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Wayne Reeder

Leukemia

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for prevalent cancers we treat

Video: Wayne Reeder - Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Survivor

Wayne Reeder - Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Survivor

No case is typical. You should not expect to experience these results.

Wayne and Linda's journey with cancer

Overview

My story

Thanksgiving Day of 2011 was the first big turning point in my fight with cancer. I was sitting at the dinner table with my wife, Linda, and our two sons, when I couldn’t even swallow a sip of water, let alone get the turkey down.

I was scared. Five years earlier, I had gone to a hospital near my home in Colorado with a painful spider bite on my leg. The doctor noticed the swelling on my neck and felt around my glands and throat. I thought it was strange that he was focused more on my neck than the spider bite. I think she knew when she looked at me that I had a problem.

Days later I learned that my problem was cancer. I was sent to a cancer hospital, where I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The doctor said I had the disease for a while and said we were going to “watch and wait” to see how things progressed. I told him I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to watch, either. I wanted to get better.

I went for a second opinion and it was pretty much the same. So I stopped going to cancer doctors because the ones I had met up to that point didn’t do anything for me. I mean, I wouldn’t take my car to a mechanic if he couldn’t fix it, either.

Choosing CTCA

On Thanksgiving of 2011, the day I couldn’t swallow, I saw a television commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). I got up from the table and made the call. I said to my wife, what have I got to lose?

I told the woman on the phone about my diagnosis in 2006 and she asked if I wanted to talk to a CTCA patient who had a similar cancer as mine. I did. My conversation with this patient – especially hearing about how she was treated at CTCA – cemented my decision. I was going to CTCA for treatment.

Within a few days, I was on a plane to Phoenix for my first visit to the hospital in Goodyear, Arizona. A limo driver greeted me at the airport and took me straight to the hospital.

My first impression? I couldn’t even believe it was a hospital. It didn’t smell like a hospital, and everyone treated me so good from the moment I walked through the door. When I got to the front desk, I got a schedule of everything I would be doing over the next five days, from blood tests to CT scans to tests I had never heard of. I was surprised how easy everything was made for me. It was like clockwork.

Meeting Dr. Jason Niu was another big turning point in my fight with cancer. I will never forget him because he was the first doctor who offered me both help and hope. Dr. Niu told me he could get my cancer into remission by the early summer, which was only six months away.

Those five years without treatment were five years of nothing but stress from the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to bed at night. Coming to CTCA cut down on my stress.

Starting treatment

In early December, I had my first round of chemotherapy. The doctors on my care team came up with a combination of two chemotherapy drugs that a recent study showed would be better than traditional chemotherapy. I felt like I was getting the most advanced treatment possible for my cancer.

My first treatment was over two days: eight hours on the first day and four hours on the second, followed by a shot to help build up my blood cells. With the swelling in my neck down, I was feeling good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was in pain after my first treatment. In fact, I was feeling pretty beat up, my bones especially. But it didn’t last long. One of the great things about CTCA is that you have a whole team of doctors and clinicians who can handle anything that comes up.

During my treatment, I saw a naturopathic physician, a nutritionist and a physical therapist. I had acupuncture and massage therapy to help with the pain of treatment and with my arthritis. I took supplements to reduce inflammation and fatigue. These therapies worked hand in hand, helping with the healing process.

My wife, Linda, liked the holistic care we both got at CTCA. She describes it as healing for your body, mind and spirit. I’ve been married to Linda for most of my life so it’s important to me that she gets treated right, too. As my caregiver, Linda was able to get massages and get her hair and nails done. She called coming to CTCA her spa vacation.

Being part of the team

At CTCA, it really felt like Linda and I were important. None of the clinicians ever said, this is what I’m doing and when I’m going to do it. Instead, they would say, this is what I’d like to do for you. What do you think? They didn’t force anything on us. Linda and I made the final decision on every treatment.

When I met Dr. Niu the first time, he spent at least 30 minutes with me, going over a comprehensive plan for my treatment and including me at every step along the way. I felt real comfortable with him because he took the time to explain everything and answer every question Linda and I had.

