As told by Mindy...
Derrick was first diagnosed with Acute Mylogenous Leukemia on January 29. 2008. His diagnosis was a surprise to everyone, including himself, because we all just thought he had the flu. I remember when I met Derrick and his parents at Hershey Medical Center that first day. When I walked into the room, Derrick was sitting on the bed, with his signature bright, beautiful smile on his face. Immediately, I felt more at ease. He began chemotherapy right away, since his white blood cell count was extremely high. The normal is somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 and Derrick's was 127,000. They first started him on a process called furesis, which pumps his blood out, removing some white cells, then it returns it back to him. This was done through a catheter implanted in his groin. After furesis, and a 7 day regime of three different chemotherapy drugs, we informed the great news, that following a bone marrow biopsy it was determined that Derrick was officially in remission!!
We were all ecstatic to hear this, but we knew that with Derrick's type of leukemia he would still need a bone marrow transplant to cure him of cancer. Derrick and I moved in with his welcoming parents in order to be closer for treatments and checkups, while we were awaiting his bone marrow transplant. During this time, Derrick had many ups and downs including a relapse, various infections including MRSA and fungal pneumonia, and the let down of not being able to find a bone marrow match initially.
After all the trials, Derrick and I set off for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC for his bone marrow transplant in July. After about 28 days in total isolation in the hospital, Derrick was discharged and sent to recover at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in New York City. We stayed at the Hope Lodge from August until November, only able to come home a few times in between. We enjoyed the time we spent together at the Hope Lodge. It was one of the long days, we sat in our room that we decided we needed to pay it forward and start a foundation to help others. Derrick suggested that our foundation support local families who are going through cancer treatment. He wanted to help them pay for medical expenses, medecine, and everyday living expenses. It was very important to both Derrick and I, that I spent every day of his treatment process with him. This way I was able to ask questions and remember things he would have forgotten. We both helped to keep each other's spirits up as well. We saw too many people going through treatment alone, because their family could not afford to be there with them all the time. This was sad to Derrick and I, so we decided that we wanted to help out. This is how the Fight On Foundation got started! Derrick and I were so truly blessed to have wonderful family and friends who supported us, so we could be together every step of the way. We had planned to officially kick off the foundation when we moved back to Lewisburg from NYC. Unfortunately, right before we were scheduled to move back home for good we discovered that Derrick's leukemia had relapsed. This was so devastating, because we finally thought things were getting back to "normal".
Derrick had a week before his doctor would start treatment again, so once again our wonderful family and friends stepped in and organized and planned our November 17, 2008 nuptials. It was a BEAUTIFUL ceremony and reception, and you would have never known it was planned in five short days. The morning after our wedding, we boarded a bus along with Derrick's father back to NYC for treatment. Derrick was admitted that very day and he began treatment. Sadly, the treatment caused damage to Derrick's body and he passed away on December 6, 2008. He was 23 years old.
To read Derrick's blog during his journey, please visit: