Reserve Police Officer Jim Rahm - Caregiver
Daughter: Anna (Osteosarcoma)
In July 2009, my youngest daughter Anna, age 17, ready to start her senior year, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare cancer that primarily affects children and young adults. Even rarer was the location. A mass had grown at the base of her spine and enveloped her right pelvic bone including surrounding vessels and nerves of her right leg.
After frank discussions with oncology doctors, specialists, surgeons, and after obtaining not just a second, but a third opinion,we commenced on a course to save my daughter’s life. Prior to surgery, a three month regimen of potent chemical poisons developed specifically to kill cancer would lay waste to my little girl. What followed the chemotherapy was a 15 hour surgery to remove her right leg, right pelvis, and portions of her lower spine. Days later, a six hour spinal surgery was completed. After healing from the surgeries, another four months of chemotherapy was administered.
In all, Anna spent close to a year- most of which involved hospitalization - fighting her courageous battle. My wife Lynnette rarely left Anna’s room during her hospitalization. In a family effort, I, along with Anna’s older brother and sisters assisted in the Caregiver roleto provide continuous love and support during her ordeal.
It was during Anna’s heroic battle that my family was introduced to Sergeants Mary Kite and Whit Pauly from the Department’s Wellness Unit. They gave my family support during a time of great uncertainty. As representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department and Cancer Support Group, their numerous phone calls and hospital visits were greatly appreciated.
Now, five years later, Anna is attending a local university and looking forward to obtaining her BA degree in 2015. Her story is one of unmatched strength and determination.
The definition of the word support is to “give confidence or comfort to.” As a Group, that is our mission.
If you have any questions, please contact Reserve Officer Jim Rahm, Department Wellness Unit, (818)-219-6333, Detective Amy Sundquist, Juvenile Division at (909) 208-8451 or Sgt. Mary Kite, Department Wellness Coordinator at (213) 944-6819.
Prior to being diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was a Sergeant II, Jail Division Watch Commander with over 31 years of service. My career intentions were to complete a few more years in the DROP program and then call it quits. After a routine annual physical which included PSA blood testing, I was told that I had prostate cancer. This news literally changed my life, career plans and my future with my wife and family. After much contemplation, I elected to have my prostate removed by my urologist/surgeon. Six months later, my cancer returned and I elected to start treatment at the City of Hope. There, I underwent six weeks of radiation therapy, followed by two years of hormonal treatment (lupron). Currently my cancer is in remission and I have a blood test every 4 months.
Upon retiring in November 2005, I was contacted by the Los Angeles Police Department Wellness coordinator and asked to be a founding member of a cancer support group. This evolved into the formation of the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group (LAPCSG). Our goal is to educate the Police community about cancer awareness, the importance of getting annual physicals and also to be there for other cancer survivors. There is a tremendous amount of love, courage and hope within the LAPCSG. I’ve learned a lot about cancer and how to live with it. If I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten a second opinion and started my treatment at the City of Hope.
My request to all those who read this testimonial is to be aware of any physical changes you may be experiencing as you grow older. Get your annual physical and ask your doctor to test your blood for cancer related indicators.
What has helped me on my journey is the love, care and concern of my family and friends. Also my deep spiritual belief and practices and being a member of the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group. Anyone can contact me through our web site, www.lapcsg.org which will includes my email address and phone number.
Recommended reading: Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillin and the Bible.
Husband Frank: Multiple Myeloma
As Frank’s wife and caregiver, I don’t know exactly where to begin. In October 2005, Frank was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which is a type of blood cancer that has no cure. His diagnosis was purely coincidental, because he had no symptoms. We were simply updating our life insurance policy, which required Frank to submit to a physical examination and before we knew it, Frank was in the hospital diagnosed with Myeloma and fighting near kidney failure caused by the cancer.
The first oncologist who spoke with us told us he had five to eight years to live. She had the bedside manner of a toad, not very comforting at all. Frank’s sister Cruz, who also happens to be a doctor, recommended we get a second opinion and assisted us in getting a transfer to the City of Hope. We found that this hospital really lives up to its name. We noticed a difference in attitude right away. Frank was accepted into one of many trial studies the City of Hope has for his type of cancer. He went through several rounds of chemotherapy and had two stem cell transplants within a one-year period. We were on the cutting edge of accessing new drugs that have come out or will be available soon just for the treatment of Multiple Myeloma. These drugs are designed to control the disease and keep people in remission for longer periods of time, some as long as fifteen years. Frank’s doctors at the City of Hope were very optimistic and really cared about Frank’s physical and mental well being, which lends itself to the one very important matter…Get a second opinion! Your life may depend on it.
