Save a life: Donate Blood

With someone in the United States being diagnosed with a blood cancer once every four minutes, support is needed not just financially but medically as well. Blood transfusions are critical to patients with dropping hemoglobin and blood is only available because people like us donate.

In Rochester, we are blessed with the Mayo Clinic blood donation center that has several locations with extended hours available! With free parking, cookies, and friendly smiles, you can’t go wrong by making a donation! Along with whole blood donation, you can make double red blood cell donations as well as platelets.  Here are a few fun facts from their website:

    • The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center, Saint Marys Campus, Rochester, Minnesota, is open until 6:15 p.m. every second Thursday of the month.
    • You can donate whole blood as frequently as every 84 days at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, Minn.
    • Every blood donor is given a miniphysical, checking temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin to ensure it is safe to give blood.
    • Each whole blood donation may help as many as three people.
    • Approximately 60,000 units of blood products are transfused at Mayo Clinic in Rochester annually.
    • Whole blood donation only takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
    • We offer childcare for whole blood donors during their donation.
    • The blood you donate with the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program stays right here at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
    • Blood cannot be manufactured. It can only come as a gift from people like you.

When you do go donate, please tell the staff  you are donating on behalf of MedCity Foundation because through their blood assurance program our patients and you as a donor are able to receive blood, if the need arises, at no cost. Sometimes this cost is covered by insurance, however if it is not, or if someone does not have insurance, this program will waive their fee (generally around $200).

Let’s inspire giving of the gift that can not be bought but is lifesaving to those receiving. Donate today! Post a picture on our Facebook page of you donating blood or platelets and you will be entered in a drawing for a gift card to Cafe Steam!

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Save a life: Donate Blood

Patient Profile: Peter Moen “Live Life How You’re Supposed to Live It”

Peter Moen & Family                                                      Peter Moen and Family

Can you tell me a bit about your form of blood cancer?

I’m in complete remission from a subset of diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I was diagnosed with that in the early part of April of 2014. I first started having symptoms just in the middle of March of 2014 kind of up and down and then it progressed real quickly and by March 21, I could feel my spleen on the left side of my torso was protruding below the rib cage where it normally resides. March 24, I went in to my family physician, they did some blood work and then admitted me to St. Marys because I had fevers and low white blood cell count. The symptoms that I had initially were fevers, night sweats, cold chills and just a general fatigue that became worse and worse. By two weeks after my first symptoms I was starting to ride in a wheelchair because the blood cancer had affected my blood so much that it just made me weak.

When they diagnosed you, what went through your mind?

I have a history with cancer in my family. My paternal grandfather had prostate cancer, he almost died and ultimately ended up passing away from pancreatic cancer in 2010. Then, my other grandfather, he had prostate cancer and brain tumors and for 22 years. He battled brain tumors and had to go in and get chemo done and kind of push that back, but he passed away last year at the age of 79 because his body couldn’t have the chemo anymore it just wasn’t worth it—the returns were diminishing by that point. So, I thought well, I’ll probably get cancer someday. I just didn’t expect it to be a blood cancer. So when they told me initially that I had a tumor in my lower abdomen area, I said, oh, ok. My wife had gone home for the night from the hospital, because I had gone to have a CT scan and figured, oh, that’s it we’ll figure out something tomorrow. They came and two hours later she showed me the picture, told me what we had so I ended up calling my wife, my parents came too because we were living there at the time. That was harder. For me, hearing it personally, I thought, oh, ok. I’ve got cancer. But, having to tell other people and having them be affected by it was harder to deal with. The first 24 hours were rough because we didn’t know what type of lymphoma it was and it took about 2 weeks to get that specific diagnosis.

How old were you?

I was 31 at the time, I’m turning 32 in October, so kind of still in the middle of this process. I fit the bill for this specific type of cancer. It manifests itself mostly in males in their fourth decade of life. There are no precursors to this kind of cancer, sometimes, Barr Epstein virus is a precursor, but there wasn’t this time. No genetic predisposition, or no type of environmental concerns, it was just a random abnormality that presented itself and my body’s natural defenses did not fight back.

