George’s Journal Entries

George’s Journal

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Thanks for visiting. I hope you’re doing well.

September is Blood Cancer Awareness month. Blood cancers include leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is estimated to be the 7th leading cancer group diagnosed in the US in 2012, while all Leukemia’s account for the 10th most prevalent cancer in the US.

At the bottom of this post, you will find two appendices featuring cancer information gleaned from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society www.lls.org and National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov.

  • Appendix 1 – Types and forms of blood cancers
  • Appendix 2 – Most common cancer types diagnosed in the US

ROBIN ROBERTS – ABC GOOD MORNING AMERICA’S CO-ANCHOR

You may have heard or read about Robin Roberts’ health crisis over the past few months. Last week, she received a bone marrow transplant (BMT). One of the purposes of this post is to share with you my perspective and insights regarding Ms. Roberts’ experiences and my own so that you may understand the benefit of “stepping up” as a potential donor to the National Marrow Donor Program at www.BeTheMatch.org.

Here’s a link to an excellent ABC News article about Ms. Roberts: http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/robin-roberts-mds-bone-marrow-transplant-procedure-explained-114713780–abc-news-health.html.

Ms. Roberts is a very brave and inspirational person. What she is going through is both physically and emotionally taxing. On top of that, she is sharing her experiences with millions of people; thereby providing a tremendous service to all with her valuable insights about the lifesaving procedure of bone marrow transplantation.

The article explains her BMT procedure, and aftermath. Blood cancers and disorders are extremely complicated, as are BMTs, and this information is certainly not comprehensive or definitive; but I will try to shine some light onto Ms. Robert’s BMT and my own.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN THE PROCEDURES?

While Ms. Roberts and I both received what is categorized as an allogeneic bone marrow transplant (someone else’s stem cells injected or infused into you), her disease and subsequent BMT both varied from mine. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, but here are some differences I was able to discern from various articles and news reports:

1) First of all, Ms. Roberts did not have cancer, but rather myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a very serious disorder in which the bone marrow fail to produce enough healthy blood cells.

2) She received a non-myeloablative or “mini” allogeneic bone marrow transplant, characterized by low-doses of chemotherapy in a one-week conditioning phase followed by an injection of her donor’s bone marrow or peripheral stem cells. The objective of her BMT was to suppress her own bone marrow by receiving just enough chemo to allow donor cells to engraft and grow within her.

3) My allogeneic bone marrow transplant (ABMT), involved receiving high-dose chemo followed by the infusion of my donor’s bone marrow or peripheral stem cells. The high-dose cancer fighting treatments were given to eliminate the cancer. The infusion of the new marrow or peripheral stem cells during the ABMT replaced the bone marrow destroyed by the chem. Praise God that it worked!

4) Ms. Robert’s sister was her donor (DNA match), while mine was an unrelated, anonymous 40-year old man in Eastern Europe

5) Her BMT apparently lasted 5 minutes and was administered via syringe. My BMT was delivered intravenously (IV), similar to a blood transfusion, and lasted 2 hours.

6) During her procedure, Ms. Roberts had friends and family in her sterilized room. The only other person in my sterilized room at City of Hope was my nurse (Angela), who administered the transplant from 12:30-2:30 am.

As you may recall, at the time of my BMT, May 6, 2010, the cancer in my body was very advanced. I was originally diagnosed November 29, 2001, with a non-aggressive type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma called, Follicular Lymphoma.

My disease transformed into the aggressive, life-threatening Diffused Large B Cell Lymphoma, August 2009. Two months prior to my BMT, I was told by my hematologist that, “unless something dramatic happens, you have two months.”

MY PRIMARY BMT SYMPTOMS

Throughout the BMT experience, each patient reacts and responds differently. One thing is for sure, however, the BMT preparation, procedure and aftermath leaves the patient extremely fatigued and highly vulnerable to infections and viruses, which can be life threatening.

My primary symptoms were: extreme fatigue, Neutropenia (low white blood cell count), mouth pain and mucositis, skin rash and severe itching, diarrhea and Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) . Graft versus host disease is a condition that is experienced by allogeneic stem cell recipients.

A moderate case of GVHD, in my situation is actually beneficial. As well as attacking your body cells, the donor T (graft) cells also attack any remaining lymphoma cells. Doctors refer to this as the Graft Versus Lymphoma effect (GVL). Even now, over two years later, the GVHD / GVL is good for me (as long as it’s manageable with medication).

Most likely, Ms. Roberts is experiencing many of the above symptoms. And I suspect she is feeling much worse than the media reports suggest. I hope and pray her disease is wiped out and that her recovery goes extremely well.

Among the variables that influence a patient’s experience are, in no particular order: age, overall physical fitness, type of BMT, donor DNA match, disease progression prior to BMT, faith, (positive) attitude, support of family and friends, and the experience and expertise of hospital’s medical team.

EVERY DAY IS A GIFT

Right now, over two years later, my energy and stamina are up to about 75%-80%. It’s a much longer climb back than I thought. Also, I have neuropathy, from all the chemotherapy, in my right leg and foot. The blood clots in my right leg are somewhat manageable with medication.

The symptoms of neuropathy are numbness, cramping and restriction of my mobility. I’ve been athletically active throughout my life, i.e, played competitive football, hockey, tennis, baseball, running, rollerblading. Amazingly, I never experienced a knee injury, or a serious leg, ankle or foot injury. Now, I can barely manage a short jog, and my balance and agility is greatly diminished.

However, these inconveniences and adjustments beat the alternative… Overall, I feel good! My recovery has taken longer than anticipated, and I’ve lost a bit of my athleticism, but I’m so grateful to be alive and cancer-free…no complaints!

COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF BMT SYMPTOMS

Maria Thompson, ARNP-c, is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Certified and worked at Duke University Medical Center BMT Program for six years. Mrs. Thompson wrote an excellent article that summarizes the symptoms for BMT patients. This article is also the most comprehensive “caregivers guide to symptom management” I found, please click:
http://www.nbmtlink.org/resources_support/cg/cg_symptom.htm.

BE THE MATCH…SAVE A LIFE
I encourage you to please visit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Organization’s site at www.lls.org and join the National Marrow Donor Program at www.BeTheMatch.org. Thanks for reading this blog and please share this link with any cancer patient/survivor and caregiver you know.

God Bless You and Yours,

George

‘With God All Things are Possible.” Matthew 19:26

APPENDIX 1 – TYPES AND FORMS OF BLOOD CANCERS

LEUKEMIA

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy center of bones where our blood cells are formed. The disease develops when blood cells produced in the bone marrow grow out of control. An estimated 44,600 new cases of leukemia are expected in the US in 2011.

Types of Leukemia can be grouped based on how quickly the disease develops and worsens. Leukemia is either chronic (which usually worsens slowly) or acute (which usually worsens quickly):

Chronic leukemia: Early in the disease, the leukemia cells can still do some of the work of normal white blood cells. People may not have any symptoms. Doctors often find chronic leukemia during a routine checkup – before there are any symptoms. Slowly, chronic leukemia gets worse.

Acute leukemia: The leukemia cells can’t do any of the work of normal white blood cells. The number of leukemia cells increases rapidly. Acute leukemia usually worsens quickly.

The types of leukemia also can be grouped based on the type of white blood cell that is affected. Leukemia can start in lymphoid cells or myeloid cells. Leukemia that affects lymphoid cells is called lymphoid, lymphocytic, or lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia that affects myeloid cells is called myeloid, myelogenous, or myeloblastic leukemia.

Four common types of leukemia:

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL affects lymphoid cells and usually grows slowly. It accounts for more than 15,000 new cases of leukemia each year. Most often, people diagnosed with CLL are over age 55. It almost never affects children.

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): CML affects myeloid cells and usually grows slowly at first. It accounts for nearly 5,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It mainly affects adults.

Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL): ALL affects lymphoid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 5,000 new cases of leukemia each year. ALL is the most common type of leukemia in young children. It also affects adults.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): AML affects myeloid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 13,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It occurs in both adults and children

MYELOMA

Myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow. Myeloma belongs to a spectrum of disorders referred to as “plasma cell dyscrasia.”

It affects the plasma cells and has several forms:

Multiple myeloma is most common: More than 90% of people with myeloma have this type. Multiple myeloma affects several different areas of the body.

  • Plasmacytoma: only one site of myeloma cells evident in the body, such as in the bone, skin, muscle, or lung.
  • Localized myeloma: a few neighboring sites evident.
  • Extramedullary myeloma: involvement of tissue other than bone marrow, such as skin, muscles or lungs.

Doctors divide myeloma into groups that describe how rapidly or slowly the disease is progressing:

  • Asymptomatic or smoldering myeloma progresses slowly and has no symptoms even though the patient has the disease.
  • Symptomatic myeloma has related symptoms such as anemia, kidney damage and bone disease.