Well, that is the story of how cancer crept into our lives. In some ways, it is the beginning of how our life together has started all over again. As a couple, we don’t dwell on it. I’m sure Frank probably thinks about it all the time, but it doesn’t dictate to us what we will or will not do in life. We continue to move forward. Frank’s attitude and positive nature has carried us both through some very dark times as he took on his cancer. Sure there were tears, and rightfully so, he was entitled to them, we both were. Frank always felt I deserved an apology for his “moments.” Which never occurred to me. Frank’s nature is to place others first, especially me. I feel like I’m the luckiest woman in the world. During his sickest moments, when he couldn’t get out of bed or lift his head off his pillow, he would feel guilty as though somehow he was the cause for everything going on with him and in the next moment; he would be cracking jokes and laughing at himself. People have asked me how I have been able to deal with all of this. They comment about how strong I am. Well, I’m only as strong as Frank. We are a team. As a caregiver, I have a lot to do and a lot to think about. I always try to think ahead and to prepare for the “what ifs.” But what I have ultimately learned from this, is that I can prepare all I want, but I am not in control of the future. I have a strong belief in commitment. It goes back to those words…in sickness and in health. Frank is the most important person in my life and I would only be half the person I am now, if not for him. I want to see to it that he is not just taken care of, but that he does not have to worry about anything other than getting better and feeling healthy.
Frank is now in complete remission and he is back to work driving a truck. This has changed us in many ways that I can’t explain or find words for. Frank is much more outgoing, even speaking in public now, which is something, he never would have done in the past. He is eager to share his experience with others and to educate them the importance of early detection. Our time with the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group has been invaluable. We have developed life long friendships with some very special people.
Frank always tells me that he is a lover, not a fighter. Well, I will tell you differently. Frank is a fighter too, because he’ll never allow this disease to overrun him or our life together. He has an incredible will to get better and to live. He is my hero.
Simi Valley, Calif. | age 8
In November 2010, a few days before her 5-year-old son Ryan was to undergo a bone marrow transplant from a donor they had never met, Maggie Compton made a print of Ryan’s tiny hand on a blank greeting card, which she planned to send to Ryan’s donor with her own thank-you letter.
For the next 2½ years she could never finish her letter because “words seemed so insignificant.” Recently learning she could thank the donor in person May 10 at City of Hope’s Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, she finally found her muse, and put her gratitude into words. She also helped Ryan craft a message: “Thank you for saving my life.”
“You gave our young son a second chance at life when it seemed that all his options had run out,” Compton wrote to the donor. “You must have a super hero’s immune system and energy, because that is what you gave him when you shared your marrow.” Looking at the boy who loves swimming and karate, and is so boundlessly energetic he’ll start running during a four-mile walk, “it’s hard to tell now that he was ever sick,” she added.
That was not the case during much of Ryan’s life. In March 2007, at just 22 months old, Ryan turned lethargic and started spiking high fevers. Initially diagnosed as the flu, the illness soon was re-diagnosed as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He underwent intensive chemotherapy over the next 3 ½ years, a period she described as “heartbreaking, terrifying, traumatizing and difficult.” His family celebrated the end of the treatment with an “epic camping trip” at Lake Powell. Ten days later, Ryan relapsed.
This time, the disease returned with a vengeance, seemingly immune to bombardments of extremely aggressive chemotherapy. He underwent four days of radiation so intense it maxed out his lifetime limit. “It made the first 3 ½ years seem easy,” recalled Compton. “He was at the end of the line.” His only hope was a bone marrow transplant, yet given their ancestry (Compton is Mexican-American, and her husband, Jason, is Polish, German, Russian and American Indian) they feared that finding Ryan’s genetic twin would be unlikely. They were stunned when a “perfect match” was identified and willing to donate.
However, when residual leukemia cells were found in Ryan’s body, transplant plans were briefly halted as the medical team and family regrouped. “We decided together as a team to take a chance and go forward with the transplant even though he was at high risk for transplant failure.” The night the donor cells arrived, Ryan stayed awake to watch the cells in the IV bag drip into his body. His mother has a photo of him smiling up at the bag. “He kept saying, ‘my new blood.’”
Compton also has photos of Ryan wearing his own miniature LAPD uniform. Throughout the years of his illness, a faithful procession of police and firefighters Compton calls his “honorary aunts and uncles” helped sustain the family financially and emotionally. LAPD Chief Beck even visited Ryan in the hospital while he was recovering from his transplant, bringing an LAPD teddy bear and a tiny LAPD Chief’s badge on a keychain. “There’s a brotherhood, a circle that goes on when someone’s in trouble. You help them out,” Jason Compton said.
One of her favorite photos of Ryan was taken in the Utah desert, where in November 2011 his family celebrated his one-year post-transplant anniversary with a three-mile hike. “He hadn’t been permitted to play around sand and mud, and finally he got to be a little kid and play with dirt and rocks. He just made up for lost time.”
