Clement Okoh is a cancer survivor, author, entrepreneur….and proud grandfather. Cancer Matters will be sharing book excerpts of his personal journey, “OSONDU”, an inspiring story of hope.

Photo: The picture shows me with Dr. Daniel Sciubba of Johns Hopkins. When we met, I was paralyzed from a spinal fracture at a tumor. He performed a laminectomy and spinal fusion to remove my spinal tumor, fuse 5 vertebrae and reverse my paralysis. Now, I can walk again (as the bionic man, complete with titanium rods and screws). He also treated my massive internal bleeding and stroke during my relapse caused by Lovenox blood thinner. - and was fantastic to my (worried) children. . . . . GREAT CHAP!

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OSONDU – Running the Gauntlet to Stay Alive (part 1)

On the Ides of March 2017, I was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma (MM), one of the most highly metastatic of all cancers. [1],[2]  I suddenly had a life expectancy of five years, and my life changed forever

They diagnosed me with aggressive MM while working in Africa on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy—just months after receiving a perfect bill of health in the United States. I had gone to Nigeria with friends from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and Norway to contribute technical skills, management, finance and contacts to renewable energy and agro-allied infrastructure. Unfortunately, I became too sick and had to leave.

On the day I was to travel to Johns Hopkins for cancer treatment, I fell in a Nigerian hospital, fractured my spine at a tumor, and was paralyzed. My family immediately transported me through mad Lagos traffic and to the United States. Once in the United States, surgeons removed the spinal tumor at Johns Hopkins Hospital and fused my spine to repair the fracture. I spent a month recovering from the surgery before leaving Hopkins for physical rehabilitation.

During treatment at Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation (Adventist Rehab), I developed several potentially fatal complications. I had massive internal bleeding and lost two pints of blood. I suffered a stroke with brain swelling, and blood clots developed in my legs—a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A blood clot traveled to my left lung, resulting in arterial blockage or pulmonary embolism (PE). I also had bacterial blood poisoning, and it was not clear whether my existing aortic aneurysm was static. I felt helpless, stripped of my dignity, and didn’t want to be the burden I thought I’d become.

My only daughter planned to wed in September 2017, and I was determined not to give her hand in marriage from a wheelchair. I was equally determined my ninety-five-year old mother would never see my grave; she had survived colon cancer at seventy-seven. This resolve gave me the courage to face each new day. My doctors thought I’d never walk again, but within four months, I was back on my feet. I survived all the complications and regained my ability to walk in August 2017. I walked my daughter down the aisle in September and savored our father-daughter dance.

One year after my initial diagnosis, on March 15, 2018, I achieved a “complete response.” [3], [4]After six months of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, I had a stem cell transplant in April 2018. By June 15, 2018, I had no trace of cancer, and, at the time of this writing, my cancer has not returned. I have completely overcome seven potentially fatal illnesses with excellent medical care, faith, and family love. Mine has been a miraculous odyssey.

My neurosurgeon, Dr. Daniel Sciubba, said I was blessed. My parish pastor, Fr. Joe Rogers, said I am a walking miracle. After reading this book, you may agree with them. I received a clear message from running this gauntlet, and I am determined to return to Africa to help deliver affordable, high-quality medical care. My efforts will use technology to lower costs and bypass the lack of infrastructure. I’ve been to hell and back, and this book is the story.

[1] Ides of March is March 15.

[2] “Narrow subset of cells is responsible for metastasis in multiple myeloma, study finds”, https://www.dana-farber.org/newsroom/news-releases/2014/narrowsubset-of-cells-is-responsible-for-metastasis-in-multiple-myeloma--study-finds/ Accessed February 11, 2019.

[3] “Complete Response” and “Remission”: “Complete response (CR) The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured, but it is the best result that can be reported. CR is also called complete remission. The cancerous tumor is gone, leaving no evidence of disease.” https://www.cancer. gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/complete-response Accessed September 30, 2018,

[4] “Remission, on the other hand, means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission can be partial or complete. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured.” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/prognosis. Accessed September 30, 2018.

 

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