When you were going home that first night, what was going through your mind. What were you feeling when they said “you have cancer”?

Well, I spent the night {the first night}in the hospital. That was the plan all along because of my low white blood cell count and my fever so they wanted to make sure that I didn’t have anything else. I had a ton more blood tests done {the next day} and then I had the initial needle biopsy to try to regain enough material from the tumor in my head. But I went home on Wednesday because they knew what I was dealing with and then they gave me a number of antibiotics. Cancer has certain stigmas for good reasons and there was a lot of unknown still about what type I had and how aggressive it was. I was diagnosed with stage 3B of this particular type of cancer because I don’t know if it necessarily started in my lower abdomen but it had spread up to some lymph nodes and was exhibiting night sweats, chills, fatigue. The fact that it was more aggressive, ultimately was a good thing, in the sense that the chemotherapy attacks it like a tree with roots that aren’t that well established, it dies faster. So, that was kind of the mental image that I had when they talked about aggressive forms of lymphoma being easily treatable. I feel like I’m pretty even-keeled about things—like I said, how it affected my family had more of an impact than anything. But my own, personal, emotions were like wow, I guess, this is what we get to deal with, so, I’m in a good position. Being in Tennessee, I wouldn’t have had the facilities of Mayo and I had a comfort with Mayo because my mom has been a nurse and been with Mayo for 30 years.

How did the treatment process affect you and your family?

Beyond my immediate family, I have a good support system in Rochester. Being from here around friends, I went to the Bible college here so I had that group. Friends from high school, family, a lot of family in town and so the actual treatment process was made a lot easier. My wife was not working at the time so we were able to deal with the kids alright. My mom had a flexible schedule where she would get off and watch the kids, my dad the same way was able to get off when he needed to. It was relatively easy, a lot of facilities at our disposal, and financially it was kind of a unique aspect, I had participated or worked in churches, in the area either as an intern or part-time basis, and over the last 11 years, that’s been the case. So whether it was in Worthington, Minn. Or Marion, MN, Mason City, Iowa, and even Johnson City, Tennessee all seemed supportive. They sent us money and gifts of money because they knew of my situation. We kind of realized right away that financially we weren’t going to be able to cut the way we were at, so we asked once on CaringBridge in the second post, I believe, some of the things I would need for support from family and friends, and money, which is always a hard thing to ask for. I wasn’t going anything larger then one person might. We were able to ask just once and the whole time, we had enough money to support ourselves—we were able to make it alright.

Peter Moen and Family

Who did you turn to during this time?

My wife and I have a good communication and so we talked about the realities of what cancer is—the ultimate reality of death. That was an important discussion to have—and it was easy for us-just knowing that that is going to happen with cancer sometimes—not all the time. And the minister at Marion Church of Christ became something what I call a pastor’s pastor because normally if you’re the minister in a church, which I am now at Concord Church of Christ, people are kind of looking to you for some kind of support and so sometimes, ministers depend on each other. Rick Walston who was my professor at Crossroads College, he’s the minister at Marion Church of Christ, he was a good guy to lean on. And there were just various people who I was able to talk to. Something that felt was cathartic was CaringBridge, there was a way that I could express what I was going through, kind of broadcast it out instead of having to answer the same questions over and over again. Even though I did answer the questions over and over again. I was able to add detail to nuance that and change it up if I needed to. It allowed me to talk about it on a larger scale and that was nice. It’s not like I got really deep into my emotions, I talked about it a little bit, but it was a more of a matter of fact, this is happening. That was just there to help express to others what cancer is like. The team of doctors and nurses and support staff that came together was a lot of fun to watch and the whole process I felt was pretty fascinating for me being the guinea pig.

You said that you had to have that conversation with your wife about the possibility of death and saying how that was an ‘easy’ conversation to have. I feel like that conversation would be anything but easy.

