About every three minutes, a person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every nine minutes, someone dies from one.
Chances are you likely know someone impacted by this disease and not even know it.
Recently, one of our own found himself faced with a blood cancer diagnosis. Photographer Dave Wignall has courageously worked through most of his treatment and he inspired us to want to give back.
Here is his story:
For more than 14 years, Dave has worked hand-in-hand with WATE 6 on Your Side’s Don Dare. Dave and Don spend their days trying to get answers for viewers as part of their 6 On Your Side Investigations.
That often leads them to some dangerous confrontations but this past year, the 47-year-old found himself in a much different kind of battle.
Dave didn’t realize it at first, but he was about to be in the fight of his life.
He remembers his first symptom like this, “I had this nagging cough….I just couldn’t shake it.”
A yearly physical later revealed a mass near his lungs. Further testing led to a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
“It was a huge shock,” Dave told WATE 6 on Your Side Anchor Kristin Farley, “It was like being hit by a Mack truck…it came outta no where.”
Dave’s Oncologist Dr. Saji Eapen assessed his condition and together they decided the best course of action.
The Doctor explained why chemo was the first line of attack, “His lymphoma in middle of chest where critical organs are packed together…inclduing the heart…so one has to consider long term toxicity from treatments.”
Dave almost immediately moved in with his parents in Oak Ridge and started treatment, not knowing how his body would react.
“I took 6 weeks off work when I first got diagnosed.” Dave explained. “We did 2 rounds of chemo to see how my body was going to tolerate it….so then they gave me green light to come back to work.”
After just 2 rounds of chemo, he started using a portable pump.
Each day for one week, Dave would visit the clinic to get his medication and then come into work covering things like Operation Honor Guard and our Senate Debate, all while his chemo was being pumped into his body from his pack.
Then, he would have 2 weeks off chemo, before starting this routine all over again for the next 3 months.
Dr. Eapen told us, “If we did not have the pump, the other option would be to put him in hospital for a week where he would get daily infusion. This way he can carry on with his daily routine.”
That daily routine, along with visits from his family and close friends helped Dave stay optimistic, even on the most difficult days.
“It is very important that you have that positive outlook so that you have the motivation to go through all of this,” the doctor explained.
We are happy to say that Dave just recently had a scan that showed no signs of the cancer.
His port for chemo was also removed. Dave says he was blessed to have the support and help of his parents, and did not turn to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for services.
He is sharing his story though as anchor Kristin Farley kicks of a fundraising campaign for LLS called Man and Woman of the Year.
The 10-week fundraising drive kicks off February 21st.
Every dollar helps local patients with co-pays for treatments, support groups and of course research to one day find a cure.