LYMPHOMA

Lymphoma is the name for a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL).

In 2011, about 662,789 people in the US are living with lymphoma or are in remission (no sign of the disease). This number includes about 159,846 people with Hodgkin lymphoma and 502,943 people with NHL.

Hodgkin lymphoma has characteristics that distinguish it from other diseases classified as lymphoma, including the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. These are large, cancerous cells found in Hodgkin lymphoma tissues, named for the scientists who first identified them. Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most curable forms of cancer.

Non-Hodgkin Lyphoma represents a diverse group of diseases distinguished by the characteristics of the cancer cells associated with each disease type. Most people with NHL have a B-cell type of NHL (about 85%). The others have a T-cell type or an NK-cell type of lymphoma. Some patients with fast-growing NHL can be cured. For patients with slow-growing NHL, treatment may keep the disease in check for many years.

Types of Lymphomas: NHL subtypes are classified by certain factors such as the type of lymphocyte they developed in. The two major subtypes are:

  • B-cell lymphoma
  • T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell lymphoma

Some of the subtype names relate to the lymph node areas (“follicle,” “mantle” and “marginal” zones) they appear to originate in.

B-Cell Lymphoma Subtypes

  • diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) – my 2nd diagnosis 8/09
  • follicular lymphoma – my Initial diagnosis 11/01
  • mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue (MALT) lymphoma
  • small cell lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • mantle cell lymphoma
  • mediastinal (thymic) large B-cell lymphoma
  • lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma & Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
  • nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
  • splenic marginal zone lymphoma
  • extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
  • intravascular large B-cell lymphoma
  • primary effusion lymphoma
  • Burkitt lymphoma-Burkitt leukemia
  • lymphomatoid granulomatosis

T-Cell and Natural Killer Cell Lymphoma Subtypes

  • peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified
  • cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  • anaplastic large cell lymphoma
  • angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma
  • lymphoblastic lymphoma (can sometimes be a B-cell subtype)
  • NK-cell lymphoma

The most common subtype is Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL); which makes up about 30 percent of all NHL cases in the United States.

NHL Forms: Doctors classify the NHL subtypes into categories that describe how rapidly or slowly the disease is progressing:

Aggressive NHL, also called fast-growing or high-grade, makes up about 60 percent of NHL cases in the US. The most common aggressive subtype is Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)

Indolent NHL, also called slow-growing or low-grade, makes up about 40 percent of NHL cases in the US. The most common indolent subtype is Follicular Lymphoma.

(I had the 2 most common lymphoma types: Follicular and DLBCL)

APPENDIX 2 – MOST COMMON TYPES OF CANCER IN USA

The below table lists the most common cancer types diagnosed in the United States (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) and include the estimated numbers of new cases and deaths for each.

The most common is prostate cancer, with more than 240,000 new cases expected in the US in 2012. The cancer with the lowest incidence is pancreatic cancer, with 43,920 new cases expected in 2012.

Cancer Type Estimated New Cases Estimated Deaths
Bladder 73,510 14,880
Breast (Female – Male) 226,870 – 2,190 39,510 – 410
Colon and Rectal (Combined) 143,460 51,690
Endometrial 47,130 8,010
Kidney (Renal Cell) Cancer 59,588 12,484
Leukemia (All Types) 47,150 23,540
Lung (Including Bronchus) 226,160 160,340
Melanoma 76,250 9,180
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 70,130 18,940
Pancreatic 43,920 37,390
Prostate 241,740 28,170
Thyroid 56,460 1,780

References

1. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2012

2. Chow W-H, Dong LM, and Devesa SS: Epidemiology and risk factors for kidney cancer. Nature Reviews Urology 7(5):245-257, 2010.

George’s Journal

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

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)

George’s Journal

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Thanks for visiting. It’s exciting to be here in 2012. While my health has generally been good and progressing steadily, my Dad’s has unfortunately declined over the past five months. Many of you know John V. Ghindia.  He is 86-years old, born on Columbus Day (10/12/25), and has led an illuminating life.  Demonstrating what is possible for all.

I have always considered it an privilege to boast about my Dad (and Mom). And I do not want to save it for when he is no longer with us. Some highlights of Dad’s All-American Story:

Dad is the second child (Aunt Olympia’s little brother) of Romanian immigrant steelworkers (John & Mary) who landed in Niles, Ohio in 1916; later moving to Ecorse, Michigan, a mill town, bordering SW Detroit along the Detroit River, or “Downriver.”

Champion

As the youngest high school basketball coach in Michigan history (interim coach at Ecorse as 16-year old Junior), Dad led the Red Raiders to the Class B State Championship game. He was a member of Ecorse High Rowing Eight crew that in 1943 won both the National High School Championship and North American Rowing Eight’s Open Championship (after upsetting the NCAA Champs). He headed to the University of Michigan, and was a linebacker, quarterback (started in 1949) and 3-year letterman (1947-49) – All three Big 9/10 Conference Championship teams. He was a key contributor on two (2) undefeated NCAA National Champions (1947-48) under legendary coaches Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan The team traveled to Pasadena by train and beat USC 49-0 in the 1948 Rose Bowl. He earned Bachelor & Master Degrees from Michigan and pledged Phi Delta Theta. According to TheWolverine.com, Dad is one of the foundational bricks the Michigan Athletic program was built on. Dad’s life-long support of U of M is well known and respected. He’s the definition of a “Michigan Man.”

University of Michigan | 1948 National Champions | 9-0 | JVG #23

football

* Please click on the “Photos” link at the top of the page for more images of Dad

Hall of Fame Dad & Husband / Patriarch

Mom (Katherine Sue Tallman) & Dad were married “somewhere in Indiana,” April 10, 1956. We had a blast celebrating their 45th and Golden anniversaries. They have 5 kids (all earning at least Bachelor Degree, with 3 athletic scholarships), and 2 sons-in-law Terry & Mark. Cheryl lost her father when she was 25, so when we married 14+ years ago, Dad naturally embraced her as his own. Grandpa’s pride and joy are his 7 grandchildren: Colleen, Emily, Tyler, Nick, Jennifer, Jacquelyne and Eva. To his 15 nieces and nephews, it’s “Uncle Johnny.”  My Godmother, Aunt Sylvia (Barbot) Caruso, is his only first-cousin…really his “little” sister.  She met my Godfather, Uncle Bruno, at Melvindale High School. Our family’s roots are in the gritty, working class towns:  Detroit, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, Melvindale and Niles. Aunt “Limpy” and Uncle Gil Sutherland moved to Trenton first, then the Carusos and finally the Ghindias (1973). Sumner & Addien Tallman were from Tennessee, and moved to Detroit, then Lansing to raise my Uncles Sunny, Tom & Jack, and Mom, before settling in Lincoln Park in the 1940s.  Both sets of Grandparents were great, and always just a few minutes away. How fortunate for us.

Dad has been honored with selections to four (4) Hall of Fames: Michigan High School Coaches HOF, Michigan Catholic High School HOF, Michigan High School Officials HOF and Michigan Tennis HOF.  He coached football, basketball & baseball at Wyandotte St. Patrick and hockey & tennis at Ecorse High School, winning over 600 games and numerous championships.  When the Ecorse hockey coach fell ill just prior to the 1966-67 season, the principal asked Dad to step in for a one-year stint. He picked up hockey right away, using his unique leadership skills to propel Ecorse to runner-up in the state championships.

A few years later, Dad was asked to take over the Ecorse tennis program, with no experienced players and 4 crumbling cement courts (fencing for nets) in a rough neighborhood. He ramped up learning from Jean Hoxie, legendary coach at Hamtramck High http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Hoxie. Dad’s scrappy kids proceeded to battle and best Coach Hoxie’s top-ranked squads, featuring nationally ranked players, for a number of league championships. He compelled Ecorse to build 6 tournament caliber courts.

Dad always let me tag along. I learned tennis by banging thousands of balls against the gym walls at Hamtramck & Ecorse High Schools, and the plywood boards Dad put up in our garage.  He made it easy for all of us to play competitive sports: hockey (all 5 of us), football (John & me), tennis (Suzy, Mary Beth, Janet & me), track/shot put (John), volleyball (Suzy), baseball (John & me), and basketball (me).

Dad’s primary profession was educator/math teacher for 33 years at Lincoln Park and Ecorse High Schools, plus Henry Ford Community College. But he ALWAYS worked 3, 4 or 5 jobs to support our family of seven; including: Ecorse Recreation Director (late 50s/60s/early 70s), football and basketball officiating (high school, college), real estate and insurance sales, and tax-return specialist!  Through the years Dad has helped a large number of student-athletes from the Downriver area secure athletic scholarships to the University of Michigan and other colleges throughout the country.

