Survivorship - Richard's Story

From M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Duration: 02:53

Narrator:
In autumn of 1996, Richard was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL.

Richard:
I was determined to beat it, because I knew that, you know, this is not for me.

Narrator:
He underwent chemotherapy with 100 days of isolation at home. Radiation followed… then a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, Richard’s younger brother Charles was a match. But the treatments weakened Richard’s immune system.

Richard:
I was constantly having some pneumonia or cold-or, and they had to rush me to the emergency, and so that was, I think that was the most, I guess, stressful part of the whole ordeal, was doing that time back and forth into emergency.

Narrator:
Richard developed symptoms of graft-versus-host-disease, or GVHD. The transplanted cells began to react to his cells as if they were foreign.

Richard:
I started having a lot of dry eyes, dry mouth, a lot of stiffness in my bones. I remember all throughout for a while there I couldn’t even wear put on my shoes. I used to have to get my daughter to help me tie my shoelaces.

Narrator:
As a result of the dry eyes, a hole developed in Richard’s cornea leading to a cornea transplant. But the effects of cancer and its treatment paled in comparison to the sudden loss of his younger brother, Charles, in a car accident.

Richard:
He was a healthy young man, and he’s the reason why I’m here, so I dedicate my story and everything that I do to him.

Narrator:
Richard visited several support groups to help him cope… some more helpful than others.

Richard:
I realized that I couldn’t get that emotional, because I was the only guy in there. I just didn’t feel that comfortable totally being there. But, you know, I got something out of it, and I moved on.

Narrator:
Moving on with his wife Vivian and daughters Kami and Doreena meant developing a new outlook.

Richard:
I never asked God, ‘Why me?’ I knew that there’s a reason why this has happened, and I wanted to share this to everybody that’s going through this – any kind of cancer – that you can make it. You have to put in a spirit of fighting in you that you can make it, and you can beat it. And that’s exactly what I was able to do.

Narrator:
Life may not be normal, meaning as it was before cancer, but it is life.

Richard:
It’s not the same as I used to be where I left off, but I’m happy with my new normal life, and you know, that’s the way it is, and I feel comfortable with that; I’m living with it. I’m living with it.