Dr. Niu told me I would need four or five treatments, six at the most. It worked out just as he said. I feel much better these days. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt as good as I do now. I’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of hope and a new outlook on life.

Testimonial from Linda Reeder, Wayne’s wife and caregiver

My husband and I live about 25 miles southwest of Denver. We moved here from Ohio in 2002. Over the course of that first year, Wayne, who was about 56 at the time, was having a hard time breathing. He had bronchitis when we’d first moved, and we figured that plus the oxygen changes living at a higher elevation were responsible for his labored breathing. He was always tired, and would often fall asleep in the middle of the day, which he’d never done before. Still, we never thought much of it.

Then one day, he got a spider bite while he was unloading boxes in the garage. His leg swelled and was sore to the touch. Even his pants touching his leg was painful. It was a weekend so we went to the emergency room at the hospital across the street from us. The doctor examined the bite and the swelling, and was also feeling my husband’s neck. We weren’t sure why, but could see she was concerned about something she noticed there. She told Wayne to see our family doctor the next day about the spider bite.

The next day, our family doctor started feeling Wayne’s neck, too. It had swollen so gradually that we hadn’t even noticed. He went for blood tests, and our doctor gave us the name of a medical center where we needed to go to get the results of the test.

When we arrived at that medical center, we saw the word “cancer” on the outside. Inside, we could see that there were many people there who were very ill. We went to the check-in desk certain that we were in the wrong place. We just need the results of a blood test, we explained. We were assured that we were in the right place. Soon enough, we were brought to meet a doctor, who told us that, just going by my husband’s blood counts, he was fairly certain that he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and that it would probably end his life. This moment was how we found out that Wayne had cancer.

My sister, who is a nurse, urged us to get a second opinion, so we traveled to another cancer center. When we finally got to our appointment, the diagnosis was confirmed as chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Again, we were told there was nothing that could be done. The doctor there suggested consulting with a nutritionist, which we did, but beyond that, the only thing to do was wait.

Wayne went five years without treatment. By November of 2011, his lymph nodes had become so swollen that he could barely swallow. He was scared. He saw a commercial for CTCA and decided to call, really because he felt he had nothing to lose. That was on Thanksgiving day. Arrangements for his visit were made almost immediately—the flight, the hotel, the doctors. For the first time, we didn’t feel alone.

Back to normal

Wayne had chemotherapy at CTCA, with fortunately very few side effects. It was the injected medication that helps build up white blood cell counts, delivered after the chemotherapy, which caused the most pain. But even that was just a day of aching. He did feel tired, but he was tired anyway, so that was not a bother.

As a caregiver, I found all the information provided to us at CTCA to be enormously helpful. You can always spot the new patients there because they are carrying around a briefcase. Those briefcases are filled with cards from each doctor, with their photograph and contact information, along with all the educational materials we needed. The Cancer Fighters Care Network also proved a wonderful resource for information.

My job was to get my husband where he needed to be and when he needed to be there. While he was having chemotherapy, I would meet with an administrator to arrange his treatment schedule, making sure it was coordinated with the time I could take off from my work. CTCA made it easy. The hardest thing was making sure we got to the airport on time.

Today my husband is doing wonderfully. He has more energy than I do. His spirits are so high. A huge weight was lifted from our lives when we got to CTCA. Just to hear someone offer him some kind of help and hope—that made all the difference.

The caregiver-patient relationship

As a caregiver, I’ve learned that one of the best things I can do is homework. I had to find out the information because sometimes my husband just didn’t want to know. Traveling with him for all his appointments was important, too. Harsh treatments can leave people confused, and cancer is scary. Patients often need someone else to remember, to organize, to ask questions.

And patients, in turn, need to not worry about putting on a brave face. Many of us are susceptible to suffering in silence, but that doesn’t really help. If you’re not feeling well, it’s okay to tell someone.

At CTCA, everything is about the patient. As a caregiver, I learned so much about what that means from the care team responsible for getting my husband well again.

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