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Jeff's Cancer Journey

“When someone tells you that you may die, you think about the things that you would miss out on. Now that I’ve been cancer free for six years, the things I didn’t miss out on are the best gifts I’ve ever received.”  

“In the fall of 2005, I had this case of bronchitis that I just couldn’t get rid of,” says Jeff. “I went in to the doctor, got an antibiotic, and then it should have been gone. But 10 days later, I was a lot worse.”

When his cough persisted, Jeff’s hometown physician tested his blood sugar, cholesterol and blood counts. When his doctor noticed that his white blood cell counts were dangerously high, he referred Jeff to his local hospital the same afternoon.

When he got to the hospital, the doctor couldn’t believe he was able to walk in on his own because his blood counts were so high.

“I didn’t even know how scared I should have been. They told me I had advanced Stage IV cancer. I didn’t even know how bad Stage IV cancer was – I thought maybe it was a stage four out of 10 and it wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately, Stage IV is the worst-case scenario.”

Jeff had several rounds of chemotherapy which initially sent him into remission but Jeff’s type of cancer is quite predictable- and his care team thought the cancer would come back in about three years. Like clockwork, in three years and two months, Jeff’s cancer returned. This time, the cancer was spreading faster and more difficult to manage. During those three years of remission, Jeff, alongside his family and care team, discussed his future options and it was determined that a stem cell transplant was his best choice for long-term survival.

“When you get a stem cell transplant, you have to have a perfectly matched donor,” said Jeff. “None of my siblings matched, so we had to reach out to Be The Match, a blood and marrow registry, to look for a perfect 10-out-of-10 DNA match for me.”

“A perfect match was found and my anonymous donor agreed to donate- my family and I couldn’t have been more excited.”

Jeff’s anonymous donor, Brendan, had been in the Be The Match registry for 15 years when he got the call to donate. “It was simple- they drew my blood, extracted the stem cells, put my own blood back in me and my stem cells were overnighted to Jeff for him to receive the next day.”

Jeff’s transplant occurred at Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at TriStar Centennial in Nashville on August 10, 2010. Soon, he had a completely new immune system and is now cancer-free.

Thanks to Jeff’s donor and his care at Sarah Cannon, Jeff has been able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding and watch his grandchildren grow.

“My care team at Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at TriStar Centennial was excellent. Ian Flinn, MD, PhD, my transplant physician, alongside an integrated team of nurses and other cancer experts, did everything they could do make my cancer journey easier for me and my family.”

When asked about his care team, specifically his experiences with his BMT nurses at Sarah Cannon, Jeff says, “If it weren’t for the nurses, I wouldn’t have made it through this.”

Jeff describes his BMT nurses as personable, making him and his family feel comfortable, supported and cared for at every step. He recalls one nurse who would join the doctors for his appointments. Following the appointment, this nurse would always return to Jeff’s room to answer any questions that he had.

Jeff and Brendan have been able to meet in person and have become great friends.

Jeff, a 52-year-old two-time Stage IV follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer survivor from Clifton, Tenn. relied on an anonymous blood and marrow donor for his life-saving stem cell transplant. Thanks to his donor and his care at Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at TriStar Centennial, Jeff has been cancer free for six years.

Learn more about Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at TriStar Centennial