When you talk to Tom, a 56-year-old recent Nevada resident, it’s easy to understand how he sees every day as a gift.
Born in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, he was rescued by helicopter at six-years-old and then came to America with his mother and adoptive father. His early memories are of playing in the rice fields and ducking low when he heard planes coming.
He has also recently suffered loss. His brother-in-law, whom he was very close to, recently passed away from colon cancer, following the death of Tom’s father four years earlier to the day.
Tom himself is 100 days post his own blood and marrow transplant following a Stage III Multiple Myeloma diagnosis.
“I’ve been blessed,” Tom said during a recent visit with his physician, Shahram Mori, MD, PhD, Medical Director for the Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at MountainView Hospital.
Shortly after moving to Nevada, Tom’s cancer was discovered when he went to a local ER for back pain. At the time, Tom, a 30-year Air Force Veteran, had temporarily moved from Texas to Henderson, Nev. with his wife, to care for his ailing brother-in-law. Tom was told after subsequent visits and follow-up appointments that his back was broken and that he had blood cancer. Tom’s official diagnosis was Stage III Multiple Myeloma, and a common side effect is vertebral fractures due to a weakening of the bones.
Tom began treatment with a local oncologist, who later referred him to Dr. Mori after Tom’s blood counts continued to drop. At the same time, he had to have injections to help heal his back, which was putting him in excruciating pain. Tom said Dr. Mori explained to him his options, and that a blood and marrow autologous transplant was his best course of action. An autologous transplant, often called a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant, is when a patient uses their own stem cells to replace any diseased or damaged bone marrow to help fight cancer. After meeting with Dr. Mori at the Sarah Cannon Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program at MountainView, Tom chose to stay in Nevada for his treatment, rather than go back to Texas.
“Dr. Mori explained to me exactly what was going to happen, and that’s the way it turned out,” Tom said. “Everybody was world-class.”
Tom was in the hospital for three weeks following his transplant. He is now 100 days out and continuing to improve. The transplant leaves patients with no immune system, which has to be slowly built up over time. He likely will have to be on a low-dose chemotherapy pill for the rest of his life.
“Everything happens for a reason. You just have to keep moving forward,” Tom said.