Friday, October 29, 2010

Fellow Midlander Dominating MM and Life!

This week I learned about a fellow Midlander who has been battling Multiple Myeloma for three years. His story is nothing short of awe inspiring and I am moved by his spirit to dominate. Read here to learn about how this fellow MMer from Midland is choosing to Dominate Life admidst horrible life circumstances that went way beyond a cancer diagnosis.


This guy went from being on his death bed to now in just three weeks he will be participating in an Ironman! An Ironman event includes a 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, and then you finish with a full marathon.

This guy deserves a life time supply of dominate shirts. He's a serious poster dominator for the growing DomiNation of Multiple Myeloma and Life.

Quick chemo update - Below is today's picture of me getting yet another planned infusion. This will conclude Cycle #3 of 4. Just three more weeks of consolidation therapy to give MM a knock out punch and push me into Complete Response (meaning no detectable cancer). There is no promise that I will get to Complete Response and stay there, but that is what I am faithfully pulling for!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursdays #1

Multiple Myeloma leaves little to be desired and thankful for. This disease can take a mental, physical and emotional with for the rest of your life with all the neurothapy, infusion appointments, the time off of work and the affect it has on your family and friends. But admist the cancer journey, I am learning that there is an opportunity for a Thankful heart to grow. So every Thursday through Thanksgiving I am going to encourage folks to participate in Thankful Thursday on the Cancer Kicker Foundation Facebook page. It's starts today!


Here's my entry from today...

I am thankful for my 3 kids (4, almost 3 and six month), and single out my six month old Ruby. With aggressive chemotherapy staring Cassie and I in the face, we did the unthinkable and got pregnant. Everything on paper said hold off, but our hearts and spirit felt it was right. Six months with Ruby has proven that it was right. We found out later that Ruby in some cultures is known for having blood cleansing powers. Time will tell, but she definitely softens my heart and spirit every time I look at her. She is remarkable and I am now motivated to see 3 kids grow up!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Average Guy Proved to be far from Average

This post is a tribute to Zak Branigan who used the circumstance of his wife's breast cancer diagnosis to become far from average. Over a year ago, Zak and his beautiful bride, Moira, were devastated with news that Moria had an aggressive form of Breast Cancer that needed attention immediately. On top of the diagnosis, they were new parents and Moria was about to lose her job thanks to the tanking economy. I would never say Zak was average at that moment in his life, but wherever he was at, he decided to dominate....or Hit the Road as he says.


Zak was encouraged by his beautiful bride to go after something, so Hitting the Road he did! He started to blog his journey (a must read) and even got a Brooks sponsorship. During all of this I was fortunate enough to meet Zak and Moira who were the first young couple I had met in the area facing the same kind of fears of being both young with a cancer diagnosis and having the same kind of struggles to communicate to others. What a great connection at the right time.

Eventually, Moira domianted her breast cancer and Zak wanted to continue to do more. He had run his first half marathon and dropped a ton of weight. At this time I was about to take on my major treatment and I had a strong desire to use my platform as a former UM placekicker to build awareness for Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, mostly known as an "older person disease." I wanted to give Multiple Myeloma a new face and find a cure and Zak wanted to help.


So Zak signed up to be the force behind getting all the paper work to the State, working with the graphic designer, and all that other fun stuff that people rarely get credit for to ensure that the Cancer Kicker Foundation was properly established. All of this happened while I was in the middle of my battle; not to mention dex crazes and probably some chemo brain. I still tell Zak today that if all Cancer Kicker becomes is a couple of Dominate Shirts that sport my school colors and my cancer colors, I am set for seven days a week!

Just this month Zak completed his goal of running in a marathon. He dominated Chicago and finished exactly in the middle, or Average in terms of time. It's been made clear to me that Zak is far from Average and he has the energy, mental disciple and the wife to help him pursue his dreams and passions. In 2011, Zak is going to return his focus to the things that got him on this path and provided a heck-of-a-lot of support. One of those things was and is still today the Wellness Community of Southeast Detroit. My family has supported them over the last few years and their service for cancer patients and their families is top notch.