Role Model / Community Leader / Patriot

“Pioneer” and “Doer” are other words that describe Dad. He was a major contributor to the growth of youth hockey in Michigan, boys and girls. He has served in Kiwanis 40+ years, including terms as President. Mom and Dad are long-time parishioners/benefactors at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, where Dad serves as an Usher. Dad met Mom at the West Shore Golf Club (Grosse Ile). He’s always been a low-handicap golfer, with 2 Holes-in-One. He first shot his age for 18 holes at 70-years old and most recently at 84. Dad has been the organizer and a perennial champion of several Senior Golf Leagues.  Add “Gold Medalist,” at numerous Senior Olympics, to his list of accomplishments. Dad loves playing cards, and has won countless local championships in Bridge, Pinochle and Euchre – most recently last summer. My parents love the Trenton Senior Programs at the Westfield Activities Center (thank you and hugs to Carol Garrison).

A World War II Army Air Core B-24 Bombardier, Dad is part of the “greatest generation.” His character, integrity, devotion to family, faith in God, patriotism, loyalty, love, compassion, work ethic, and servant leadership have provided me with the only role model I’ve ever needed. My sisters (Mary Beth, Suzanne, Janet), John and I have been extremely blessed.

Commitment to Kids / Top Recreation Program

Early in his career, Dad had many opportunities to move from high school to the college ranks. Many of his Michigan teammates, including Bump Elliott (Head Coach, Michigan, University of Iowa Athletic Director), Bob Holloway (Defensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings, Head Coach, St. Louis Cardinals) and Tubby Raymond (Head Coach, Football and Athletic Director, University of Delaware) invited him to join them. Dad’s passion, however, was working with young kids as a high school educator/coach and head of Parks and Recreation in Ecorse.

What was it like growing up in Ecorse? For the most part, great!  Every year, Dad’s P & R team offered hundreds of kids the opportunity to go on several fun field trips, including: Detroit Tiger and Red Wing games, Bob-Lo Island (Ioved the boat ride) and Cedar Point Amusement Parks, and Detroit Zoo. Dad would coax a free meal for everyone from the local Burger King or McDonalds. Taking a bus was a treat, since everyone walked to school.

Ecorse’s youth hockey and baseball programs were among the best in Michigan and probably the entire country (just ask Mike Illitch, owner of the Tigers, Red Wings and Little Ceasars), providing kids uniforms, ball fields, ice time, leagues, referees, trophies to winners, and clinics for FREE. Dad also hosted one of the Midwest’s top men’s Slo-Pitch Softball tournaments.

I started playing hockey 1967 on an outdoor rink (shoveled between periods). Soon after, Ecorse covered the rink and Dad caught a plane to Los Angeles to buy a Zamboni (from founder Frank Zamboni). Summers were spent at our neighborhood park (Beach Street…next to the railroad tracks) under the supervision of teenage park leaders. We played chess, checkers and knock-hockey, and made potholders, key chains, et al.

Ecorse parents had “peace of mind” for hours every day knowing their kids were safely entertained. Dad’s team staged an annual 4th of July annual festival featuring various races (sack, three-legged) and contests (pie-eating!) at the “Muni” (Municipal Field). Services and benefits were provided for no charge, perhaps a buck for the field trips. The local steel mill was pumping out tonnage and generating local tax revenues…and Dad always knew how to get the biggest bang out of a budget. He created healthy, happy times for all the Ecorse kids!

Hometown Boy / World Traveler

As mentioned, Dad has lived in the Downriver area since the early 1930s, Mom since the mid-1940s. While many of their friends escape to Florida every winter, my parents (mostly) love being “Downriver,” enjoying family and attending Michigan football & basketball games. Dad likes raking leaves and trimming hedges.  Once, we got him a big snow-removal machine for Christmas…it sat in the garage unused for years. Dad’s a genuine “do-it-yourself” guy.

“Johnny” & Sue have road tripped all over the USA including a couple dozen times to California, Colorado and Florida.  We have fond memories of childhood cross-country trips in our Mercury Colony Park station wagon, a genuine land yacht.  Mom & Dad always made/make stops along the way to visit friends & family and to enjoy the sights and rich history of our great country.  Annual trips to the Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, have been a highlight; especially dancing to the music of family-friend Bob Snyder’s Band.  While Hawaii and Alaska are two of their favorite destinations, they’ve cruised the world, i.e., Russia, Sweden, Italy, London England, Ireland, the Caribbean, Greece, Egypt and many other places. A recent Christmas Card featured them at the Great Pyramids. Oh yes, Mom and Dad relish life…and they’ve had a grand retirement!

Good Time to Check In

Aging is a complex, challenging process. Many times over the years Dad – the epitome of an active, independent Senior – has mentioned to me how he is unable to walk as much due swollen feet, golf as frequently, and use his hands/fingers (carpel tunnel). He wasn’t complaining, just sharing his reality, i.e., some frustrations of growing old.

Dad has been plagued by congestive heart failure for 12+ years. Now it’s coming to a head. He’s been in-and-out of intensive care since October. I doubt others would have made it, much less endured the aftermath. He’s the toughest man I’ve ever known, practicing what he preached as a coach, “When you get knocked down, you get right back up!” We’re doing everything possible to keep him comfortable. John & Mom are caring for him 24/7. His vital organs, particularly kidneys, are adversely affected by the progressive heart disease (poor blood circulation). Dad’s undergone dialysis since December. He’s still lucid and sharp, though his energy has dramatically waned. Thanks to John’s careful maneuvering, he recently attended Michigan’s big basketball victory over Ohio State – a real blessing, since it made him very happy. I’ve been praying that Dad experience some joy every day. Sadly, however, it’s increasingly a struggle for him to stay alert and communicate.

I’m sure my Mom would appreciate hearing from you. As with many of our elder parents, she’s going through a difficult adjustment. Dad will love to know you’re thinking about him. It will give him a boost. If you need their address or phone number, please contact John at 313.909.9728 / johnrghindia@hotmail.com or me at 925.366.5000 / gwghindia@gmail.com.

Special thanks to Dad’s wonderful medical and spiritual teams! The care Dad has received is first-class. Our family is grateful to all who have helped and continue to support him, and my Mom, including Father Brad Forintos and his staff at St. Joseph.

While we have been awed by the Lord’s miraculous healing power, and do not know what His plan is for Dad, the next week or two would be a good time for you to drop him a line. God bless you. Thanks for reading about my Dad and remembering him in your prayers.

I love you Dad…

George

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

George’s Journal

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Thanks for visiting the site. It has been too long since my last post (June). I hope that all is well with you and yours. I need to ask for your special, immediate spiritual attention to an urgent situation.

Life has its twist and turns….. While my health is steadily improving; unfortunately my dear mother-in-law, Madeleine Perry, is in a serious battle for her life.  Cheryl’s Mom was diagnosed with non-hodgkin lymphoma two months ago. She has tumors on her lungs and brain that have been treated aggressively with radiation (head) and chemo.  Madeleine had responded well to the treatments, but three days ago her health took a turn for the worse.

Right now, I’m asking for your prayers to Madeleine. She is currently in intensive care at Community Hospital in Newport Richey, FL. Her condition has been further complicated and imperiled with pneumonia. Madeleine’s physician has given her 50/50 odds at coming out of this. Just numbers, I know, but an indication of the seriousness of the situation.

We KNOW the power of faith and prayer is enormous. Please pray that Madeleine responds favorably to the 4 antibiotics streaming throughout her body, and pulls out of this crisis.  Please pray for her comfort and healing, and that the Lord wraps Cheryl, brothers Mark and Eddie, and Madeleine’s wonderful husband, Tom, in His loving embrace.

Cheryl is taking a flight to Tampa this afternoon.  Safe travels to my lovely, strong wife. Her heart is heavy being so far away from her Mom at this critical time. Cheryl visited back in mid-August, right after Madeleine was diagnosed. We’re very hopeful that her presence will lift Madeleine’s spirits and steel her to win this battle.

We have witnessed the Lord’s miraculous healing power. I look forward to connecting with you again soon; hopefully, with a very favorable report.  Thank you, as always, for your care and prayers.

God bless you and yours,

George

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

George’s Journal

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Thanks for visiting the site. I would first like to wish my mother, Sue Ghindia, my wife, Cheryl, and all mothers reading this post a very Happy Mother’s Day!   Today, I touch on a number of topics, including:  a cool milestone, the City of Hope Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, wisdom from Scott Smykowski, the anti-lymphoma drug Rituxan, new personal missions, my remarkable friend Barbara Ann Lipinski, and a cherished “second opportunity.”

It has now been one year since I received my bone marrow transplant, May 6th – my second birthday. I look forward to many, many more “first and second” birthdays!   

