How does a healthy 32yr old get Cancer?

A lot friends and family have been asking about my story so I figured I would share it here:

The 1st entry of my blog about being a young cancer patient, the lessons learned and the frustrations/blessings experienced

How does a 32 year old get cancer!

One day you’re walking around feeling totally healthy, going to work, out with friends and loving life.   The next day you are given devastating news…You have Cancer!  Over the last few weeks I have been asking myself the question how did this happen?  Let’s rewind about three weeks and I’ll tell you what happen, how it all happen is a much more difficult question to answer.

As many of you already know I love the band Phish.  If they are playing within a 5 or 6 state radius you can count on the fact that Jenna and I will be loading up the car and heading out for an adventure to see them and that’s just what we were doing leading up to the big diagnosis.  At a show in Camden I was out on the lawn hanging out with a bunch of friends.  One of my closest friends was messing around with me and punched me in the side.  I got a cramp.  Not your typical cramp though, a cramp that literally brought me to my knees and would not go away.

The next day I called my Dr and asked for a script for some sort of muscle relaxer  (we had a few more concerts coming up and I didn’t want to miss them all because of some silly, or so I thought, cramp).   He said, “Sure, under one condition, you must come see me.  It’s been years since I last saw you and even longer since we got a blood sample.”  I agreed.  Little did I know that punch in the side and the subsequent blood test would save my life.

So, we went to the concerts (had a great time, just as expected) and the muscle relaxers controlled the cramps.  When we got back I went back to work and basically put off going to the Dr as I had the mindset that I am young what could really be wrong with me, it’s a cramp probably just dehydration or something simple like that.  Obviously cancer was the last thing on my mind.

A few days later Jenna began to nag me.  She would say, “You know if you ever want your Dr to do you another favor you have to go see him, you have to hold up your end of the deal”.  Now Jenna’s an RN so of course she wanted me to go to the Dr.    But then my mom started in with the nagging, “Go to the Dr, cramps aren’t normal”.  And lastly my boss joined the nag, “Get out of here and go to the Dr, we need you healthy.  You have lots of work to do cant have you on the floor all cramped up”.  So I went, and this is where the story starts to move crazy fast.

It was a Wednesday, a routine physical with blood work.  In and out within an hour and back to work.  A few hours later I got a call.  There was something “strange” in my blood work and they wanted me to see a specialist.  My Dr had friend who is a Hematologist at Jefferson to he’d like me to make an appointment to see him ASAP.  Of course, I was terrified and immediately expected the worst (who knew I’d be right).

The next morning (Thursday), before I was even out of the shower I had 2 missed calls.  The first from my Dr telling me that they had called the specialist and they were expecting my call.  The second from the specialist saying they had scheduled me for a 2pm appointment and they would see me then.  Two calls from the Dr before 8am is never a good thing, I tried not to panic.

I went to work, kept my cool and went to the Hematologist at 2pm as directed.  Apparently I had way to many of one type of blood cell and not nearly enough of another.  He explained that there was a 50% chance this was due to Leukemia or the other 50% could be numerous other things like nutrient deficiencies.  A bone marrow biopsy would rule out the Leukemia.  He wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy (BMB)…now.   I wasn’t kidding when I said this thing moved FAST.  I wasn’t ready to have a huge needle stuck in my pelvis so I agreed that I would come back in the morning, with some support, and we would do the BMB then.

Friday morning my mom, Jenna and I headed down to Jefferson for the BMB.  It was painful!!  That afternoon at about 4pm I got a call from the Hematologist with the news no one ever wants to hear…YOU HAVE CANCER.   And to make it worse the type of cancer I had was likely to cause blood clots that could cause a heart attack or a stroke so they wanted me to check into Jefferson…now.  I needed a few hours to get used to the idea so once more I agreed that I would check in first thing in the morning.  Let me clarify, I would check in for a month long stay.  Have I mentioned that up until now I had never really been sick, never spent a night in the hospital, never had an IV, nothing…I was healthy.

By noon on Saturday I was settled in my room, hooked up to an IV and meeting a myriad of Dr’s and nurses.  So that’s what happen.  I’m still asking myself how it happen? How did I, a previously healthy 31 year old, get cancer?   I still have no answer to that but I have learned a few other perhaps more pertinent lessons.

1. Listen to your body, it’s a machine that when working properly is unnoticeable.  Pain, cramping, bruising, etc are warning signs. Listen to them.

2. When things go wrong the people in your life who truly matter will stand up to the challenge and fill in the gaps where you need them, often without even asking.

3. Patience, without it you cannot survive an experience like this.  When you are in a situation like mine you relinquish all control to the Dr’s and nurses caring for you. They run on their schedule, not yours.  So be patient and have faith that they want you to be healthy and are working towards it.


11 thoughts on “How does a healthy 32yr old get Cancer?

  1. I don’t know you, but I saw something Tweeted about you by a Phish Tweeter and I just want to let you know that there are lots of people hoping and praying for your recovery. Hope to see you at the next phest! Get well soon.

  2. You’ll get through this, man! Stay positive and thank your friend for almost punching you…he just may have saved your life. Sending good vibes your way…Ryan

  3. Am sending good (healing) vibes your way! Stay positive and optimistic, and seek out people and situations that are the same. And, don’t forget to laugh and smile–especially when it’s hard to.

  4. I just read your story and may I first say thank you. To think of others and tell them to get their check up at a time when you are going through this shows a good soul. I went through health problems also 3 years ago. I collapsed at work and went to the ER to learn my aorta had torn and had to have surgery with a less than 3% chance of survival. They had me call my folks and say goodbye. God brought me through but it would take two more surgeries to get my heart fixed. During the third one I had a stroke that affected my left side. I had played guitar for 23 years and thought that was gone for good. I lay in bed a year hardly able to walk and partially blind. I couldn’t listen to Phish or any music with guitar bc it depressed me further. I never thought I’d listen much less see them live again, something I had done since 95. After a lot of physical therapy and prayer I can say three years later I still am partially blind and my left side still has the pins and needles feeling of being asleep and trying to wake up, but I started playing again, I put my band back together and play a show every week, I found the love of my life and am getting married next year, and went to my first Phish show since my surgery last summer and saw three more this year! I know the fear you are feeling but trust me, with patience, love, and prayer along with all the positive vibes we phans are sending, you WILL get through this! I am sending all my hope love and good energy your way and hope after all this is done we’ll see the boys together someday. I was 34 when this all started so disease knows no age, but disease also doesn’t know the strength we Phish Phans have to live and enjoy life! Stay strong, be patient and this too will pass. All my love brother!

  5. Cancer has touched my life far more often then I care to remember. You have a community full of people who are behind you. It is my sincerest desire to find myself next to you at a show some day knowing that you kicked its ass!

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