I want to thank Zak and Moria for all they have done personally and the role they played in establishing the Cancer Kicker Foundation as non-profit that WILL Dominate Multiple Myeloma and Inspire many more dominators to Hit the Road and dare to be as "average" as Zak.

Thanks Zak and many blessings as you continue to Hit the Road! We are behind you 100% as you return to your original focus and you continue to inspire many. Thanks for holding the baton this year.

I love you man,

-Phil

6 More To Go

Today I will go in for my 40+ chemo infusion at UMCCC. I started this journey last October which included 7 Cycles of a 4-drug combination, followed by two bone more transplants and finally 4 cycles of consolidation therapy, with the goal of putting Multiple Myeloma to its knees and eventually out of sight by modern technology.

The technical term for out of sight is "CR" or Complete Response. There are many indicators that are used to track the disease and the simplest for those who secrete it, is the M-Protein. My M-protein at the start of treatment was 3.0 and has been beat down to 0.2 with the two bone marrow transplants and heck-of-a-lot of chemotherapy. The goal is still 0.0!

Today I will start the count down to the end of my 4 Cycles of consolidation therapy which is a three drug combination. I will finish my consolidation almost exactly on my first daughter's 3rd birthday, which will be quite emotional. Thank you to everyone who continue to pray and pass positive thoughts to us during this journey.

For kicks, here's a video of Cassie and me after our very first week of chemo: http://mmfordummies.blogspot.com/2009/10/video-blog-week-1-in-review.html

Monday, October 25, 2010

Myeloma Mondays #28: Matt from Columbus, OH

Matt is a very special guy who is a great MM advocate. We may be from rival schools, but our unique situation of being young with MM has brought us together. Matt is helping launch the first Columbus DomiNation event during the OSU vs UM game in November...you should come if you are in the area!


Where were you born and raised?

  • Columbus, Ohio
Where do you currently live?
  • New Albany, Ohio

When were you diagnosed and how old were you?

  • I was diagnosed in August of 2009 at the age of 25. I was also diagnosed with a secondary disease, Amyloidosis. This disease occurs in about 10% of Myeloma patients.
Did you know what MM was prior to diagnosis?

  • I had no idea prior to my diagnosis. I think for the first week or so I kept referring to it as ‘melanoma’.
Is there anyone else your in family with MM?

  • There is not.
What led to your diagnosis?

  • I was feeling extremely fatigued. I literally did not have the energy to get out of bed or walk to the restroom.
How many times were you referred before actually being diagnosed?
  • I was luckily, only referred once before my diagnosis, though I spent 7 weeks in the hospital initially.

Where have you received treatment?

  • I was first treated at the Cleveland Clinic and now at the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
  • 8/2009: Started Velcade
  • Thanksgiving 2009: Last Velcade treatment
  • January 20th 2010: Stem Cell Transplant

Why did you or your doctor choose a specific treatment?

  • Because of my age and my previously good health history, my doctors have been extremely aggressive since day one. From the day of diagnosis and understanding treatment options, I always was preparing myself for transplant.
What has been the side effects of the different treatments?

  • It’s been fairly typical. Weight loss, hair loss, and generally feeling crummy. I’ve had some neuropathy from the Velcade, but it’s relatively minor.
What has been the hardest thing about your MM journey?

  • Other than coming to terms with the disease, the hardest part by far has been seeing the toll that it has taken on my family. At times it’s been hard not to feel like a burden, but seeing the strength and grace that they’ve shown has been a beacon of hope for me.
What are the top lessons learned that you would want a newly diagnosed MM patient to know about?

  • First and foremost, do not focus on the statistics of life expectancy. These are outdated and the research for Myeloma is booming. Dig in and fight this disease with everything you have.
How have you been able to stay positive and encouraged in your MM journey?

  • I’ve got a phenomenal support base, my family and I got engaged after my diagnosis. My fiancĂ©e has been there through everything and seeing the good in people has really given me a perspective on life that I did not have before.

After being diagnosed... What perspective was changed the most?

  • I was in bad shape, not just the cancer but the Amyloid caused my kidneys to fail. Going through all of that I just realize all of the important and precious moments that we encounter. So many times we overlook something as it happens but I’ve tried to step back and fully enjoy everything that happens.
Did you or a parent work in a field with or were exposed to toxic chemicals prior to diagnosis?