VICTORIOUS GATHERING OF SURVIVORS

Against all odds, thanks to God’s will, Cheryl and I had the pleasure of attending City of Hope’s annual Bone Marrow Transplant reunion, April 29th. Last March and April, I would see posters announcing the reunion at COH’s outpatient clinic (where I usually meet Dr. Chen). A key goal of mine was to make it to “next year’s reunion.  COH has been conducting BMTs for 35 years, and recently marked its 10,000th BMT – truly remarkable!  There were a couple thousand patients / survivors / caregivers / physicians / nurses and staff in attendance. I met dozens of BMT recipients, many survivors from 10-15-20-25 even 35 years ago! This joyous event took place on a beautiful sunny day under huge tents on the expansive lawn of the COH grounds. We were entertained by comedian Sean Kent, COH BMT alum (www.seankent.com) – very funny!  He does the late night TV gigs.  Check the photo album to see Cheryl and me with several other BMT recipients and their spouses:  Art (6 months) and wife Debbie, Sherry (8 months) and Mom/Lois, and “Lalo” (25 years!).  Sherry also had an unrelated donor transplant.  Another photo shows Lalo, me and Dr. Stephan Forman, M.D. Chair, Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. Dr. Forman is one of the top BMT experts in the world.

SCOTT SMYKOWSKI’S WISDOM

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Scott Smykowski. Scott is a friend of my brother John, and former University of Michigan football player. Just out of college, Scott was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia – not cancer, but a deadly blood disease. After 2 years of treatment and a BMT, he started his new life. Here’s what Scott emailed me, April 15, 2010:

“I now have a lovely wife, 2 boys ages 10 and 15 and am living a healthy life. I will give you the advice I was given by one of my nurses while I was awaiting my transplant. As I asked him question after question about everyone else on the bone marrow unit and how they were dealing with it he told me, ‘everyone is different and their body handles things in its own unique way. The only thing you can control through this process is your attitude, you can’t control the amount of medication they give you can’t control how it makes you feel but you can control your attitude, and you must keep a positive attitude’…”

I thought about Scott’s words every day during my 31-days in the hospital (and every day since).  The days preceding my BM/SCT, my white blood cell count was driven down to ZERO (intensive chemo conditioning phase), i.e., no immune system. I was so physically and mentally anxious that I couldn’t relax, and couldn’t leave my sterile room.  I kept saying to myself, “An hour at a time, one more hour.” And somehow I made it. The Lord gave me the strength to endure and overcome this major, temporary discomfort.  The same thought process got me through the immediate aftermath, when I had severe mouth sores and couldn’t speak for two days.  Keep a positive attitude, day by day, hour by hour!

Scott concluded: “I was often told by people that ‘I can’t believe you went through all of that, I don’t think I could have done it.’ God chooses us wisely, choosing those who will give everything it takes to survive and no matter how tough it gets, never give up. We’re all put in these situations for a reason, and I can’t wait to hear yours.” Thanks again Scott!

YOU WERE MADE FOR A MISSION….

Over the past year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to spend more quality time with Cheryl, Jacquelyne and Eva.  You’ve heard this before….when you are critically ill, and confronting your mortality, you think about what is truly important in your life and that is your family and friends, especially your spouse and children. From my experience, that it is very true.  Also, while my primary focus has been on recovering and regaining my health, I’ve embarked on my first personal mission, to become more involved in my church community, St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Irvine.  This is an important step for me in spreading the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, including my story, i.e., He renewed my life on earth by saving me from the deadly grip of cancer. Recently, I’ve joined a men’s ministry (Christ Renews His Parish) and started to serve as a “Lector” during mass, i.e., read scripture to congregation.  I’ve teamed up with a group of terrific guys to “do good works.”  I’m also praying and thinking about ways I can support the community of cancer patients and survivors, and help promote greater research to discover cures!

ANTI-CANCER MAINTENANCE – RITUXAN INFUSIONS

One year later, I take quite a few pills daily, primarily to facilitate the engraftment of my new stem cells. I meet with Dr. Chen at least once monthly, and every six months, undergo anti-cancer maintenance therapy at City of Hope with weekly Rituxan infusions for one month. Clinical trial results reveal that, post-transplant, Rituxan may improve the likelihood of staying cancer-free by 10%.  Dr. Chen says, “anything that will increase your odds at least 1% to stay cancer-free” is worth the time, effort and expense.  Concur! 

Rituxan is the breakthrough drug for patients afflicted with many lymphomas and leukemia’s, and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientific explanation: Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody against the protein CD20. It specifically targets this marker (CD20) on the B-cells in which most Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) starts. Healthy B-cells help your body fight infection.  Monoclonal antibodies are mono-specific, i.e., the same because they’re made by identical immune cells that are clones of a unique parent cell. Given almost any substance, it’s possible to produce monoclonal antibodies that specifically bind to that substance; they can then serve to detect or purify that substance.

“Rituximab” as it’s more formally known, has been used by thousands of patients worldwide. It’s been part of a “chemo cocktail” administered to me a number of times – see the revised George’s Story for details regarding the 6 different chemo regimens, including Rituxan, I was treated with.

From a business perspective, Rituxan was developed by IDEC Pharmaceuticals and approved by the FDA in 1997 for Diffused B Cell NHL resistant to other chemo regimens.  It’s now approved as a front line treatment for Follicular Lymphoma. Rituxan is co-marketed by Biogen Idec and Genentech in the U. S.  It’s the 8th best selling medicinal brand in the world, with 2010 sales of $6.7 billion.

BARBARA ANN LIPINSKI MEMORIAL AWARD

Something near and dear to me…. As some of you know, with the help of several friends, we founded the Barbara Ann Lipinski Memorial Award (BALMA) in 1982. Barbara, a dear friend of mine from Trenton High School (THS), was tragically killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver, November 1981. I have yet to meet a more empathic, caring person.  Barbara’s passion was helping autistic kids. She had just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in special education when she was taken from us at the age of 23.

Each May, at the THS Honors Convocation, a scholarship and award is presented to a deserving graduating senior. The BALMA is one of school’s most prestigious scholarships. Barbara is a true role model for these kids.  This is our 29th year of honoring her example. The criterion is based on: (1) commendable character, (2) strong academic standing, (3) financial need and (4) interest in a career assisting the less fortunate.  John and last year’s recipient present the award. 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

All donations go to the recipient’s college tuition expenses. For more information, please contact Julie Underwood at 734.692.4540. Thanks for your consideration.

“SHOUT OUT” TO MIKE STOVER OF PROPELPAGES.COM

I want to acknowledge a very generous, thoughtful supporter: Mike Stover, Owner of Propel Pages at www.propelpages.com.  Mike’s responsible for this site’s “look and feel,” including redesigns and maintenance. Propel Pages specializes in building websites, and optimizing sites for the search engines. For over a year, Mike has donated his valuable professional services.  He has made it possible for us to conveniently communicate and share.  If you have any website needs, he’s your guy. Thanks Mike!

ENTERING NEW PHASE WITH HUGE DOSE OF GRATITUDE

Cheryl and I would like to take this opportunity to again thank those of you who donated a financial gift to help us meet medical expenses/financial obligations.  Your kindness and concern have been overwhelming! Now that I’ve had time to focus on some personal business, we’re now, fortunately, in a much more stable financial situation. You provided us a bridge to “today.” We’ll never forget your clutch support during this chaotic, stressful time.  We’ve been tremendously blessed by everyone’s prayers and encouragement – thank you! I’m very fortunate, and most grateful, to enter this new phase of my recovery. It’s extremely exciting, and humbling, to be given this second chance at life.

God bless you and yours,

George

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

George’s Journal

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Thanks for visiting the site. I will tell you about my “secret weapon;” but first, a look back on a year ago. On March 12, 2010, Cheryl and I were told I had two months to live. On April 1, 2010, Cheryl and I entered Oasis of Hope Hospital (OOH) in Tijuana – right across the street from the Bull Fighting Ring – to begin my 12-days of “alternative cancer treatments.” Our visit there week before, and other due diligence, gave us hope that OOH offered me a legitimate opportunity to reverse the growth of the non-hodgkin lymphoma in my body, and qualify me for a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

My first day at OOH was a bit confusing, and frustrating. The accommodations were comfortable, and staff friendly; but I couldn’t understand why the oncology team was interviewing me as if they knew nothing about my condition. Surely they remembered what we discussed on my visit, read the medical report from Dr. Chen, and studied the scan images on the DVDs provided by City of Hope. After consultations with Dr. Cecena, their methodology became clear: Assess my condition starting with a blank sheet of paper, in order to arrive at their own diagnosis and craft a customized plan.

HITTING THE STREETS OF NORTHWEST TIAJUANA

My first few days at Oasis weren’t too rigorous, i.e., adjusting to the diet and nutraceuticals, as well as thee more relaxed Latin culture, i.e., a 2:00 PM treatment means sometime between 2:00 and 3:00. I was pleased to discover I could leave the hospital to go for a walk. I left for an hour or two every day, armed with my cane, to walk “the streets” of northwest Tijuana; usually, stopping at the nearby Starbucks. The sidewalks were uneven and crumbling. I searched for the local Catholic Church, which I found in time for Easter mass, April 4th.  The Pacific Ocean was a half mile away. I spent a relaxing, peaceful Saturday afternoon sitting on the beach, listening to soothing sounds of the ocean.

