Health really is everything
His neck and underarms were swollen. His skin itched, particularly on his arms. Sleeping at night was impossible.
The symptoms started five years ago. He was 50 then. He'd been fit and healthy all his life. The diagnosis was not pleasant.
He had contracted chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer, says mayoclinic.com , of the blood and bone marrow — bone marrow being “the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.”
CLL affects a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help the body fight infection. It produces abnormal, ineffective lymphocytes. The abnormal cells may eventually crowd out the healthy cells, killing the patient.
The silver lining: CLL typically progresses more slowly than other types of leukemia. Initially, doctors monitored the disease's progress. He would not receive his first chemotherapy treatment for six months.
The treatment eased his symptoms quickly. He was symptom-free for almost one year. But the abnormal cells continued to multiply. His second chemo treatment staved them off for five more months.
One challenge with chemo is that the body quickly becomes resistant to it. Doctors have to apply different chemo blends to overcome resistance. For the next few years, the different blends worked well.
Until November 2012.
His leukemia transformed from a chronic disease to a more aggressive form, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML multiples abnormal cells at an aggressive rate, posing a real concern for the patient.
But he still had plenty of hope.
All he needed was the right chemo treatment to beat back and stabilize the illness. Then he could receive a bone marrow transplant from a donor.
That procedure would “help re-establish healthy stem cells by replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells that will regenerate healthy bone marrow,” says mayoclinic.com .
He had a donor lined up and took a heavy dosage of chemo, but he did not stabilize. He lined up another donor and was almost ready for the transplant, but his body failed to stabilize again.
Now he is fighting for his life.
His doctors are pulling out all the stops, applying the most aggressive blends of chemo they have. But the AML has resisted and gotten stronger. The doctors say there is only a 20-percent chance the new treatment will work.
What's worse is that chemo wreaks havoc on the body. Each aggressive treatment requires a lengthy hospital stay. That is where he is as you read this.
His name is Don Krieger, a friend of mine and my family's for more than 40 years. He's one of the funniest, most cheerful people you could ever meet. And all who know him marvel at the grace and humor with which he is fighting this disease.
I share his story for the simple reason that he, and so many like him, could use our prayers. Prayer works.
I write about him because we can all do something to help him. We can consider becoming bone marrow donors to help heal others like Don (go to marrow.org ).
At the very least, we can donate blood on a regular basis. Patients like Don need whole blood almost daily.
But mainly I write about Don because he is an amazing father, husband, son, brother and friend. Those of us lucky to know him can't image a world without him in it.
Don knows better than most that too many of us take our blessings for granted. He knows that this old maxim is true: “If you have your health, you really do have everything.”
We pray that he beats the odds and makes it back to good health.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 dead in New Kensington shooting
- Rossi: Blount brings back Steelers’ swagger
- Steelers re-sign Keisel to bolster depth on defensive line
- Pittsburgh eagle webcam closes down for year
- Steelers are hoping to mirror Eagles’ full-bore, no-huddle offense
- Run game not primary focal point for Steelers
- All Pittsburgh Public Schools students to get free lunches starting this year
- Pittsburgh restaurants vie for title at Taste of the Championships
- Pitt, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- Fight over August Wilson Center triggers series of legal skirmishes
- Judge imposes gag order in Pittsburgh case that sparked protest