George’s Journal

Thanks for visiting the site. I have a variety of things to share with you. First of all, I’d like to wish my mother, Sue Ghindia, my wife, Cheryl, and all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day! I also want to recognize and honor my deceased Mother-in-Law, Madeleine LaVezzi Perry, who passed away last October. Madeleine’s birthday is May 9th.  I know how much Cheryl misses her. We all do.

Today, May 6th, is the two-year anniversary of my stem cell transplant. My second birthday! I look forward to many, many more first and “second” birthdays!

After a two-hour infusion of healthy stem cells, beginning at 12:30 am, I had a restful sleep and woke up with a genuine shot at getting rid of the cancer that had violated my body for over eight years. That was an indescribable feeling; especially considering the March 12th prognosis of “two-months to live.”  My focus in the hospital was one day at a time. On May 28th, after an intense 31-day stay at City of Hope Medical Center, I was discharged…to a studio apartment on the hospital grounds so my doctors could keep a close watch on me. Cheryl and I stayed there for a week. Boy was I fatigued!  It was a challenge to walk 50 feet. I spent the entire summer, basically, quarantined to our home. Of course, a fabulously happy day was June 11th when we learned I was cancer free!

I was so blessed to have my Mom, Dad and brother John visiting from Michigan for three weeks during my hospital and apartment stay. My sisters Suzanne and Janet, and niece, Jennifer, were with us for a week. Their love and support, was invaluable. I had about a dozen additional special visitors that month in my sterilized room. So many of you offered your prayers and encouragement. A winning team personified!

PLEASE CONSIDER THE GIFT OF LIFE

I’m here today because a caring, 40-year old man from Eastern Europe joined the Be the Match Registry. Subsequently, his DNA was determined to match mine.  He then invested a couple hours by undergoing a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical. A rather simple out-patient procedure.  Please consider giving the gift of life to someone. Think about what a blessing it would be for that person and their family. Go to www.bethematch.org for info, and Join the Be the Match Registry.  I am extremely blessed/fortunate. Everyone should be given the opportunity I had.

THANK YOUS – PART 1

March 16th, as many of you know, my Dad passed away after a difficult struggle with congestive heart and kidney failure. Thank you for your condolences, and my deep appreciation to those of you who paid your respects to Dad at Girrbach-Krasun Funeral Home and St. Josephs Catholic Church. Our family was extremely moved by the gratitude and love we received.  Dad touched so many lives, particularly in the Downriver Detroit community. I was blessed with priceless moments with Dad during his final weeks. He fought so hard trying to get better. Never complaining, he was more concerned with Mom, and my health. Among his countless gifts to me was always being “there.” I tried to be there for him as much as possible in his final days. He exuded wisdom, fatherly advice, and strength of character, till the end. Hall of Fame Coach, Hall of Fame Person, Hall of Fame Father. Thank you Dad. You’re simply the best!

TWO-YEAR HEALTH STATUS

Overall, I feel good, and extremely fortunate. Being at home with Cheryl, Jacquelyne and Eva, cancer free and leading a fairly normal life (a rather simple scenario, right), is wonderful. Praise the Lord!  Sure, I have health concerns but nothing debilitating. Because this site is a resource for cancer survivors, I’ll shed some light. One common complication of a stem cell/bone marrow transplant from another person (an allogeneic transplant) is called Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD). Immune cells (white blood cells) in the donated stem cells (graft) recognize the recipient (host) as “foreign.” The transplanted immune cells then attack the host’s body cells. My symptoms are an upper body skin rash (blotchy, sometimes itchy), not bothersome, and some gastro-intestinal issues. Second, I’m more susceptible to colds, flus and viruses due to my compromised immune system.  Thirdly, Peripheral Neuropathy is an ongoing hindrance. It’s a disorder that occurs when nerves of the peripheral nervous system (the part outside of the brain and spinal cord) are damaged. The cause of my condition:  the multiple chemotherapy (toxic substances) treatments.  Primary symptoms are muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, and loss of balance and coordination. Lastly, and most concerning (right now), is the reoccurrence of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), extensive blood clots. The DVT in my right leg causes it to swell and become dramatically larger than my left leg, ankle and foot. The cancerous tumor was located in my lower right abdomen, so the right leg and foot are most affected because blood circulation was greatly impeded.

I still receive Rituxan infusions bi-monthly as a maintenance therapy, as well as Gammaguard immunity boost infusions. Clinical trial results show that post-transplant, Rituxan may improve the likelihood of remaining cancer-free by 10%. It’s certainly worth the time, effort and expense. Go back to my 5/6/11 posting for additional information about Rituxan.  Gammaguard (immune globin) is a sterilized solution made from human plasma. It’s used to treat primary immune deficiency disorders, and contains the antibodies to help my body protect itself against infection from various diseases.

Every day is a gift, and I’m extremely appreciative. Sure I have some health challenges, but most people do. You play the hand you’re dealt, right? I pray to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life, and will do whatever I can to accomplish that. I’m determined to overcome the neuropathy enough to run again, roller blade, ice skate, and play volleyball and tennis.  My hope is that with optimum nutrition, necessary medication, exercise and prayer, these desired improvements become a reality. I’ll focus on what I can do TODAY to further my wellness. Since the miraculous progress two-years ago, it has been “2 or 3 steps forward, 1 step back” – definitely beats the alternative.

BARBARA ANN LIPINSKI MEMORIAL AWARD

As many of you from the Downriver area know, every May, the Barbara Ann Lipinski Memorial Award (BALMA) is presented to a deserving student-graduate at Trenton High School.  This year marks the 30th scholarship we (Barbara’s friends) have awarded. Barbara was tragically killed in a collision with a drunk driver. She had just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in special education – her passion was helping autistic kids. The BALMA is one of Trenton’s most prestigious scholarships, with 29 exemplary student-recipients since 1982.  All donations go directly to college tuition expense. If you’d like to contribute, please send your check to:

Barbara Ann Lipinski Memorial Award

c/o Julie Underwood, Counseling Dept.

Trenton High School

2603 Charleton Road

Trenton, MI  48183

THANK YOUS – PART 2

I’m excited and thankful for today, the beginning of Year 3, and everyday. Cheryl and I, once again, want to thank all of you for your care, encouragement and generosity. Your prayers have worked, so please keep them coming.  Jacquelyne and Eva, are wonderful daughters. We’re so blessed. They’re busy with schoolwork, volleyball, and all the other adventures and curiosities typical of young ladies their age. Parenting is the greatest privilege and joy of my life. It’s mostly because of them that I, very humbly, am so excited to be here.  Thank you Lord for this new life.

God bless you and yours,

George

“With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

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