  • No.
What MM sites or blogs had you found good information from after diagnosis?

  • Mmore.org

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to Dominate some Lunges

I have been motivated to get back to the (home) gym thanks to Alysa down in Tucson, AZ who has set the bar VERY HIGH by demonstrating in her own effort to dominate 5,000 lunges while raising $5,000 for MM Research for a Cure.

I asked her what my baby step should be in not only joining her effort to Lunge for a Cure, but to Lunge for my Life! I realize that I have put my physical, mental and emotional body through hell over the last year and have not yet started the rehab process for my body. Yes, I did some runs, but since my second bone marrow transplant (BMT) over the last few months I have focused more on resting; zero on rehab. Now it's time to kick it up a notch, but only one or two. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint (wow, I think I just used those words for the first time).


So seeing Alysa take on the World of Lunges (seriously, she just did 200 consecutive walking lunges) I am motivated to get back in game. So this morning I kicked things off with 3 sets of 10 lunges; per Alysa's recommendation. This is just a baby step, or baby lunge if you will. My plan is to expand the workout routine through the weeks and months to come, committing to at least 3-4 days of exercise each week. Wish me domination!

For those who need a positive lift in order to get out and start exercising, I highly recommend you follow Alysa's journey....it's so encouraging!!! She also has the most amazing husband who played baseball in the Pro's and at Oklahoma and the cutest two kids by the way :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lunging for a Cure...Growing the DomiNation

It was spectacular to hear the roar of 113,000 people while being singled out on the field for my passion to dominate Multiple Myeloma, but the individual efforts of friends, family and people I don't even know is what motivates me to dominate.

Just a couple of months ago we launched the DomiNation, which is a simple way for people to raise money for MM research being done by Dr. J at UMCCC and to help get the word out about Multiple Myeloma. It was initiated by my new friend Steve Mitzel who established a simple process for people who want to commit to raising a minimum of $1,000 can sign up and start fund raising.

We have had a handful of people already sign up, like Laura who is going after 1,000 miles by the end of the year for $1,000. We have also had our first formal DomiNation event in Chicago thanks to Steph B. , a former UM Softball player. Furthermore, Barb in Columbus, OH has planned the second DomiNation event during UM/OSU game.



Just this week Alysa from Tuscon, AZ has joined the DomiNation in her effort called "Lunging for a Cure." Alysa's goal is to do 5,000 lunges and raise $5,000 by the end of the year. Follow Alysa's domination on Facebook by clicking here or on Twitter. The above photo is Alyza dominating her lunges. Believe it or not, she has two little kiddos at home. I think I need to start doing some lunges!


To start your own DomiNation of Multiple Myeloma, learn how here!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Dominate Cry Heard in front 113,000 in the Big House

Although the game was heart wrenching, the two minute timeout in the 1st Quarter was something I'll carry with me for the rest of the domination of Multiple Myeloma. I was very nervous and had no clue on how to present myself in front of 113,000 fans. And then....it happened (play video).


They mentioned the words Dominate Cancer and the animal within me just came out. I could not stop pumping my fist. The last two years of dominating MM with many years ahead just wanted out. I wanted everyone in that stadium to join in on the domiNation. I wanted in that moment to put an end to cancer and I felt like together, We Will Dominate Cancer. It was special.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Big Day - What an Honor

I couldn't sleep last night and I don't think it had anything to do with the 20 mg of Dex. This morning I will be joining the Michigan Football team for their pre-game. Today Michigan takes on Michigan State, and it has been hyped to be one of the biggest games in last number of years, probably the biggest UM vs MSU game in decades.

Never would I have imaged being a Captain on the football team. As a kicker, I was a leader on and off the field with my work ethic and positive attitude, but that did get you out on the coin toss. Today I will be able to live that dream. Moreover, I will honored at the first time out of the first quarterer in front of the BIGGEST CROWD EVER to watch a College Football game. I expect that the stadium will hit close to 113,000....all of which will hear the words Multiple Myeloma at once!!!

