Walking for a Cure
I’m one of those guys that hates cancer. Not that there’s anyone out there that cares for the disease mind you, but in the case of our family, it’s played a major role.
In April of 2002, my wife Traci was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a week after she gave birth to her youngest daughter Nikki. The tumor crushing her lung was softball sized, and the news continued to get worse when the cancer was found in her bone marrow. At the age of 24, Leukemia – Stage 4 is perhaps one of the worst possible diagnoses one can receive for a mother of 2.
The cancer was treated aggressively with multiple rounds of chemotherapy. The tumor was reduced after about a month of chemo by about half the size. And by the time a few months had passed, the tumor had shrunk to a virtually undetectable size. Now it was time to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant.
Traci had never met the person that was the closest match to her. The Bone Marrow Registry had found Yvonne in a rural town somewhere in Pennsylvania, just a few thousand miles away from home in Los Angeles. But the match was the closest that there was, and on October 29th, 2002, the Bone Marrow transplant was set in motion. Traci would survive, frail and weak. But survive, and was cancer free.
The road to recovery was a long one. It would take years, and would have more than a few hurdles along the way. All of this took place before I’d even met Traci. In fact, when the two of us met, Traci had been on the road to recovery for long enough that things had turned a corner for the better. Getting her life back had provided her a glow that I’d never observed in another human being. Her smiles were infectious, and her positive outlook on life and penchant for living were unparalleled. To be near her was to experience pure joy, and to share it with her was what made it so easy to fall in love.
Then in the spring of 2008, another major setback began to take shape. 5 years after the bone marrow transplant, the effects of the Graph vs. Host disease which had affected her body so greatly, really grabbed a hold of her. Her GVHD tightened her skin, causing the loss of elasticity in her joints, virtually paralyzing her joints at her right elbow, then at her ankles, and then at her knees. Unable to bend her legs at the knee joints, Traci went from walking, to using the assistance of a walker, to needing to rely upon the use of a wheelchair as the GVHD had rendered her no longer capable of walking.
But the GVHD didn’t relent. Her skin began aggressively attacking itself in a battle between her new graft cells and her existing skin cells, resulting in breaks in her skin. The breaks opened in several areas on her legs, and continued violently until they opened as large sores. The sores continued a rapid growth, beyond anything that her doctors could keep up with, until finally, a stalemate was reached. In order to dress the painful wounds on her legs, Traci would need to have weekly operational procedures under conscious sedation to dress the wounds, as the surgeons worked diligently trying to clean and debreed the wounds, and keep them from spreading. And slowly, the wounds began healing. Finally.
In June 2009, Traci and I were married in a celebration with our friends and family down in Marina Del Rey. It was a celebration of joy, life, and happiness that we’d found each other, and committed the remainder of our lives to one another.
Traci’s wounds continued to heal, and while she still goes even today for weekly dressing changes, they no longer need the conscious sedation to have the dressings taken off or put back on. The wounds are coming very close to being deemed “healed,” and we hope that the day where she doesn’t have to visit the wound care clinic on a weekly basis may soon be around the corner.
As for the cancer, it won’t be soon forgotten. The GVHD has still rendered Traci into a wheelchair, and she’ll likely be faced with that reality for the remainder of her life. A constant reminder of the cancer that once was.
The battle with cancer has a happy ending. One titled, “Life.” To say that Traci’s life today is anything less than a miracle would be shortchanging the reality that was a virtually impossible situation. And a goal of our family is that others who are afflicted with this disease have every bit the amount of success in life as we’ve had the fortune of being able to experience.
This Saturday will be the 2nd year that our family has raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (“LLS”) for the “Light The Night” walk in Woodland Hills, CA. It’s an event that raises charitable funds for an organization for lifesaving blood cancer research, free educational materials and events for patients and their families, and comprehensive personalized assistance through their Information Resource Center. Perhaps one day, a cure can be found through this research. But in the meantime, raising money for a foundation that provides the capability for other families to experience the joy of life that we’ve had through the blessing of Traci’s survival is all that our family could ask for.
What we’re looking for now is donations. Our group raised just shy of $2,000 last year en route to walking for the LLS. This year, we’re close to our goal of besting that number, and whatever amount that you can help with will make a tremendous difference. Please visit our team page here (Team Traci Home Page) and pass this information along to anyone that you think might be capable of donating. Even $1, $5, $10 or any amount would be greatly appreciated, and is 100% tax deductible.
My family and I are thankful for everyday that we have, and we thank you for your help.