Back in December I was contacted by a fellow photographer in Indiana about doing a session for their friends who had moved to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson. Thirteen of their friends bought them a family photo session from me and I had the pleasure of meeting this family last week and I am so blessed to have had the pleasure of taking their family pictures. This is Jeff’s story:
Jeff is strong and stubborn and reluctant to go to the doctor. When he started having aches and pains in 2010, he just tried to fight through the pain. Finally, when he realized he could barely stand to get out of bed because of the excruciating pain, he went to the doctor.
His hemoglobin was so low the doctor didn’t know how he was able to function at all. Soon after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). It’s a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It progresses rapidly and creates immature blood cells, rather than mature ones. It’s a type of leukemia typically found in children.
Despite living outside of Indianapolis, IN, Jeff made the brave decision to begin treatment at The Cleveland Clinic. He left his five-month pregnant wife at home and went to save his life nearly five hours away. Mandy went to visit him every weekend. She slept in the chair next to his bedside. Finally, in September, the doctors in Cleveland gave him the okay to finish his outpatient treatments in Indianapolis.
In November 2012, Jeff sat Mandy down and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but I think the cancer is back.” He was having similar symptoms to those he felt just two years earlier. Scheduled for a routine chemo appointment three weeks later, he said he would wait until then to say anything to his doctors. Mandy ordered him to get in to see the doctor the next day. Their worst fears realized – the cancer had returned and his chances were grim.
Knowing Jeff’s desire to get the best care possible, Mandy demanded he choose the hospital he thought would save his life. He chose MD Anderson in Houston, TX. Jeff, Mandy and their 2-year-old uprooted their lives to save his. They packed up everything, sold their home and are now living across the country.
Jeff has been spent the majority of the last three months in the hospital. Bouts of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) coupled with high temperatures and rounds of chemo have kept him hooked to machines. In January, he was admitted into a clinical trial for a drug that has had great results with people suffering from ALL.
He has finished his treatment and his numbers look GREAT! He’s out of the hospital and hoping to get a bone marrow transplant. Jeff is strong and stubborn and isn’t going to let anything … including a life-threatening disease … hold him down!