday.
Being a mother myself to my son (who was four at that time), I knew the bond a mother and father has with their children. I knew I’d have to stay strong and up-beat so they would be also. My oncologist told me that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is 90% curable so the chances of a full remission were in my favor. My positive attitude was based off this hope that I would indeed beat cancer and not ever have to look back. My strong will and determination to resume my “normal” everyday routine; work full time at my job I’ve currently been at for six years and continue to raise my son (who’s in first grade now), I believed helped my family, friends, & co-workers cope with all the other changes I was facing.
After my first full cycle of chemotherapy, I relapsed within a couple months.
I then proceeded with another full cycle of a different combination of chemotherapy which also left me in relapse after a few months.
Every time my cancer was back I knew because I would gain water retention. The water gain would max out at about sixty pounds. This would wear me out. Just imagine walking with sixty pounds of weights on you everyday, all day. I had also hurt my knee in the meantime so I was on crutches.
Let’s just say I was miserable.
The doctors then decided that I may be in the 10% of Hodgkin’s patients that may not be able to be cured. We then prepared for an autologous stem cell transplant. They said if I could be in remission before I start the transplant, that I would have a much better chance of a longer remission. So I was then hospitalized for a cycle of heavy chemotherapy.
I ended up having a rare reaction to one of the medicines. I woke up in a daze not knowing what day it was or what was going on. I remember occasionally just laughing hysterically for no reason and then returning to sleep. The nurses had to wake me up every couple hours to make sure I didn’t fall into a coma. My doctor finally got this rare reaction reversed and I mentally turned back to my normal self. I have to say it was very scary.
I joke about it now and tell my mom if that ever happens again to make sure to turn the television off because every time an infomercial came on (due to the state of mind I was in) I kept thinking I had to buy whatever it was they were selling. Thank goodness I didn’t know where my bank card was or I would have ended up with vacuums, mops, jewelry, and every exercise machine you could think of! Ha ha..
After this chemo, my P.E.T. scan showed that I was not in total remission, but I would have to proceed with the stem-cell transplant anyways and pray that it would be a success. After many trips to St. Louis for pherisis (the process where they collect my own stem-cells and freeze them to prepare for the transplant), I finally was hospitalized for a month in St. Louis to under go the transplant.
I had never felt so ill and so drained in my life. I was released to go home, and after two days of being home, I dragged myself to work. I was still nauseated and so ill.
Missing work for a month, and all the other days I had missed for the preparation of the transplant really put a number on my finances. I did the best I could at work and still managed to get my son to school on time.
As time went by, I started feeling better and regaining some energy. I had gone four months in remission. I was ecstatic. I was starting to feel like my “normal” self again. That was longest I had ever been in remission.
That was all changed after another scan showed the cancer was throughout my whole body again.
I am currently participating in a research provided through Washington University / Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. I travel there once a month, sometimes a little more, to refill my prescription. The pill I’m on is hopefully to keep the cancer under control. I will always have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but the main thing now is just to keep it from spreading.
Two co-workers of mine were recently diagnosed with different forms of cancer. I believe my continuous upbeat attitude may have helped them to stay positive and to understand that it’s easier to cope with the changes depending on how you deal your situation. I hope that I’ve been a positive impact on cancer patients and others. I got the chance to talk to a girl a few years younger than me and give her tips on getting used to wigs and what to expect.
Wigs have their pro’s and con’s, but I’ve come to find out a “no hair day” with a wig, can be better than a “bad hair day”!
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As of February 17th 2009, Leesa reports that she is entering remission! Even with a few setbacks, like a quick trip to the ER to fight an MSRA Staph infection, she has beaten Leukemia!
This is her awesome story.
Jason: If you could encourage someone right now that is battling cancer, what would you say?
Leesa: You are not alone. There are so many people and organizations out there that are ready and willing to help you throughout your entire ordeal. The kindness and caring of even complete strangers is amazing and will probably overwhelm you. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help….don’t be afraid to admit that you’re scared or that you have questions.
Jason: So, what is the deal with cancer? What do you have? When did you find out? How are you doing right now?
Leesa: I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) on May 28, 2008. It’s the 65-year old man’s disease in a 37- year old woman’s body – it’s kind of the underachiever of leukemia (in my opinion). Finding out was a bit of a relief…I know that’s an odd thing to say….I had been feeling so extremely tired for such a long time (along with other symptoms) and my doctor kept telling me there was nothing wrong. I didn’t believe her, so I kept pushing and was starting to feel like it was in my head. Finally, a blood test with odd results prompted additional testing by a specialist (an oncologist) and a reason was discovered. To finally learn that there really was something wrong and that I wasn’t just imagining symptoms…well…that was a relief. Now I know what’s causing me to be so tired. Of course it opens up an entire new set of worries, but I just take it one day at a time. As of today, Feb. 17, 2009 – it looks like I’m entering remission.
Jason: What is keeping you strong?
Leesa: My faith in God – I know that whatever happens, it’ll be okay, I’ll be okay. The support of my family and friends – they help keep me focused on the positive. And laughter – I’ve tried to approach having cancer with humor.
Jason: What in the world is WOBO? How did it start?
