Man's Battles and Beats Cancer Thanks to Adult Stem Cells
By Sandy Mickelson, Messenger News, March 5, 2007
Daymon is certain that adult stem cell treatment saved his life.
Because of the therapy he received to fight his cancer, Daymon says he is healthy today and working once again.
The same doctor that treated 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong also treated Daymon. From Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, he learned first-hand how stem cell treatments can work during a journey that took a year out of his life and sent him to Indiana University.
Daymon, who worked at Electrolux in Webster City, came home one February evening with as he described, “horrendous back pain” in his lower left side.
“I’ve never been sick a day in my life, except I had my tonsils out when I was 10,” he said. “I do mechanic work. I had a little pain the morning and thought I had picked up something wrong. When I got home I could hardly talk.”
Little did he know at the time that leaning up against his right kidney, was a tumor the size of a grapefruit.
“They found the tumor right away, but nobody could figure out where the pain was coming from,” his wife Diane said.
Her husband ended up in Des Moines based Methodist Hospital after hopping from Hamilton Hospital in Webster City followed by a brief stay in Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames. It was in Des Moines that his pain stopped within hours when doctors put in a stent to bypass the kidney.
To “get healthy”, Daymon was actually sent home. All he could eat without throwing up during his six days of hospitalization was ice chips. He had lost almost 20 pounds during that time.
The tumor was considered to only be a mass for some time but the news soon shifted.
“My third CT scan before I came home to get well, they did a biopsy,” Daymon said. “That’s where we found out it could be a seminoma tumor.”
Chemotherapy or radiation is needed to shrink a non-seminoma tumor, but a seminoma tumor can be removed with surgery.
“The tumor was the size of a grapefruit,” Diane said. “It was all dead cells and debris. On the biopsy they had a hard time finding any live cells. There was very little live tissue.”
But that little bit of living matter was all that was needed for Daymon to be diagnosed with testicular cancer on February 23rd.
Daymon had to wait for a urologist and vascular surgeon to be lined up by his oncology surgeon to be part of the team, but they had at least removed the slow-growing tumor already. Gore-Tex would be used to replace part of his colon if they needed to remove it, and since the material was back-ordered, he had to wait that as well.
The longer the surgery took, the more precarious his situation would become. He was told it could take anywhere from four to ten hours.
The vena cava is an artery that runs down the legs and is about the size of the thumb. The tumor had grown around this artery. It took some time, but doctors were able to scrape it free instead of cutting it out.
“About 8 o’clock at night, I came out,” Daymon said. “The first I remember is it’s dark and I thought, ‘Oh, God, what did I lose?”’
Although the tumor had been wrapped around the vena cava, it wasn’t attached to any organs. Nine inches of colon were removed — that’s all.
After having chemotherapy in 1994, Daymon’s mother Patricia died of lung cancer.
“I was scared to death of chemotherapy,” he said. “I watched my mom go through it — it was just horrible watching her go through that.”
But for cancer to start growing elsewhere only one tiny little cell needs to break free. Daymon said that he didn’t have even though he as given a month to think about it.
He maintained a good appetite during treatment and he didn’t get sick. All his hair out as well but he more or less breezed through the chemotherapy he once feared. The oncologist said he was doing well three months later, and he thought he was on his way to getting through his illness.
At the end of June he finished his chemo regimen and his September follow-up appointments all went well.
“The doctor was confident that everything was fine, so I’m confident,” Daymon said. “That’s what you want to hear.”
A dull ache sprung up in his back during work approximately two weeks after his September 6th checkup. He initially thought strained his back by picking something up without using his legs. But the pain did not go away and continued to get worse.
“With your history, it’s important to see the doctor,” said Diane.
“So now I have a history,” he said.
Suggesting that the cancer perhaps came back, was ten year old Mason.
The cancer had indeed moved. A CT scan showed enlarged lymph nodes on his left side. It was Daymon’s 41st birthday.
This new kind of cancer was out of his Des Moines based oncologist league, and he was referred to Lance Armstrong’s Dr. Einhorn at Indiana University.
“We had one shot at this,” Daymon said. “If we can afford it, if insurance will pay for it.” He sighed. “My hair had just grown back and I could finally have a sip of beer.”
Dr. Einhorn agreed to take Daymon as a patient.
“He’s the best in the world,” Daymon said. “He said, ‘Oh, I’ll cure you. We’ll use a stem cell transplant.”
Diane remembers saying, “‘he had chemotherapy once and it came back. What makes you think it would work the second time?’ He said, ‘I’ll knock you down to nothing.”’
And that’s exactly what happened.
Chemotherapy knocked his immune system down to nothing, and Daymon’s own stem cells were harvested.
“Chemotherapy basically is poison and they’re putting it in your veins,” Diane said.
He had to concentrate on staying alive while all his red and white cells were eliminated. When he hit the absolute bottom, his stem cells were injected back into his body. About a week later, the healing began.
Able to recreate platelets, red blood cells, and white cells, the adult stem cells were harvested from Daymon’s bone marrow.
“The stem cells looked like tomato soup,” Diane said. “They spin the stem cells out and put your own blood back in you.”
Daymon said he could almost feel the very second the stem cells began to work as he was resting in his home of the Christmas holidays. He wondered if he even needed a second infusion since he was feeling so well.
But he went back to Indiana for a second go, the round that Dr. Einhorn said would kill the cancer.
The smell of the preservative used with the stem cells is what Diane remembers most. Being breathed out, the only way it can leave is through the lungs. Until that part of her husbands treatment was over, Diane admits to sleeping in a different room.
“The mental and emotional side of this is harder to handle than the physical,” she said.
Daymon recently returned to work a little more that a year after being first diagnosed with testicular cancer. He still wears a hat most of the time but his hair is starting to grow back in after falling out a second time.
Facing the half-million dollar medical bill will be the worst part of the fight. Everything was pretty much covered by insurance. But the is always something to pay when you have a bill that is so much.
But it was all worth it because for Daymon and his family, life will now go on. And those words are worth more than any medical bill, all thanks to adult stem cells.