I am just pretty matter-of-fact when it comes to those sort of things. I’ve had this, not sick, but a fascination with the idea of death and how we talk about death as a minister in a church, you deal with people who die and families have to pick up the pieces somehow, and they’re either better prepared or not so better prepared at understanding what this process is like—and that’s through the eyes of having a faith that allows for some sort of comfort in the afterlife. That’s what has caused me to be forward thinking in that sense and my wife and I both have a strong faith so there is some sort of hope for beyond what’s going to happen here. She didn’t get all bug eyed and scared about the idea of talking about death—well you’ve got cancer—so, as far as diseases go, that ends up killing more people than others. Because otherwise, I’m a normal, fairly healthy individual that’s active–well then I get this and it really wakes you up. It causes you to think and you go through your own process of grief with that and trying to reconcile that. For the most part, it wasn’t like I was emotionally shut off either, I understood the impacts, the ramifications of the disease, and it wasn’t like I was blindly looking ahead saying, “Oh, we’re going to fight this, we’re going to beat it” I try to keep a healthy moderation in all of those emotions and say, well, I felt like I could cultivate not necessarily a kind of peace, but just to be comfortable in whatever situation I’m in. That’s more helpful than not for me, but more so for the people around me.

What was it like having that support system—could you ever imagine going through this alone?

No! Well, I couldn’t have. Like I said, we had to ask for—it was an uncomfortable ask—to ask for money and so right away we recognized that we couldn’t do this by ourselves. Understand a lot of people get sick, people need support but the church did what it was supposed to do when it came around—in a number of churches you find support whether it be financially, or through prayer, or through good deeds of taking away our kids, or giving me rides to the clinic. I needed them. And living at my parents’ house, we didn’t have the daily needs of washing clothes, dishes, things in the house, mowing the lawn—those type of things we didn’t have to worry about at all. I knew how good we had it.

How did you deal mentally at times when you felt down and out?

Yeah, I would say there was a direct correlation with how my body felt. I have a short memory, maybe that’s a gift, I don’t know, it was like a forgive and forget what my body would do to me. But the days where I couldn’t move, it was awful. I was drinking a whole bunch of water because I don’t want to have to deal with anything. The low days, there weren’t that many—but I tried to describe what it felt like in CaringBridge posts but all the while, even if I was low, I thought this is kind of the deal. I wasn’t going to go feeling sorry for myself. The worst days were after the stem cell transplant actually because typically, the blood would replace itself after six or seven days, this wasn’t the case because I didn’t have bone marrow to replace that with.

After my first round of R-CHOP, I would start to recover and thought, oh, I can lift two pound weights, I’m going to try and start getting back into shape. I did two pound weights for about 10 minutes and then I’m like oh, I’m so tired and then I stopped for 45 minutes. That wore me out that’s just a demonstration of how weak I was. Anyway, by January, I was taking naps every day, like old man naps. I kept getting stronger and stronger and the idea was to keep getting stronger and try to push myself so I could start running again and stretching that idea out. It’s been harder to get back into running because of my energy levels—they fluctuate some, I can handle a normal day’s work, even a hard day’s work, but the next day is painful. So running every two days is not an option still which is frustrating.

Don’t start self-diagnosing because it can get kind of depressing. My low days would be when I started reading all the journal studies and everything and the idea of once your refractory lymphoma, the percentages maybe start going down a bit. But I never really paid attention to percentages, I try to stay away from them because they’re just percentages based off of past history where especially earlier on they didn’t understand what they’re dealing with. So there was this higher mortality rate and so the improvements that were made, there are all sorts of factors. Location study, the age of people, the stage of the cancer people are in. Here at Mayo, they’re doing fairly good stuff and the doctors are really good about saying, ‘you know, we’re here to get rid of the cancer, you’re not here to sustain your life for a few more years’.

The longer term perspective I guess—for two years—they keep closer tabs on you, that’s the two year window where there is higher recurrence then the percentages drop off dramatically afterwards. Your body is strong enough to take a lot of hits.

Is that something you learned through this entire process—how much your body can handle?