Leesa: WOBO – Walking Our Butts Off. We were telling our friends about our decision to join Team in Training and train for a marathon. Someone said, ‘you guys will be walking your butts off’ and that’s all it took. It started as a simple website for us to use to track our fundraising progress and to blog about the experience and my health. We have family and friends spread out between numerous states and calling each of them with updates was exhausting – so the blog has come in very handy. But as we continued with our training, we realized that WOBO has the potential to become more than just our way to stay in touch with those around us. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what WOBO’s purpose is. We’ve now added Team WOBO to the mix. Team WOBO will be used to join together our friends and family and participate in various ‘team awareness events’ like March of Dimes or Relay for Life. We’ll put info up on the website with how others can join us for such events – either in person as a participant or as a financial donor. And we’re still brainstorming about the future….there are just so many possibilities.
Jason: How has walking changed your life?
Leesa: It took a cancer diagnosis to change my life. Literally. I never realized how a thing as simple as walking can have such a positive effect on you. I also have type 2 diabetes, and because of all the additional exercise – which honestly isn’t that much – I’ve seen my A1C levels go from 8% to 6.5% — my endocrinologist is very happy with me!! Plus walking just makes me feel good!! Sure it was hard at first; I had led such a sedentary lifestyle, that the first mile was hard. But after about four months….saying I’m going to go walk 8 miles seems like nothing at all.
Jason: Tell us about your husband, Craig. What is he doing to stay strong for you?
Leesa: Craig and I have been together since 1986….we married in 1992. I have more memories with him, than without him. Craig has always been the calm one – he makes sure I don’t over-react and that I try to see the positive in a situation. When I had to go back on a chemo pill and was feeling discouraged, he reminded me that it was a lower dosage and less frequent than before – he helped me see the positive. This whole experience – the cancer, the marathon training – has really taken our marriage to a new level. There are days that I am just overwhelmed by my feelings of love and appreciation for him – it’s so hard to even put into words. He most definitely blesses my life.
Jason: If someone wanted to give money to help you, what should they do?
Leesa: Log on to www.TeamWOBO.org – there’s a donation page that will list all the fundraisers we are currently doing. The links on the page go to secure sites where you can make a donation.
Jason: Did you find the LLS (The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) after your diagnosis or were you already aware of them?
Leesa: I had a vague awareness before. I had heard of various events that they sponsor, but I had never had any direct contact with them.
Jason: Tell us about how the LLS is helping you?
Leesa: Right now, they’re just there for me. Whether I use their services or not, it’s good knowing that they are there. I’ve been an active participate/volunteer for a few events. I like being able to give back – guess I look at volunteering at LLS like putting into a savings account – I keep making deposits (my time as a volunteer or fundraising) and one day I may make a withdrawal (use of patient services). I know there will be a day when I need to take advantage of the assistance programs that are offered, but until then I can keep giving and helping the programs. The staff that I’ve had contact with have all been so supportive. When I call about volunteer opportunities I don’t come right out and mention that I’m a leukemia survivor…but it eventually comes out…and when it does, the atmosphere of the call changes. I can hear the compassion in their voice – it’s nice.
Jason: What advice would you give to any one that is helping to care for a Cancer Patient?
Leesa: Help them to see the positive. Don’t let them stay ‘down’ for long. Having a positive attitude even in the worst situations can be hard, but it’s so helpful and beneficial to healing. Let the patient do as much for him/herself as he/she is able. They know their limitations. Don’t be afraid to let them talk about the “what if’s” – sometimes discussing the worst case scenarios has a positive effect….because you can always turn it around and look at the best case scenarios. Learning you have cancer and dealing with it is a process. Coming to terms with it won’t happen overnight. Also, think about finding someone to talk to yourself – being a caregiver is hard work. You’re not alone either.
Jason: You just finished the Walt Disney’s World Marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tell us about it.
Leesa: Although I wasn’t able to finish the marathon [read Leesa’s post on her blog] – I had to take myself off the course due to an injury – being a part of Team In Training and getting a taste of a marathon definitely ranks in my Top 5 life experiences. It’s so hard to capture with words the experience. I highly, highly recommend signing up for at least one event at some point. It changes your life – and it’s such a positive change. My husband has already signed up for another event – the Hy-Vee Triathlon in June. I’m actually a bit jealous that I’m not able to do it with him because I see how excited and motivated he is. I’m now an alumnus for TNT and can attend any of the weekend trainings even though I’m not signed up for an event. I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there with my former teammates. There’s a bond that forms even in the short amount of time that we’re together. These strangers come together for a common cause – to help raise money to fund blood cancer research – they give so much of themselves for others they may never meet. I loved being an honored patient – especially one that was also able to be a participant. Like I said, it was a life-changing experience that is so hard to put into words.
Jason: What is next for you?
Leesa: I thought I knew. I had planned to do the 5K in the Olathe marathon in March, but a recent MRSA Staph infection and subsequent surgery and hospital stay put an end to my training. So right now I’m concentrating on healing. The infection was a real eye-opener. It came on so suddenly and spread so fast – it really made me mindful of how careful I need to be when it comes to protecting myself against germs and keeping healthy. But I won’t let it get me down. As soon as I’m able (or allowed by my doctor) I’ll get back out and walk – the weather is getting better and better. There’s plenty of time to train for the KC marathon in the fall. Plus….I believe another trip to do the Disney marathon next January is in the works!!
A great big thank you to Leesa and Craig for sharing their story.
Follow Leesa and Craig on their blog: www.WalkingOurButtsOff.com
Donate to Leesa and Craig’s fundraising site: www.TeamWOBO.org