For James Noble (known as “J.R.”), the first signs of trouble came in October 2013.
At the end of each workday, the normally high-energy general manager began leaving his job at Pappadeaux exhausted.
“My dad didn’t come home with work stories anymore,” notes his daughter, Gloria. “Instead, he came home to rest. And that is not his style.”
Even so, J.R.’s daily fatigue didn’t set off any alarms initially. “At first, it seemed normal,” Gloria says. “People are allowed to be exhausted sometimes. But then it became chronic. It was startling.”
Persistent symptoms lead to Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia diagnosis
When J.R. began losing weight and experiencing back pain, too, he went to a doctor. There, he was diagnosed with anemia and began taking vitamins to boost his iron levels. But after nine months with no improvement, his doctor referred him to an oncologist, who performed a bone marrow biopsy. The cause of his chronic anemia was finally identified: Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, a rare form of lymphoma.
The first person J.R. called after leaving the doctor’s office was his wife, Celeste.
“My immediate response was, ‘You’re going to MD Anderson. If you have cancer, that is the only place to be,’” she says. Celeste, who also works for Pappas Restaurants in their marketing department, got her husband an appointment at MD Anderson on the advice of her boss, Harris Pappas.
J.R.’s Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia treatment
At MD Anderson, J.R. began receiving a combination of Carlfizomib, Rituximab and Dexamethasone (a steroid medication) under the direction of Elisabet Manasanch, M.D., and Luis Fayad, M.D. The drugs were complemented with nutritional counseling and an exercise regime.
“His treatment has been rough, but successful,” Celeste says. “He has one more treatment and then a bone marrow biopsy. If everything goes according to plan, he will just be monitored from now on. His doctor described it as ‘partial remission.’”
A new appreciation of relationships
One thing J.R. — and his entire family— have taken away from his Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia journey is the importance of enjoying their time together.
“I feel much closer to my friends and family now,” J.R. says. “And time spent with them has become more valuable.”
“This experience has made us stronger and closer,” Celeste adds. “We appreciate each other more and cherish the times that we can all be together.”
“We love each other more openly, care more deeply and savor each moment,” Gloria says. “It has shaped us all for the better.”
Jessica Noble, who gave J.R. his first grandchild, said her father’s experience showed her the value of slowing down and being more present. “Life and time with family is truly is a gift,” she says, “and we should appreciate it.”
“Every moment is to be cherished,” adds Patrick Noble, J.R.’s son.
Pappas expands patient’s definition of ‘family’
J.R. is extremely grateful to the Pappas family for giving him the flexibility to work around his Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia treatment schedule.
But Pappas did more than just provide personal support. Pappas Restaurants also partnered with MD Anderson for the first time last year, raising money at 52 of their Houston restaurant locations to support cancer research at MD Anderson.
For J.R. and many of the other Pappas team, the effort to fundraise was deeply personal.
“Once the staff realized how many people were affected by cancer and that they could do something about it, it just took on a life of its own,” J.R. says.
In 2015, Pappas Restaurants raised more than $50,000, which was matched by the Pappas family. This year, the organization is hoping to double that amount, and J.R. is excited to share his story and be a part of that effort.
“At Pappas, our mission is to become a superior restaurant company through constant innovations, attention to detail and a focus on quality,” he says. “The mission of MD Anderson is simple and powerful: ending cancer. We are the leaders in our respective fields, and we will shape the future while achieving our goals. Together, we can end cancer!”
Pappas customers can contribute to this fundraising effort by making a donation of $1 or more at participating Pappas Restaurants locations across Texas between Sept. 12 and 25. Customers who dine at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse between Sept. 12 and Oct. 11 also can support this effort by purchasing a specialty dessert with a portion of proceeds supporting cancer research at MD Anderson.