In which Kevin introduces himself, catches the world up to date on his cancer battle, and sprinkles in some random bits of wisdom
I'm so happy to be invited to be part of the CURE family, and given the chance to share my battle, and what I've learned fighting it, with so many new friends. In my writing I try to balance humor with serious information, personal experience with fact-based advice, and faith with worldly reality.
I am, in no particular order, a husband, father, grandfather, Christian, writer, rocket geek, home improvement hostage, fighter of robots, runner, engineer, lover of art, project manager, woodworker, public speaker, patient advocate, cancer survivor, Sunday school teacher, soccer coach, neighborhood parent, tutor, and in no particular order. Expanding a bit, I've been married 30 years to a wonderful woman. We have four adult children and a one-year-old grandson, along with a special needs dog. Writing began as a hobby, and has turned into a second job. I had a newspaper column for a long while, and for the last 10 years write and edit for two robotics magazines. I've also self-published three books, including Taking Vienna, the story of my first treatment and transplant. In my day job, I've worked for 35 years in human spaceflight at the Kennedy Space Center. I was blessed to work on the Space Shuttle program for its entire life, the International Space Station, the recently launched Orion capsule, and now NASA's newest rocket. My hobby, until interrupted by cancer, is building and fighting remote controlled robots, which were popular on television and are still a world wide sport.
In 2005, I was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare and difficult to cure blood cancer. During 17 months of treatment, I underwent four separate protocols, two of them experimental. One of the four was an autologous (self) bone marrow transplant. For five years I was in remission, until 2012. Since, I've tried five types of treatment, and managed to get back into remission. In a few weeks, I will undergo an allogeneic (donor) transplant, which, while carrying some risk, also has a high probablity of finally curing me.
Cancer is a very personal disease. Like all patients, I bring an entire lifetime of experience into the fray. Working in a highly technical, extremely critical business like launching humans into space, I've learned how to locate, listen to, and apply advice from the world's experts, whether in launching rockets or choosing treatment options. The highly technical and harsh environment of fighting robots has honed my competitive spirit, taught me to keep trying even after massive defeat, and how to collaborate with others while competing with them. My project management experience, whether as payload manager for a billion dollar satellite, or plotting out treatment plans and how to help run a family from an isolation room, also allowed me to apply my "soft skills."
Engineers are famously poor at sharing their feelings. When I was first diagnosed, I was teaching project management classes for my company. My mentor, the poor lady in charge of turning me into a teacher, buttonholed me. "You may think you have a disease," she told me, "but what you really got is a ministry." Well, I might be a Christian, but my first thought was this. I didn't want cancer, but I DARNED sure didn't want a ministry! Well, turns out God knows me a little better than I know myself. Despite my best efforts, I found myself in the role of a "third responder" to recently diagnosed patients and their families.
For nine years now, every three weeks like clockwork, 17 times a year, I get a phone call, email, text, or personal visit.
just found out they have cancer. The doctors have been telling them they only have one treatment option but we're not comfortable with it. What should we do?" I help them with some options, like getting second opinions from another doctor, show them the online resources, doctors themselves use, and help them understand them, and try to connect them with other survivors of their particular cancer type in my circle.
This blog is the latest in my ministry, starting with an email chain that became the book I mention above, moving to my personal blog, also called Taking Vienna, and now as part of the CURE network. As my transplant progresses, I'll post about the science behind it, the emotions around it, and my personal observations about the experience. I also have stories, advice, and tips garnered from many sources, that I'll share.
I look forward to a long and happy relationship with you, CURE's readers, and wish for long and durable remissions!
"Kevin, my __