In Feb. 2012, Ryan went off all his meds, and is now powered by his donor’s blood. “Ryan is a very happy little boy who loves life,” Compton wrote in her moving letter. He helps his family raise funds for organizations like St. Baldrick’s and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and enjoys coming back to City of Hope to give toys to children in the pediatric unit where he once lived. “We do our best as a family to help others the way we were helped during our darkest days,” she added.
Years of treatment have taken a toll, however. Ryan has Mixed Expressive-Receptive Disorder. “It’s like a speech delay so he’s not as eloquent as a typical 8-year-old,” said Compton. Yet, he is quickly catching up with his peers and loves working with occupational and speech therapists and with the aide who helps keep him on task in class.
When Ryan was first diagnosed, the Comptons enrolled in the Be the Match bone marrow registry, never suspecting their son would need a transplant. “I really do hope we’ll be able to donate at least once. I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s better than any gift to give somebody a second chance at life – cancer free.”
Ryan’s illness has transformed all their lives. Compton, a geologist, deferred plans to teach college so she can help Ryan and her sisters’ children, whom she and her husband are also raising, “get caught up on everything they missed out on while our son was ill.”
“We want you to know that we live more deeply because of this entire experience and also because of the second chance at life that you gave our son,” Compton wrote her donor. This summer, for instance, instead of replacing pipes and windows in their house, they’re going to visit friends in Europe.
“I just feel that life is so short,” said Compton during a recent interview. Watching Ryan’s hand pilot a tiny Matchbox car along the table, she added, “Who knows what the future holds for him? Jason is a police officer. I have a perspective that any of us could walk out the door and not come back. We only have one life and it’s fleeting and it’s precious and there’s so much beauty and goodness in it. We have learned to try to focus on that. That’s the biggest lesson we’ve learned from this.”
To Ryan’s new “blood relative,” whom she considers a permanent member of their family, Compton wrote, “We often silently thank you as we watch our son sleep soundly, watch him run, or watch him do just about anything. We can’t wait to meet you and thank you in person and to share our son with you, so that you can see with your very own eyes what an amazing thing you have done for our family.”
Robbery Homicide Division
As a child I received radical surgery and massive radiation treatment for cancer of the left parotid gland. I came on the job and I lived cancer free for 43 years.
Four years ago I had a sore throat isolated to my left side. From my initial doctor visit, biopsy, diagnoses, multiple consultations and the decision to have major re-constructive surgery and radiation again was less than 60 days. My unique surgery is a story in itself.
Which brings us to the Los Angeles Cancer Support Group (LAPCSG).
What can we offer diagnosed officers, employees, their family members or their your care givers?
There is someone in this group that has your particular cancer. Has been treated at your hospital. Received your treatments. Asked your questions. Have your concerns. It only takes a telephone call, an e-mail, a stop in the hallway or on the street to reach us.
one of Chuck’s favorite web sites spohnc.org
(Kevinsdeaccat is a blog journey written by Laura during her battle with cancer. This may not be for everyone but Laura and I shared the same doctor, surgery and attitude.)
D-III (retired ’89) LAPD
Treatments to date: radical prostatectomy (surgery), radiation, hormone therapy
I was diagnosed in 2000 at the age of 56 through a routine PSA blood test. No symptoms were previously experienced. My initial PSA was 9.3 and the post surgical Gleason score was 4+3. These markers indicate a relatively advanced stage of the cancer.
My primary cancer care physician is a urologist/surgeon, formerly on staff at Mayo Clinic, with many years of experience in his field. He came highly recommended and has turned out to be a skilled and caring doctor with a wonderfully humorous bedside manner. He is extremely thorough and spends a lot of time during my regular visits to his office. I note these attributes as a guideline for selecting your physician when you are diagnosed. It does make a difference!
After my diagnosis I conducted extensive research on prostate cancer and became involved in several online groups to assist others during their treatment for prostate cancer. Having been exposed to Agent Orange during a tour in Vietnam, I also became aware of the correlation between the defoliant and several cancers including that of the prostate. Members should be aware that the Veterans Administration provides assistance and benefits to any veteran exposed to Agent Orange during periods of active treatment for these cancers.
I am available anytime through email at email@example.com or by my cell phone at (213) 509-3778 to assist anyone who would like to discuss my experiences dealing with the disease.
Report to the Nation on Prostate Cancer, A Guide for Men and Their Families. A copy can be obtained by contacting the Prostate Cancer Foundation at (310) 570-4700 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Their website is: www.prostatecancerfoundation.org
Brother: Martin Franco (Colon Rectal Cancer)
I will never forget the Saturday morning in 2003 that changed my life forever. My brother Martin, the baby in our family, called and told me he was diagnosed with cancer (colon rectal cancer). My first reaction was total shock. In the phone conversation with him I tried to stay positive. I reassured him that I would be there for him. But when I hung up the phone, all my emotions took over and I cried. I couldn’t believe that my brother, who was in his early thirties, had cancer! I was scared. I wanted to just scream out loud, because he’s a good guy and these things shouldn’t happen to good guys! At first, I felt helpless, but I knew I had to be strong for him if I was going to help him with his illness.