MORE THAN THE MEDICINE

When Dr. Robert Chen, at City of Hope, advised of us the “reality of your situation,” i.e., the radiation treatment’s effectiveness must dramatically improve, or I only had 2 months to live, we were somewhat desperate.

I was extremely fortunate to have two of my very best buddies (25+ years), Tim Blett and Chris Copps, call a meeting at Tim and Kelly’s home to inform Cheryl and I they were funding my initial OOH treatments. My brother John developed this site, and so many of you contributed. It’s overwhelming how your timely support came together. I’m forever grateful to you all!

Many of you have asked what the OOH did to help reverse the cancer. Only God knows HOW MUCH it helped…but I KNOW it did; perhaps a lot, perhaps a little. Even a modest contribution can make the difference battling cancer. OOH’s protocol features what they label, “Integrative Regulatory Therapy (IRT)….designed to shrink primary tumors, slow tumor growth, and eliminate cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to other parts of your body…protect normal healthy cells, boost your immune system….”  It was all good, administered in a most caring, professional manner.

My journal has highlighted dietary insights and takeaways gained from OOH, but it was the “can do,” positive attitude and spirituality permeating the staff and environment that made the biggest impact. Yes, you must have the science and medicine, best practice techniques, but, you must also have hope and faith, and visualize yourself getting better!

I’ve been a believer and practitioner of visualization “to influence your future reality” since my high school days (yes, quite a long time!). There is also some Greek philosophy in my beliefs, something called The Pygmalion Theory – named after an ancient Greek legend. Pygmalion was a sculptor who was also a prince of Cyprus.

The “Pygmalion effect motivational theory” refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform. The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, and in this respect, people with poor expectations internalize their negative label, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly.

Ultimately, the above beliefs influence my mindset, behavior and how I pray. Like everyone, I have those days where I’m really tested…but I seem to somehow get back on track.

LOOKING BACK….GOOD STRATEGY, LOVE, PRAYERS AND GOD’S WILL

April 9, 2010, was one of the best days of my life. Here’s what I reported:  “Labels: journal The past week has been a whirlwind of activity….Cheryl and I drove home from Tijuana, late Wednesday, the 7th, and then got up early and headed to City of Hope, Thursday, for my PET-CT scan. On Friday the 9th, we met with my physician, Dr. Robert Chen to discuss the scan results….the BIG appointment. We were extremely relieved when Dr. Chen delivered the news we’ve all been praying for: the tumor is shrinking, the cancer cells appear “dead” or in remission, and the Bone Marrow Transplant is on! The news is nothing short of miraculous. Praise the Lord!

“It was a good strategy to leverage the OOH protocol with the lasting effects of the radiation sessions at City of Hope to achieve our result. Even now, the radiation is still percolating in and around the tumor….My support network (you!) has enabled me to keep the faith and belief in my treatments, therapeutic choices, remission, recovery, and being cured.”

SECRET WEAPON:  DR. BORIS DEL CID

Dr. Del Cid married Jill, who I’ve known since our days at Western Michigan University. They’re great friends of Cheryl and mine, and our kids. Boris is a UCLA grad, and went on to become a Chiropractor. Boris knows as much about the human body and good nutrition as anyone. He has been a wonderful “optimum health advisor,” but his friendship, encouragement and spiritual counsel trump everything. Since my November ‘01 diagnosis, his optimism and positive re-enforcement have been inspiring and comforting.  He wrote this to me, January 7, 2002:

“I am sending with these short lines, powerful, definite, and very real positive energy.  Think and believe and it will be given to you. Think and believe, and it will be with you. Think and believe, and God within will provide you what you most earnestly desire…God is with you and He wants you to be well, but you must have faith!!…I am in your corner, and will be there for you always…I love you man!”

Boris was in a small circle that knew of my illness, which I kept private for 7+ years.  Any times, I’d be lying in bed at City of Hope, concerned about ineffective chemo treatments, and Boris would say to me, “Can you visualize yourself well? If you see yourself healthy, doing the things you most enjoy, with God’s will, it WILL happen.”  I’m an optimist, but in my most trying time, Boris was my “secret weapon!” He practices what he preaches. Several years ago, Boris – a physical specimen – was in a horrific motorcycle accident. He clung to life through a 20-hour operation! It was touch and go. Finally, he emerged, without use of his legs (for now…), adjusting to his new life in the most amazing way. What an example of mental toughness and fortitude – Jill too!

LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY (LLS)

Our friends at LLS have been extremely supportive. It’s a classy organization that provides hope, answers and comfort to millions of blood cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.  Check out www.lls.org. My plan is to participate in LLS fund-raising in 2012 via Team in Training events. As always, Cheryl and I thank you so much for your support, and keep you in our prayers.

Happy Easter,

George

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

George’s Journal

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Thanks for visiting the site. It’s been too long since my last post, Christmas! Cheryl, Jacquelyne, Eva and I had a very enjoyable holiday season, and we hope you did also. I have never been more thankful and excited to start a new year!  None of us can really afford to take a day for granted. I am absolutely loving, 2011!

A belated Happy Valentine Day to everyone. It was great to be home this year to celebrate with my girls. It is astounding how three people – my kids and wife – could go through two pounds of Sees chocolate so quickly! I also want to extend belated happy birthday wishes to my sister Mary Beth Circocco (February 15th) and Angie Merkel (January 24th).

The beginning weeks of 2011 have been very busy, exciting, challenging, and full of optimism.

ICE SKATING AND NEUROPATHY DO NOT MIX

As many of you know, I have neuropathy in my right leg and foot. Believe me, I’m not complaining, it’s much better than the alternative! The main symptoms of my case of neuropathy are swelling, muscle weakness, tingling, numbness, cramps, spasms, loss of balance and coordination, and sensitivity to touch. Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which may be caused either by diseases of or trauma to the nerve or the side-effects of systemic illness.  There are four patterns of peripheral neuropathy, and I have the most common form, called peripheral polyneuropathy, which mainly affects the feet and legs.

There are at least a couple reasons why I developed peripheral neuropathy: (1) poor blood circulation in my right leg from blood clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis) due to the large tumor mass in my lower right abdomen, and (2) the toxicity of the drug, vincristine that was infused in me as part of chemotherapy regimes, over a half dozen times n 2009 and 2010. The main side-effect of vincristine are, you guessed it, peripheral neuropathy.

January 2nd, I did something not too bright. I took my kids and a couple of their friends ice skating. Skating is something I’ve done all my life, whether on ice or ground, whether forward or backward, and I NEVER fall. Last winter, I was in no condition to even consider ice skating. Well, in my eagerness to get back on the ice (prematurely) I didn’t have the agility/balance to avoid several girls falling in front of me. Consequently, I took a spill and landed directly on my right hip. Fortunately, X-Rays and MRI showed no fractures, but I badly strained my hamstring and spent a week on crutches. The injury is healing, and I’m just now starting to work out again.

Now for some good news, I had an ultrasound on my right leg a few days ago to see if I still had the blood clots in my leg. I found out Friday from Dr. Chen that they’re gone!  After 18 months, I no longer have to give myself daily injections of Lovenox, hurray!

ANNUAL JANUARY PRIORITY….GOAL SETTING

Many of you have made New Year’s resolutions and/or set goals for 2011, I hope you’re making good progress-to-date. In that light, I want to share a couple personal experiences and observations. Over the past seven weeks or so, I’ve been reflecting on 2011 goals. Every year, I sit down and write out 10 personal and, now, with Cheryl, 10 family goals.  I have three examples of personal goals to share with you. These three goals would not have been achieved without the good Lord’s blessing, i.e., divine intervention.

In October of 1995, at age 37, I set two important goals: To be married, and have a child before turning 40.  At the time I was living a fun bachelor life in San Francisco, and didn’t have a serious girlfriend. Cheryl I started dating, September 1996. We relocated her from Chicago in January 1997 driving an over-loaded Camry cross country, needing snow chains to pass over the Sierras. We were married, August 30, 1997. Amazingly, we had Jacquelyne ten months later, June 24, 1998, eleven days before I turned 40!

January 1, 2010, as you know, I was fighting for my life. Chemotherapy was not effective at shrinking the aggressive tumor in my abdomen, and I didn’t qualify for the much needed stem cell transplant (SCT).  My primary goal, committed to paper January 7th, was to “Be cured of cancer by June 1, 2010.” On March 12th I was advised by Dr. Chen that, “unless something dramatic changes, you have two months.”  Well, something dramatic DID happen. The good Lord blessed me with a miracle.  By April 8th, the tumor had “melted” from 12 cm to 5 cm, and was in remission. I was cleared to receive the SCT, which took place May 6th. I was released from the hospital, May 28th, and on June 12th, I found out I was cancer free!  We continue to hope and pray the cancer is gone forever.