So although this game is very significant for both teams on the field, it is very significant for Multiple Multiple Awareness. It will also fuel my family and I to continue to forward and dominate this disease. Above is a picture of me kicking off at home against MSU exactly 8 years ago. I won't be kicking off today, but I finally get to live my dream as a Michigan Captain. Thanks to the Athletic Department, coaching staff and Coach Carr for making this happen!

Together, We'll Dominate.

Go Blue!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

1 Year of Treatment...DONE!

On October 6th, 2009 I took to the journey of putting an end to Multiple Myeloma in my body. I was filled with hope from what I was hearing out of Little Rock at UAMS leaning heavily on all the great research and data they have compiled through Barlogie's Total Therapy approach for dominating MM. Although my bones were starting to fill with Multiple Myeloma and my M-protein was on the rise, I was very hopeful that a Total Therapy-like approach at UMCCC in combination with my Low Risk gene expression results, that I would have a great chance at getting to Complete Response (CR), suppressing the disease for years by using maintenance therapy. And the hope, which still remains, is that if I can beat it down to ground zero and create a hostile environment that is unwelcoming to MM with the maintenance therapy, maybe the Multiple Myeloma would pack its bags forever and not return.

So one year later, 7 cycles of four drugs, followed by a tandem (back to back) stem cell transplants this summer and now finishing up my 2nd of 4 cycles of consolidation chemo, I feel the hope is being realized, but not fully. I still have a M-Protein of 0.2, which has known to be eliminated as the transplants "take" and the additional chemo post-transplant sends the Multiple Myeloma its knockout punch. So we still have a possible couple more months of watch and wait.

So when will the Domination be achieved? After my 4 cycles of chemo I will start tapering down into a maintenance mode that will allow my bone marrow to begin to make a comeback and return to more normal levels. Although, my bone marrow has been a rock star in terms of regaining strength and producing blood cells just on the low side of the normal range. The recovery from this treatment I am hearing will be years. I was told that I will not be revaccinated until at least another year, any time before that they vaccine may not "take".



Lastly, the Ann Arbor DomiNation was in full effect last Sunday. It was such a joy to see my mother, two of my sisters and Cassie run in their first 5K ever! They finished in the Big House, the same place where I finished just a year prior as we set out to dominate Multiple Myeloma. I am very thankful and proud of my family in all the ways they look to support me. They have been a blessing through what many would call a curse.




Monday, October 4, 2010

The Kick Shirt - Unveiled!

Back in 2002 I went from being a goat to hero as it was framed by the ESPN football announcers as I connected on a 44 yd field goal as the time expired in my first ever start as a place kicker at the University of Michigan. The play to this day is simply known as "The Kick". It happened to be my first ever kick that I made in college. What people often forget (thankfully!!!) is before The Kick, there were two other kicks that I missed in the first half that would have cost us the game if it wasn't for one last second chance at redemption from 44 yards out.


That experience back in 2002 was a faint memory until I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer) back in 2008. For a couple of weeks I was down and out. The darkness of a cancer diagnosis for a father of two little ones who were 2 and 6 months at the time seemed unbearable, and unfair at best. BUT, as I looked back at The Kick I started to realize that in that game, there was very little hope that I would ever make that prayer of a kick. Furthermore, it took the two missed kicks in the first half to even allow the game to come down to the opportunity for any chance at a last second heroic.

So looking back on The Kick, I knew I still had another game winner in me. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I knew that with the support of so many people, my experience and my faith, that I would get an opportunity to make another long shot field....I was aimed and poised to Kick Cancer! So that's what I am doing roughly two years later and now almost to the date one year into my treatment; which may be the most aggressive treatment ever experience at UMCCC given the amount of chemo and two stem cell transplants I endure this summer.

To commemorate the moment and to use it as a motivator to kick Multiple Myeloma for good, a graphic designer has graciously produced a shirt that will be released on Saturday as way to bring both the spectacular moment back in 2002 into a motivator for me and others as we push to dominate cancer. The shirt design is viewable on the Cancer Kicker Facebook page: http://facebook.com/cancerkicker

Quick Chemo Update: I am in my second week of my 2nd cycle of chemo. I am pretty exhausted this go around, but doing my best to keep up with everything go on.