This July, I’m riding my bicycle in 24 Hours of Booty to honor the memory of my good friend, Lee Griffin, who lost his battle to stage IV Oral Cancer.
The Cancer Diagnosis
In March 2018, Lee Griffin had a sore throat that wouldn’t seem to go away. Within a month he had CT scans and several meetings with doctors that led them to deliver a message that one no one wants to receive, “you have cancer.”
In May, the PET scan confirmed it was neck / throat / tonsil cancer. Lee had surgery to get a test sample to determine the type of cancer and possible cause. During that surgery, doctors installed a chemo port, a feeding tube and extracted several back teeth that chemo would damage beyond repair.
It wasn’t until June that Lee would learn the extent of his cancer. Doctors determined that his cancer was Stage IV, and that it was caused by an HPV infection. The doctors were positive because this type of cancer has an 80% cure rate.
In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
This was the case for Lee.
When Treatment Doesn’t Work
From June until August, Lee received daily radiation treatment. The plan was for 35 days of intense radiation, 5 days a week with 3 mega doses of chemo spread across 7 weeks.
The good news after treatment was that Lee’s tumor was virtually gone. Doctors were thrilled with the progress, and they were seeing what they expected to see.
Next came the recovery. Which according to Lee, “I don’t know which was worse. The treatment or the recovery.”
Now Lee and his family had to wait.
After 90 days the doctors scheduled a PET scan to determine if Lee was cured. To see if those grueling days of treatment and recovery had paid off.
The scan came back positive. Lee was not part of the 80%. He was in the 20%.
His cancer was not cured. In fact, it had grown back quite aggressively in the 3 months since his treatment had ended.
Now, Lee had to face his remaining options:
- Do nothing
- Try immunotherapy
- More chemo therapy
- Radical surgery
- Combinations of the above
Lee and his family chose, radical surgery. Which his doctor called the “big big big surgery” and for good reason. It was more than 12 hours of surgery and 10 days in the hospital.
The doctors took part of his neck, throat, tongue, jaw bone and reconstructed the area with muscle, blood vessels and bone from his leg. The surgery was considered the standard of care at this point. Lee’s original treatment had a cure rate of 80%. This surgery had a cure rate of 40%.
Unfortunately, and heartbreakingly so, the surgery was unsuccessful.
Lee fought cancer with dignity, courage and honor.
On April 20, 2019. Lee passed away surrounded by his loved ones.
A Message From Lee
“After I was first given the news about my cancer, I set a goal and my goal was to be sitting in Kentucky at my in-laws house eating a huge traditional feast before and after Thanksgiving.
Well, the best-laid plans often go awry.
This past Thanksgiving we went around the table and said what we are thankful for. I said, ‘I’m thankful to have made it past Monday and for another few months to be my little girls dad.’
I have a new short term goal and a long term goal.
But always a lucky man to have house and a piece of land, a few dollars in a coffee can – my old truck is still running good, my ticker’s ticking like they say it should, I got supper in the oven, a good woman’s loving, and one more day to be my little kid’s dad – Lord knows I’m a lucky man.”
How Can You Help?
My goal is to help the 24 Foundation make a difference in the cancer community by fundraising $2,000.
Will you help me reach my personal fundraising goal by making a donation of $25?
You will help support, educate, connect and empower those in treatment, survivors and their families. You will also be supporting national patient navigation programs through the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Whether it’s insurance issues, treatment options, fertility concerns or supporting family members, the LIVESTRONG Foundation ensures cancer patients and their families receive all of the information and resources that they need for free.
I am asking you to help by supporting my fundraising efforts with a donation.
GO HERE TO GIVE: https://events.24foundation.org/hernandez
Is this donation tax deductible?
Yes. 24 Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization and your donation is tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law. To claim a donation as a deduction on your U.S. taxes, please keep your email donation receipt as your official record. We’ll send it to you upon successful completion of your donation.
24 Foundation is a proud local partner of the Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital. Funds raised 24 Hours of Booty provide patient navigation and wellness programs.
Prefer to donate to directly to the family?
Visit the GoFundMe campaign started by Amye King.
GoFundMe is a for-profit company. It takes 5% of donations raised on its platform. There is also a 2.9% payment-processing fee collected on each donation, along with 30 cents for every donation.
Or you can learn how to support “A Brother in Need” Golf Tournament by visiting their event page page on Facebook.