PROFESSIONAL PEAK PERFORMANCE GURU

For about 20 years or so, I’ve benefited from Brian Tracy’s teachings. Mr. Tracy is a San Diego-based self-help author, who runs a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. I refer to him as a “peak-performance coach.”  His presentations and books focus on topics such as leadership, goal setting, time management, sales, managerial effectiveness, and business strategy. Every January I would get my team/employees together and go through a personal goal-setting exercise largely authored by Mr. Tracy. People who write down their goals and focus on them daily are much more likely to achieve them. Here is his philosophy:

“The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.” – Brian Tracy

Mr. Tracy, publishes a Goal Planner, “Your blueprint to a Lifetime of Success, Prosperity and Achievement.” This workbook is designed to help you identify your passions, establish your priorities, set your goals, establish habits conducive to achieving your goals, track your progress, and hold yourself accountable – all good! For example: “(1) Make a list of 10 goals you would like to achieve in the next year? (2) What one goal on this list would have the greatest positive impact on your life if you were to accomplish it within 24 hours? (3) What is your deadline for achieving this goal? (4) List 3 problems or obstacles that stand in your way of achieving this goal. (5) List 3 additional skills or forms knowledge that you will require to achieve this goal. (6) List the 3 most important people, groups, or organizations whose help and cooperation you will require to achieve this goal. (7) Based on your answers to the above, make a list of 7 steps you could take immediately to begin achieving this goal.” This is an excellent exercise that takes determination, discipline and commitment.

Another quote from the business world that resonates with me is: “Here is a basic rule for winning success – Let’s mark it in the mind and remember it. The rule is:  Success depends on the support of other people.  The only hurdle between you and what you want to be is the support of others. – Tom Hopkins

Your support and prayers helped inspire me to accomplish my primary goal of good health. Thank you! In concert with your care and concern, there is a supreme influence….

BEST “SELF-HELP” BOOK OF ALL TIME?

This may be a bit heavy for some of you, but please bear with me. As a life-long Christian, I was quite familiar with the bible, but was not really a student of it. However, I had an epiphany over a year ago. During my hospitalizations and frequent setbacks with treatments, I found reading scripture to be comforting and increasingly instructive. In my view, the bible is the most informative, meaningful, powerful resource/tool for you to make the biggest impact on your life. It’s not only the best-selling book of all time, but also the best book (period) on how to change and improve your life. It’s not really a “self-help” book, because God is the powerful force behind your changes.

There are roughly 90,000 self-help books currently available. Most filled with good advice. Intellectually, what I’ve learned is that most of these self-help books gleaned their source material from the original source, i.e., the bible. The constraint is that none of those books can do what the bible does. Reflecting on my Catholic education, I’ve heard this all my life, but it never registered completely until my health crisis.  Rick Warren of Saddleback Church says that none of those self-help books can give you the power to do what they say to do. Only God can give you the ability to truly change, accomplish your big goals. Mr. Warren calls these powerful goals, “Godly goals.”

I’ve discovered that once you begin to consistently read the bible and study some of the verses, you realize a remarkable depth to your understanding, as well as the ability to make changes in your life guided by the Holy Spirit. Below are just a few (of hundreds) biblical verses that provide insight and guidance to help you accomplish your goals.

GOALS, FAITH, COMMITMENT AND GOD’S POWER

Setting goals is part of spiritual discipline. It’s not just a good idea. The bible says you need to set goals in order to grow in your faith. Goals stretch you and help you become all God wants you to be. How many times have you heard your parents, teacher, counselor, coach, business leader or author tell you to set high goals, because they will motivate you and enable you to reach your potential? This (originally) comes right out of the bible:

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Philippians 3:15-16)

“I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26)

“According to your faith will it be done to you.” (Matthew 9:29)

Every time you set a goal and say, “I believe God wants me to do this by such and such a date” – that’s a statement of faith.  No goal is really a goal by default. For example, if you don’t have a health goal, then your goal is to stay the same or get worse. My health goal was to get rid of cancer, and there is no way I could achieve THAT goal without God’s will.

What does this mean? My interpretation is it means we can and should, indeed must, set goals that are bigger than ones we can reach on our own.

“You will NOT succeed by your own strength or power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

“Without faith it is impossible to please God ….” (Hebrews 11:6)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Godly goals are achieved only through God’s power. That is what makes them different from every other goal planning program on the planet. None of the self-help books or goal-setting programs can give you the power to do what they say to do. They can certainly inspire and motivate you, but only God can give you the power to change. I wanted to share these insights with you….because I learned them the hard way.  I would love to get your thoughts on this topic.

WEBSITE UPDATES….A BIG THANK YOU TO MIKE STOVER AND JOHN

To close out my first post of 2011, I’d like to recognize a very generous, giving person, Mike Stover, who has partnered with my brother, John, to develop this site and create a wonderful communication vehicle that has greatly aided my recovery. Mike owns a website development company called Propel Pages. You may have noticed some recent changes by John and Mike, i.e., photo on home page, Welcome and George’s Story. Also, John uploaded photos from Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Photo section. Check it out.

If you or someone you know are in need of a stronger online business presence, take a look at www.propelpages.com. Mike’s expertise and list of clients is impressive. He is a tremendous resource for web development and SEO (search engine optimization). If you want to take the next step to enhance your professional image, develop your brand, and generate leads, Mike’s your guy.

There will be more changes in the future as the site transitions to more of a resource for everyone committed to fighting and finding cures for cancer, particularly patients, survivors and caretakers.

PRAYERS NEEDED

Please pray for the comfort, strength and recovery of these cancer patients:

  • Phil Caruso (Uncle Bruno’s brother) – Pancreatic cancer; Palm Beach, FL
  • Melany McAdams (Kristin Tallman’s friend) – Breast cancer, Laguna Niguel, CA
  • David Pugh (Mike Popovich’s friend) – Thymic carcinoma; Charleston, SC
  • Shiu Hong Yau (Carmilla Lau’s father) – Multiple myeloma; Los Angeles
  • Bob Zens (Tim & Kelly Blett’s friend) – PLL Prolymphocytic Leukemia; Laguna Hills, CA

BEST WISHES FOR 2011 – HOPE YOU ACCOMPLISH ALL YOUR GOALS

Cheryl and I hope to celebrate with you this year, in spirit, if not in person.  We’re very grateful for your prayers and support.

God bless you and yours,

George

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

George’s Journal

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Merry Christmas…Season’s Greetings…Happy Hanukkah…Happy Holidays!

First of all, Happy Belated-Birthday to my Mom (Sue Ghindia), and Carmilla Lau, both great ladies, born December 11th.  However, the big news of the month belongs to my Mother-in-Law, Madeliene, and her companion Tom, on their marriage in Naples, FL, December 17th.   Tom and Madeliene have been together for 4 years, and recently decided to make it official. Cheryl and I are thrilled for them. Eva said to us, “Is it OK for me to call Tom, Grandpa now?”  Last year at this time, Tom and Madeliene were visiting us, and helping Cheryl around the house and with the kids. I was in the hospital for most of December, and was discharged on Christmas Eve.  They have been amazingly supportive throughout my illness. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Perry!

MY HOLIDAY BLESSINGS – CONTINUED

I listed a number of holiday blessings at Thanksgiving, knowing that there would more entries to the list. Here are more blessings:

  • Alexandra Rae Blett, our favorite college student and role-model for Jacquelyne and Eva.
  • Jill Del Cid, we have celebrated our July birthdays together just about every year since 1988.
  • Carol Storch, you checked in with me frequently throughout my illness, with great compassion and the perspective brought on by her husband’s successful battle against cancer.
  • Cousin John Bruno Caruso, a cancer survivor (Hodgkin Disease), whose positive encouragement and support was inspiring.
  • Cousin Nancy Sutherland who would check in with me from her home in Michigan.
  • Scott Smykowski, my brother’s friend, former Michigan football player, who shared his own experiences as a recipient of an unrelated doner stem cell transplant with me back in April. “Take things one day at a time, and no matter what, keep a positive attitude.” With all of the thoughts racing through my mind at the time, I found this within my control. Though, seemingly simple objectives, I was challenged many times during my hospitalization and subsequent recovery. Very wise words.
  • Our family outing to pick out the Christmas tree
  • Putting lights up around the house….and enjoying the Christmas look of the neighborhood
  • Eva putting together her list for Santa Claus….”Dad, should I put _____ on the list? Do you think Santa will bring it?”
  • Having Eva say to me, “I still belief in Santa, but I’m too old to visit him…”
  • Attending mass Christmas Eve….and singing Silent Night.
  • Christmas morning…seeing the joy in Jacquelyne and Eva’s eyes. Enjoying them excitedly open their gifts.
  • Evis Presley’s, “Blue Christmas.”  John Lennon’s, “So this is Christmas.” Bing Crosby’s, “White Christmas.”
  • Above all, the true meaning of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus Christ, our savior. But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:10 (NLT). We celebrate Christmas because of this good news from God!