First of all, you gain perspective for your age, so your body is able to handle that type of abuse a lot easier than someone that’s older and while the chemo had 10 different rounds, and three different strengths of chemo, that does not set me back for life, probably, but if you’re older you have to go through these types of things, it takes longer to recover if you do recover, but there are diminishing returns. Also, I’m at this good mental state I’m able to handle, where as, the older you are, the more this chemo might affect you or of you’re young, now when I think about those things I just shake my head and think, man that’s terrible. Then you get into the idea of being able to relate better to other people who have gone through those things. It’s a club you know, you join this club and you can try to empathize with people as much as you want, but when you go through it, then you know and can say, ‘I’ve been through it,’ and the other person that maybe needs help, they’re more apt to talk to me, who has been through it which is a nice little ministry thing.

How would you stay positive and tell others to maintain that life balance going through a similar treatment journey?

It’s a number of decisions that have to take place. Choosing to have a faith is a good thing, making a decision to just keep fighting, having people around you to fight for, because this is one of the aspects of death—that, people die so, that happens and the fact that we can have these types of treatments that do allow us to survive a lot longer than we would have in the past, that’s just a bonus, I think.

So, that’s the other thing is well, you know you’re going to die, so expect that, plan for it, in a healthy way.

Another thing you can do with this is to question God. If God gave you this for a reason, I think again of that theology. I think the other side of it is well, you can shake your fist at God and say, why did you do this to me? I just went through nine years of school, I have two kids, another on the way, and they’re all three girls, why now? It doesn’t make sense, does it? That’s healthy, I think some people think that’s healthy. We’re supposed to put on a good face, we’ll battle through this, being honest about it. Emotionally, I don’t get as emotional, but when I do, it’s normally, hopefully in a more even-keel sort of way. I think it’s something you foster, it doesn’t come naturally.

How is life for you now?

It’s fine. One day I went to church and then I mowed the lawn and we did some random things around the house. And then the next day I was just dead. Same thing when I helped my in laws move, the next day I was totally shot. I couldn’t help load the rest of the truck really, I took a break, but I rebounded the next day. So, those are the kind of things now, where if I get a real hard day of work in it’s tough. My wife, Bethany, has been really understanding. If I don’t do things around the house one day, I don’t have to feel as bad because she doesn’t have some kind of high on me. I just try to get through all the facts and clutter and say this is what I have to deal with. Not that I’m trying to impose my life on other people, but it’s just they way it is.

Is that your advice to people—to just deal with it?

Deal with it. In my own way being honest about how I’m feeling that day. I felt pathetic, physically traumatized, and so people understood. If you’re bald and you have no hair on your face, people just feel sorry for you.

Did you learn anything about yourself throughout this whole process?

I felt like I was fairly prepared for it. So that was only validated just mentally, spiritually, physically, prepared for it. I really enjoy my time—even when I was sick, I had a good attitude, like that I would say as far as chemical functioning, going with who I am, just very outgoing, gregarious, and so me interacting with doctors, it was the nurses that were a lot of fun. Just being positive and joking around with them, that was fun. Nurses are on the front line all the time and they’re getting beaten down, everything can get kind of depressing so it was fun to support them.

Most of it was just validations on what I had already done and I was just ready to go.

Proof that you can make it through, you can handle it.

I can’t say I’m oblivious to it all because I feel like I’m observant enough to know what I’m going through to know what I’m feeling and I’m not trying to paste a smile on my face. I’m trying to question where I can and learn.

One thing I did learn how to do—I knew when I needed help. I didn’t try to do things myself. When I did try to do things, I tried to keep a healthy perspective on how much I could do but I just knew that I was limited and other people around me had to know I was limited and they did. .

As you look to the next year and a half how are you feeling about these next steps?

My doctors are good—Dr. Johnston—he left a healthy perspective and said just look forward, we’re not going to say let’s prepare for the worst. Live life how you’re supposed to live it and then, if you get sick, you get sick. So that’s the way it is. That’s the way I would have done it anyway, but that’s another example of the doctors doing well by their patient. Not to think about it too much and dwell on things. I laugh at myself and take pictures of myself. I dressed up like Heisenberg (Breaking Bad character).

Update: Peter says he is getting ready to start new vaccinations in December “as if he were a child” as a repercussion of his stem cell transplant. He has been symptom free and remains cancer free after receiving normal blood test results in September. 

Patient Profile: Peter Moen “Live Life How You’re Supposed to Live It”