“I’m sorry Mr. Baker, but I believe you have cancer.”
These were the last words I heard before passing out onto the floor of Dr. Philippon’s office in Vail, Colorado. It was Wednesday, May 20th 2009. A day that began with optimism for corrective hip surgery ended with a feeling of emptiness words cannot describe.
Within days Amanda and I traveled from Denver to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The diagnosis was Stage Four Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. A large cancerous tumor had eaten away one third of my right pelvis and cancer had spread to my kidneys, abdomen, neck, and chest. Time was of the essence.
My life was transformed within days from a planned hip surgery rehab to receiving the first of six rounds of chemotherapy at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in downtown Denver. My odds were 54% of survival. On top of all of this news, Amanda and I were in the final stages of fertility treatments to begin a pregnancy. We had a choice to make as I entered treatment – would she be willing to be a single mother in the event that I didn’t make it?
No one should have to make that kind of decision. This is what cancer does.
I couldn’t have made it without our faith and the prayers and support of family, friends, and co-workers across the country. As I moved through chemo and radiation I received weekly phone calls of encouragement from a friend back in Cincinnati, Mike Schuster.
During our talks I learned about a young woman named Jenna Laumer, a friend of his daughter who had been diagnosed with Leukemia about the time my Lymphoma was diagnosed. She also was in the fight of her life, and was responding well to her treatments. Whenever Mike and I talked, I always asked how she was doing – it was encouraging to hear about someone else having success fighting cancer.
After 21 weeks of chemotherapy and recovery, I started a 5 week radiation treatment on the original tumor site in my hip. On Thanksgiving 2009, I received the “all clear” from my docs and began my remission – which (for the grace of God) continues to this day.
On December 14, 2009, Jenna was also declared to be “in remission” – a moment of joy in her journey against her blood cancer. Within a few days her Leukemia returned with a vengeance. She lost her battle on January 19, 2010 at the age of 27.
I was distraught to hear this news. As a cancer Survivor, you always ask the question “why did I make it, and someone else not?” It is a question that I cannot answer, but all what I can do is make the best of the gift of my ‘second half’ and make a difference in the life of others and against this tragic family of diseases.
On November 19th I will be riding in the Tour de Tucson, a 109 mile bike race in Arizona as a part of “Team Jenna” – a group formed last year to raise funds for charity through The Miles That Matter Foundation. We will be raising funds for several charities that were of importance to Jenna including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital A5 South Unit (the unit where her cancer was treated), and the Clark Montessori Foundation (her alma mater). Mike Schuster, Dave Schuster, and I are riding in Team Jenna this year, and will be wearing specially designed jerseys in her honor.
In addition to the Miles that Matter charities, I am designating a portion of the funds we raise to benefit Rocky Mountain Cancer Assistance. This charity, founded by the oncologists who treated my cancer, provides basic financial assistance to cancer patients and survivors to allow them to maintain their treatment regimen. This will help prevent someone to have to choose between chemotherapy and basic living expenses such as food and housing. RMCA helps cancer patients in Colorado avoid making this type of life-and-death decision. For more information go to their website: www.rockymountaincancerassistance.org
This year we have a goal of raising $15,000 for these charities through Team Jenna. Please dig deep and give generously. Let’s make a difference to honor Jenna’s legacy and assure that less people will be affected by blood cancers such as Leukemia and Lymphoma. I am asking for your financial support in this effort.
If you make a contribution of $300 or more, please send us your jersey size (men’s or women’s), as well as your address and contact information so we can deliver a jersey for you to wear. We have arranged for you to donate either online or through the mail.
For online donations go here.
Make checks payable to:
Miles That Matter
Mail donations to:
Bill Baker c/o MSA Architects
316 West Fourth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Please do what you can in honor of Jenna and all others who have been affected by cancer.
As I enter into my second year of remission I am continually reminded of the blessings in my life, including our “new” life back home in Cincinnati, my family, my friends, my wife Amanda, and my beautiful 18 month old daughter Elaina. She’s going to have her father around for a very long time.
Thank you for all your incredible support.