We come from a big family, which is helpful and I am one of five caregivers for Martin. I have learned over the years that each of us deals with the cancer in different ways. In the beginning, I would get very angry because some family members were going along with their lives like everything was okay and I didn’t understand at the time, that each of us deals with crisis differently. It didn’t mean that they loved Martin any less; it meant that we each have different coping skills. I have a better understanding of that now, which helps me a great deal.
My brother is a tough fighter. He has had two reoccurrences and four surgeries so far and we don’t know what lies ahead. What I do know is that we are never alone, which is one of the wonderful aspects about belonging to a Police family. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Cancer Support Group has treated all of us like family. During one critical incident, when Martin was in the hospital, he was in desperate need of blood. The LAPD immediately set up a blood drive and invited other local agencies to donate and recently, they held a bbq fundraiser at Martin’s assigned division, Rampart.
Being a caregiver for a loved one with cancer can be emotionally hard, at some point you just feel numb, because you don’t know what to do or what to expect. It’s like you’ve entered a different world and have to learn a whole new language. It’s surprising how quickly I learned all the medical terminology related to Martin’s cancer (Chemo, CEA levels, CT, etc…). During treatments, days can often feel long, some are good and some are bad. I have seen my brother at his best and I have seen him at his worst. As a caregiver, although I want to desperately take my brothers pain away, sometimes my only option is to sit with him and comfort him as best I can. I do know that I am on a journey with my brother Martin, his wife and children and I will continue to pray and continue to have hope. If you are a caregiver, I will say listen with your heart, love and care for them as best you can.
I Survived – I’m Alive – I Feel and Look Beautiful.
October 2002, I survived a lumpectomy, 4 series of chemotherapy and 5 1/2 weeks of radiation (everyday). May 2005, I experienced recurring breast cancer, but fortunately
had educated myself and when I was told that I would have to go through treatment again that was when I put my foot down and told the doctor to remove my breasts stating that I am going to kill them first before they kill me.
On May 9, 2005, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and a latissimus dorsi flap (left side) — moves muscle and skin from your back when extra tissue is needed. The flap is made up of skin, fat, muscle and blood vessels. It is tunneled under the skin to the front of the chest. This creates a pocket for an implant.
December 2006 was when I underwent a latissimus dorsi flap for the right side. I have had over 10 major surgeries since October 2002 (actually I lost count), with the next surgery–breast reconstructive plastic surgery–scheduled for May 1, 2007 at 3:00 PM at Huntington Memorial Hospital. A few months later, after being examined by Dr. Leif Rogers, he stated “Debbie, I will see in one year.” I was shocked and excited asking the doctor to repeat what he just said. Again, he stated, “Debbie I will see you in one year.” I became very emotional and started to cry, because it was finally over. When I actually reached my vehicle, I was so happy that I started to jump up with excitement.
I never lost faith and was determined to kill the cancer before it killed me. I have many scars on my back and on my chest, but I am not embarrassed of them. I am grateful to be alive, and do not look or feel deformed in any way. You would never know that I had a bilateral mastectomy or missing both my latissimus muscles unless I told you. I owe my life to Dr. Lauren Kim (Primary Medical Doctor), Dr. James Recabaren (Cancer Surgeon-USC), and, more importantly, to Dr. Brian Cox and Dr. Leif Rogers for giving me back the beauty and the confidence of being a woman. I no longer live in fear and I am sohappy to be alive. I truly feel like a beautiful woman thanks to Dr. Brian Cox and Dr. Leif Rogers (Plastic Surgeons).
Brother: Martin Franco (Colon Rectal Cancer)
I have been involved with the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group since mid 2006. When I found out that my brother, Martin had colon rectal cancer, I was in shock. I felt overwhelmed, because I knew how serious cancer was. The first two years of Martin’s treatments, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions, which, in part, was caused by a fear of the unknown. One day Martin asked me to go to the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group meeting with him. He knew that cancer doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed, but affects the whole family. After going to the cancer support group meeting, I realized what a great need there was to help people who were recovering from cancer. I am a licensed cosmetologist and I offered to provide the cancer support group members with haircuts and manicures. At one of the meetings, a speaker from the American Cancer Society told us about a service they have called “Look Good Feel Good” program, which is set up to assist people who have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy, with how to wear wigs and scarves and to use makeup so that they will maintain a sense of beauty and esteem while going through their treatments. I have since gone through that training. read more…
What I have learned along the way is how important it is bring a sense of normalness to the life of those you love who have cancer.
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