THE THREE WISE MEN

I have always been fascinated and been inspired by the story of the three wise men, who traveled far to see baby Jesus and pay their respects.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2 (NLT). They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (MSG)

While my family is a member of the Thomas More Catholic Church in Irvine, I receive a daily devotional via email from Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, the brilliant and wise author of “A Purpose Driven Life.”  I have excerpted a portion of his last three “Daily Hope” devotionals below:

One reason the wise men were wise is because they came to Jesus for the right reason. They were seekers of the truth. And they would go to any length to find Jesus, but they came to worship Jesus.

The wise men came for the right reason. They didn’t come to get something from Jesus; they came to show gratitude, to show love, to show honor, to show respect.  They gave Jesus the best they had. They thought what to give him. The three presents that the wise men brought had very important significance:

Gold is the gift you give to Kings.  In days of old, tribute was paid by bringing gold to the king.  It was the most precious metal of the time, and so the wise men are presenting it as a gift to the king.

Frankincese was a kind of incense, used to worship God in the temple. So the wise men are saying this baby, Jesus, is not only king, he is also God.  He is worthy of being worshiped.

Myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead.  Now that’s an unusual gift for a baby:  the spice put on a dead body before wrapping it in linens.  So the wise men, by their gifts, acknowledged that Jesus is God incarnate, he is king, and he is going to die.  Jesus is the savior of the world and he has come to die for our sins.

Even before Jesus said his first word, it was known that, ‘This is the Savior who will die for the sins of the world.’

BEST WISHES FOR A BLESSED HOLIDAY SEASON & HEALTHY, HAPPY NEW YEAR

I thank God for His blessings of (much) better health and “being home” this December. Have a safe, wonderfully memorable holiday season.  Cheryl and I are very blessed to celebrate with you in spirit, if not in person.

God bless you and yours,

George

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

George’s Journal

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! On April 20th, the week before going into the City of Hope for my bone marrow transplant, I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned.  Dr. Chen advised me to do so, because the BMT would leave me extremely vulnerable to severe mouth infections.  Good thing, because I developed a very bad case of oral mucositis, i.e., mouth sores.  It probably could have been much worse.  As you know, there was a 25%-30% chance I would not make it out of the unrelated donor BMT.  That April morning in the dentist chair, I vividly recall thinking “I really hope to return” before the end of the year to have some necessary dental work.  Yesterday, Dr. Eric Sauk gave me a temporary crown. Going to the dentist never felt so good!

MY THANKSGIVING BLESSINGS

Since it is the time of year to celebrate what we are thankful for, here is a list – albeit an incomplete record – of some of the things I especially appreciate:

  • Being alive!
  • Our almighty and benevolent God
  • My girls, Cheryl, Jacquelyne & Eva, who give me the greatest motivation to beat this thing
  • YOU – ALL of my family and friends
  • Gradually re-gaining my immune system, stamina and strength
  • Thanksgiving with family & friends at our home (20 for dinner), rather than the hospital.
  • My world-class medical team, including Drs. Chen, Nelson, Cecena & Keri Halsema
  • Nurses & staff at City of Hope, UC-Irvine Medical Center, Oasis of Hope & Stanford Medical Center
  • My anonymous stem cell donor residing in Europe, you gave me the gift of life
  • Waking up in my own bed
  • Watching Jacquelyne play volleyball and Eva swim
  • Helping Eva with her homework
  • Cheryl’s partnership during my health crisis, being a top notch caregiver – I love you
  • “Front row” seat in our family room to enjoy Eva’s impromptu dance & cheerleading performances
  • Jacquelyne, very eagerly modeling any new shirt, pants, sweater and/or dress for me
  • Experiencing the warm California summer days and cool autumn/winter mornings
  • Cheryl’s home cooking
  • Having the strength & flexibility to reach down and put on my right sock & shoe!
  • The blessing & luck of having the greatest parents in the world, John & Sue Ghindia
  • My siblings (Mary Beth, Suzy, Janet, John), brother-in-laws Mark & Terry, nieces & nephews for  visiting me often, and checking on me ALL the time, you’re the BEST
  • My brother John for his unwavering optimism & encouragement, and for putting together this website….you all know he is the best brother in the world
  • Eileen Markowitz, Carmilla Lau, Donna Ganshirt, Scott & Michele Rachel, David Gural, Michelle Mischler, Shirley Leader & friends at ThomasNet
  • Mike Stover, www.propelpages.com, for his clutch contribution in developing & maintaining this site
  • Cindy Forsythe, my excellent assistant
  • Cousins Wayne & Joan Tallman for their love/support, orchestrating the Tallman Family Reunion
  • Tim & Kelly Blett and Chris & Saxon Copps for their love/support;  including starting & seeding the GWG fund, enabling my treated at Oasis of Hope; Kelly also escorted me to radiation sessions
  • All of YOU who generously contributed to my fund, helping Cheryl &  I weather the financial storm
  • College football – particularly the Michigan Wolverines
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Flying the flag of the United States of America
  • Our peerless military service men and women
  • My church St. Thomas More Catholic Church & Rick Warren pastor of Saddleback Church
  • Pastor Bob Mooney, Messiah Lutheran Church, and more importantly a great friend
  • Charlie Brande, the Director of Orange County Volleyball Club
  • Mother-in-Law, Madeleine Walsh (Florida) & Tom Perry for their cards, calls & visit
  • Close friends, aka, “The Machinery” (Reed Perry, Steve Fuller, Bob Sauer, Ron Buermann, Boris Del Cid, Mike Popovich, Jeff Hasse, Chris Copps, Tim Blett, Tom Mannausa, Dan Cannon), for numerous emails, texts & phone calls and traveling near & far (Europe) to visit; your camaraderie has greatly steeled my strength & resolve
  • The pleasure of a good cup of coffee
  • Mike McNally, high school tennis doubles partner/great friend, who emailed & called me religiously throughout my ordeal & ALWAYS emphatically said I would beat this thing
  • The lyrics and music of Tommy James M., and philosophical musings of Fuller
  • Feeling and smelling the Pacific Ocean
  • Harriett & Tom Cole, my parent’s dear life-long friends, who have been unbelievably supportive; Harriett introduced me to Matthew 19:26.
  • Reagan Dean http://reagandean.wordpress.com/join-our-team/reagan-dean – who called me “out of the blue” in March telling me about Mexico alternative medical options.
  • Uncle Jack & Aunt Trisha Tallman, for their steady, insightful, loving support
  • Christmas, Memorial Day weekend, and Fourth of July with great friends at the beach
  • Good friend and benefits consultant, Mike Lugo
  • Working out….the opportunity to exert myself physically and condition my body
  • Guitar-driven classic rock
  • Knowledge & insights I’ve gained from my experiences, including how our Lord IS listening and has answered OUR prayers and rewarded OUR faith
  • Kissing my girls “good night” and “good morning”
  • My brother John’s Michigan football buddies, i.e., Mike Leoni, Bill Dufek, John Arbreznik, Yale Van Dyne, Tim Wadhams, Dave Diebolt, Scott Smykowski, the Balourdos brothers, Jim & Jack Harbaugh & many others, some I’ve never met; their camaraderie & support is iron clad. Go Blue!
  • Cousin Mark Sutherland who visited from Chicago & bolstered my spirits
  • Angie Merkel, her husband Bobby Egan, and her Mom, Anne Merkel; for always being “with me” at the right time
  • Cousin Kathy Tallman (Boston), who in February kept me company during transfusions, then connected me to experts at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Yes Kathy, “Miracles Do Happen!”
  • Don & Claire Eaton, owners of Wolverine Sports  – www.wolverinesports.com – who had a volleyball net and stanchions custom made for our backyard, so Jacquelyne and Eva’s could enjoy
  • The legacy, calming influence & teachings of the Venerable Father Solanus Casey
  • Ice skating with my girls
  • Linda Fabucci, aka, The Persian Princess,” our dear friend in the Bay Area who chauffeured me around when I traveled to Stanford for second opinions
  • ALL of YOU who left a message in the Guestbook
  • Kevin & Darren Donathan of Riverview’s Donathan Family Chiropractic – www.donathanfamilychiropractic.com – they’ve left the most messages in my Guestbook
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), providing me with info, insights & support
  • Friends from childhood and high school who emerged to bolster my spirits, i.e., Lorrie Koson Hambling, Bill Alm, Bill Buchner, Joe & Beth Dixon, & many others
  • “The Trenton Girls,” i.e., Kim Ganos, Christine Buchner, Carol Lipinski, Martha Burkhardt, Kim Palmer & Marina Terneus for visiting me in April prior to my BMT
  • Aunt Mary & Uncle Jerry Bauer, Uncle Bruno & Aunt Sylvia Caruso, Hunkle Tom Tallman
  • THS teammates & coaches from Michigan state championship football & hockey teams
  • Susan & Jeff Doden for the of PJs and The China Study, the insightful book on nutrition
  • My brethren from Potawatomi & Shawnee Indian Princess tribes, particularly Dave Rosenberg, Dave Rolfe, Robert Palmer, Greg Beauregard, Bentley Kerr & John Fabris
  • Cousin Janet Martinca’s banana nut bread
  • ALL of YOU who sent prayer cards, including Rose Merton, Helen Lipinski and my brother & sister-in-law, Ed and Debbie Teed
  • Cheryl’s wonderful family: The LaVezzi’s, The Spehs, The Malingers & The Giantasio’s
  • Friends from previous employers, such as Victoria Sharrar & Kathy Keil-Rogers from R. H. Donnelley, who have surfaced after 15+ years to provide uplifting support
  • The inspiring example of Todd Larsen, rest in peace my friend
  • ALL of YOU who remember me in your prayers, I cannot ever thank you enough
  • If I missed acknowledging you here, please know how grateful I am for YOU; no doubt there will be a continuation of this list….

