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Red Cells

ABOUT JOE ROCHE

I am channeling this message to you through my parents as I have something important to both share and ask of you.

HI, MY NAME IS JOE ROCHE AND I LOST MY LIFE TO CANCER.

And just to be upfront, by the end of my story, I will be asking for a donation but, much more importantly, I'm going to ask you to do something. It's a request that might save your life or the life of someone you love. So let's get started.

 

First of all, I was an average 22 year old young man with my entire life ahead of me when I died.

 

I have two loving parents, a twin brother and a beautiful girlfriend. Life was good in our little middle class neighborhood. My mom is a teacher and my dad a businessman. Mom and dad were involved in my life and loved spending time with both me and my brother with lots of corny home movies to prove it!

 

As for me, I was a very active kid and played all kinds of sports like soccer…basketball… wrestling… football…and my favorite, lacrosse!

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My hobbies included stuff like airsoft, skateboarding, snowboarding, fishing, video games and plain old hanging with my friends. You can probably relate.

Besides a broken bone or a few stitches here and there, I was never sick.

 

Well, enough about my background. Probably not too different from yours. However, as I look back, things started to change for me in 2019.

I remember my mood starting to get worse and having low energy. It got to the point where I mentioned it to my parents and they scheduled a doctor’s appointment. The doctor ordered blood tests and an MRI. After reviewing, the doctor said I had a small benign tumor on my pituitary gland, which is in your brain, but that it was nothing to worry about.

What the blood tests did show is that my testosterone level was at the low end of normal and the doctor said it might be causing the lack of energy and moodiness. The doctor wanted me to try and increase my testosterone levels naturally through exercise and diet before trying medication.

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So, I did that and went back to work and school and continued to do my thing when in October of 2020 I became really sick. Here is where you need to pay attention.

 

I started drinking a lot of water and to the point that I could not quench my thirst. Then, I would get so tired that I could barely stay awake long enough to have a conversation.

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It got so bad that on October 18th of 2020, my parents had to rush me to the ER. It was a week or so later that I got the bad news. You have CANCER!

 

Trust me, those are the three words you never want to hear! I could not believe this was happening to me because I had never been sick plus there was no family history of cancer.

 

I learned that I had a rare blood cancer called Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoma. My type of cancer caused the uncontrolled production of white blood cells that would ultimately lead to a compromised immune system.

My body was producing so many T-cells that it caused lesions in my bones which ultimately led to fractures in my arm and vertebrae. The level of calcium in my blood became so toxic that it could have killed my kidneys if action wasn’t taken. Not a good time.

So here is the scary part. The treatment for this type of cancer involves all types of tests and exams including bone marrow biopsies. This is where they insert a needle into your spine to extract a sample of your marrow. Trust me when I say this, you don’t want to experience this because it is painful and I had six of them.

There is also chemotherapy which involves you having a port surgically inserted into your chest or neck (I had both) so the doctors can literally pump toxic chemicals into you every couple of weeks in order to kill off the cancer. I had 8 rounds of chemotherapy.

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And yes, all that they say about chemotherapy is true: hair loss, extreme nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, fever, and lack of energy and appetite. All you want to do is crawl in bed and sleep, provided the bed will stop spinning!

 

Next, and what is supposed to be the best chance for a cure is a bone marrow transplant. This is a one-month hospital stay in which the doctors must first harvest your stem cells. The process for this is like kidney dialysis where they run your blood through a machine to extract the stem cells.

Once done, they admit you to the hospital and pump you full of high dose chemo drugs that are designed to kill off your bone marrow and hopefully… the remaining cancer cells. Fun stuff.

After the chemo drugs have done their job, the doctors then re-introduce your stem cells in hopes that they will rebuild your bone marrow and your immune system with it.

 

Unfortunately for me, the process worked in some areas but not in others. After just a few weeks, I got sick again and the doctors informed me that the lymphoma had spread to my liver and brain. Honestly, I think it spread long before this point.

My doctors were at a loss for what to do so they suggested I get a second opinion. I did, which prescribed a different treatment plan but, before I could really get started, I ended up having a lymphoma-induced stroke that ended up taking my life.

A two-year study at the Mayo Clinic shockingly found that almost nine out of ten patients, 88%, who seek a second opinion go home with a new or refined diagnosis - changing their care plan and potentially their lives. Just 12% receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct. That's not just for patients with Adult T-cell Lymphoma, that's for every diagnosis!

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And not just any cancer. A rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affects 80,000 men and women in the United States each year and takes the lives of over 20,000 annually. We have to stop this disease but doctors simply don’t know as much about lymphoma as they do other cancers like breast, colon or prostate cancer.

So here is my request. Please take a few moments to donate today. My parents will make sure that 100% of your donation goes to finding a cure for my type of lymphoma and helping others affected by this disease get a second opinion. My second opinion suggested a revised course of action, but I got it too late to find out what difference it could have made.

That's why I'm telling you all this. I was an average, ordinary young man, who had never been sick a day in my life, with a loving family and girlfriend, and with my whole life in front of me. Then BAM! CANCER!

Please donate, and please don't wait to get a second opinion! Your support and your action save a life. Maybe your own.

Thank you!

Joe

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