KEEPING THE FAITH…..WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

Last year, I ate Thanksgiving dinner in my hospital bed with Cheryl, Jacquelyne and Eva.  I was thankful to have them there, and to have an appetite; though chemo does a number on the taste buds.  I was determined to continue our Thanksgiving tradition of having our OC family and some friends over for dinner. Cheryl will again be a terrific host. I praise God for His blessings of much better health, and the opportunity to hope, dream, give and take action toward a wonderful future with my girls and YOU. Cheryl and I cherish your friendship, love and generous spirit.  Indeed I give Thanks for you!

God bless you and yours,

George

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

George’s Journal

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I greatly appreciate your checking in on me. Before you leave, please be sure to click on the link (scroll down) for a 30% discount at the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy.  The coupon can be used multiple times, and the Leukemia & Lymphona Society (LLS) receives 5% of each transaction using the coupon.  This “Give & Get” promotion by Gap Inc. is good for purchases, Thursday, Nov. 11th (tomorrow) thru Sunday, Nov. 14th.  It’s as good a time as any to start your holiday shopping.

Sunday, Jacquelyne, Eva and I participated in the annual fund raiser for our local school district called the Dinosaur Dash. With the exception of last year, when I was in the hospital, I typically run either the 10K or 5K, depending on my level of fitness. This year, Jacquelyne ran the 5K (3.1 miles) in about 22 minutes, that’s an excellent time for a 12-year old. I’m very proud of her.  Eva and I took a leisurely 2K walk along with a couple thousand other school kids, Moms, Dads, and citizens of Irvine and Tustin.  It felt good to get out and walk a distance. Between walking from where we parked, to visiting the various sponsor booths, and the 2K event itself, I walked about 3 miles, with a couple short jogs.   My right leg and foot are still plagued by neuopathy, i.e., swollen, numbness, lack of flexibility in foot and ankle.  It’s a small price to pay for being cancer free!

MEDICAL TEAM’S CONSENSUS:  RITUXAN MAINTENANCE IN NOVEMBER

A few weeks ago, my primary physician, Dr. Robert Chen, recommended that I undergo 4 weekly infusions of a non-hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) fighting drug called “Rituxan.” This month, I’m following a “Rituxan Maintenance” protocol at City of Hope, the infusions last about 3.5 hours per session. Rituxan (formally known as “Rituximab”), is used alone or with other medications to treat certain types of NHL. I’ve had Rituxan many times before as part of a chemo regime (infusion of Rituxan prior to receiving the chemo infusion). Rituxan treats NHL by causing the death of blood cells that have multiplied abnormally. I sought the advice of my other physicians, Dr. Nelson (UC-Irvine Medical Center) and Dr Cecena (Oasis of Hope Hospital, Tiajuana). They agreed with Dr. Chen that Rituxan Maintenance could possibly help me increase the likelihood of remaining cancer free by 10-15%.

FYI….SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

In previous posts, I’ve referred to my “Allogeneic Bone Marrow” transplant, but I actually received a “Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell” Transplant. Apparently, it’s just easier for everyone (physicians and nurses) to call the procedure, “Bone Marrow Transplant.”  As you know, my donor was an unrelated 40-year old man from Europe. The donor’s tissue type matched mine. I was extremely fortunate City of Hope found a donor.  Matching is based on the compatibility of the HLA gene (Human Leukocte Antigen system) between potential donor and the recipient.  A compatible donor is found by doing additional HLA-testing from the blood of potential donors.  Since I’m not a physician, I’ll leave the scientific explanation at that.  Race and ethnicity are key factors in finding a compatible unrelated donor match, and play a major role in donor recruitment drives. Members of the same ethnic group are more likely to have matching genes, including the genes for HLA.

NATIONAL MARROW DONOR PROGRAM (NMDP)

The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) coordinates the collection of hematopoietic (“blood-forming”) cells that are used to perform what used to be called bone marrow transplants, but are more properly called hematopoietic cell transplants (HCT). Patients needing a HCT but who lack a suitably matched donor in their family can search the Be The Match Registry (see below for details) for a matched unrelated donor or cord blood unit.

Hematopoietic cells are used to transplant patients with life-threatening disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, as well as certain immune system and metabolic disorders. Hematopoietic cells can come from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, or the circulating blood (peripheral blood stem cells or PBSCs). Hematopoietic cells are a type of adult (i.e., non-embryonic) stem cells that can multiply and differentiate into the 3 types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

NMDP is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that operates the Be The Match RegistrySM of volunteer hematopoietic cell donors and umbilical cord blood units in the United States. The Be The Match Registry is the world’s largest hematopoietic cell registry, listing more than 8 million individuals and more than 160,000 cord blood units. As of January 2010, the NMDP had facilitated more than 38,000 transplants worldwide.

BE THE MATCH…SAVE A LIFE!

I encourage each of you to donate your blood/bone marrow to help save the life of a cancer patient.  Because a caring young man in Europe decided to volunteer his healthy “peripheral blood stem cells,” I am alive today! Please check out www.marrow.org/ and click on “Be The Match Registry” or call 800.627.7692.  When you join the Be The Match Registry, you become part of every patient’s search for a stem cell/bone marrow donor.  YOU could be the one to save a life! It’s easy to join the Be The Match Registry:

  • Confirm you meet the basic registry guidelines (see below).
  • Complete the online form and order your registration kit.
  • Follow the instructions in your kit to collect a swab of cheek cells and return the kit.

To qualify as a donor, you must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and in good overall health. Secondly, you must be willing to donate to any patient in need and understand the donation process.  Thirdly, you must live in the US or Puerto Rico. Complete the online registration and you’ll be sent a donor kit with complete next step details.

A LARGE DONOR POOL IS ESSENTIAL

The Be The Match Registry is one of many registries of unrelated donors in the world. Most large, developed nations have such registries. Large registries of unrelated donors are needed because only 30% of patients with diseases treatable with hematopoietic cell transplantation can find a suitably HLA matched donor among their family members. I have 4 siblings, and as much as they wanted to “be the match” for me, their HLA was not compatible with mine. The remaining 70% of patients require an unrelated donor as a transplant source. Because of the odds that 2 random individuals are HLA-matched exceeds 1 in 20,000, a registry’s success depends on a large number of volunteer donors.  essential

LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY (LLS)

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services.  LLS’s mission:  cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.  Since the first funding in 1954, LLS has awarded more than $680 million in research funding. To learn more about LLS, go to www.lls.org or call 800.955.4572.  A great way for you to kick off your holiday shopping is with the (below) 30% off discount coupon good at all Gap Inc. stores.

START YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING & HELP PEOPLE BATTLING CANCER

LLS’s cancer research funding, patient education and support services have benefited from nearly $2.8 million from previous Give & Get campaigns.  To repeat, the holiday campaign runs from Thursday, Nov. 11th (tomorrow) thru Sunday, Nov. 14th.  Use the downloadable LLS coupon, as many times as you like during that time, to receive a 30% discount off your purchase(s) at the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, and 5% of your total receipt will be donated to LLS.  Here’s the link to the 30% discount coupon: www.gapinc.com/giveandget/lls/. Share it with your friends!

Happy Birthday to my sister Janet Ghindia (4th), and Kelly Blett (10th).  You’re the best!

We’ve had an Indian summer here in Orange County, with temperatures in the 80s, 90s  and even reaching 100 a few days in October!  Welcome to the cooler mornings (50-55-60 degrees) of November.  I have so much to be thankful for, most especially your care, concern and prayers.  Cheryl and I cherish your friendship, love and generous spirit.

Thank you.

God bless you and yours,

George

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


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