Tag Archives: Danny Alexander

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Triumph over Tragedy

Dawne Gee recounts her blessings after a stroke

Story by Lynn Choate | Photos by Danny Alexander

Who would have thought you could find blessings beyond measure after a stroke? Dawne Gee did. And in true triumph-over-tragedy fashion, she is recounting those blessings every chance she gets.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Gee, 54, suffered what could have been a life-ending stroke while on the air as she anchored the WAVE 3 evening news.

In the week leading up to the stroke, she recalls feeling “just not right.

“I went to my rheumatologist, orthopedic specialist and an immediate care center all before attempting to finally take the doctors’ advice to rest,” Gee said. “My legs were swollen two to three times their normal size, and I just felt bad.”

Despite her best intentions, Gee didn’t get the rest her body so badly needed. On Thanksgiving Day, she was called to report live from the scene of a mass shooting at a well-known Louisville event.

She was back to work on Black Friday and remembers experiencing some chest pain. She had nitroglycerin tabs for angina, a heart condition that causes chest pain. By the time the 7 p.m. newscast started, she had taken three tabs and was counting down the minutes until she could go home. She told herself to just read what was on the teleprompter: “You can do that – just read.”

Little did viewers and her co-workers know, she was seconds away from having a stroke on live TV.

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“I remember tossing to the weather segment and feeling like I had to sit down while I was off camera,” she said. “I could hear (WAVE 3 Chief Meteorologist) Kevin (Harned) doing his weather forecast and preparing to send it back to me, but by then I was sitting on the floor and wasn’t sure how I would get back up.”

With all her might, Gee was able to pull herself up to a standing position as the camera turned back to her. She tried to speak, but she had no control.

“From there, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the emergency room,” she said.

Gee was rushed to Norton Hospital. A team of physicians, nurses and medical personnel quickly assessed her condition and determined she was having a stroke and part of her brain was being deprived of oxygen-rich blood.

‘Cheering me on from the sidelines’

Now six months after her stroke, Gee is surrounded by cheerleaders — and maybe a few babysitters.

“Bless my family! They are by my side every step of the way,” Gee said. “They not only attend doctors’ appointments and physical therapy updates, they participate — asking questions and seeking out ways to make life better for me.”

Although her entire family — her children, grandchildren and siblings — have been rocks for her to lean on, Gee acknowledges that it is her mother who perhaps has been her biggest cheerleader through all of her illnesses and life crises.

“She never left my side,” Gee recalled, fighting back tears. “From the emergency room to the intensive care unit and the many weeks of therapy at Frazier Rehab, Momma never left my side.”

Her mother put the time spent with Gee in rehab to good use. She made more than 200 Hershey’s Kisses roses, a simple gesture to thank everyone who crossed the threshold of Gee’s door to care for her.

“If they cleaned my room, checked my vitals or brought me a dinner tray, Momma was thanking them with a Hershey’s Kisses rose,” Gee said. “Both my mother and father are real troopers.”

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Her parents also supported Gee while watching her calendar fill up over the past 15 years. She admits that in addition to her work schedule and a full plate of medical worries, she was committing to 200 or more speaking engagements in a year.

“There were some weekends that I would have four to six events over the course of two days,” she said. “Many times Momma and Daddy would go with me to these events, and in hindsight, I think they were watching over me.”

Although she admits to not saying it enough, Gee is learning to say “no” to some events and speaking engagements since her stroke.

“I don’t want to, but I have to,” she said. “I physically can’t keep up that schedule anymore. My body is recovering and I physically can’t do all the things I use to do.”

Truth be told, she shouldn’t have been overextending herself at all. She knows that now but admits that it’s hard turning down events when the causes are near and dear to her heart.

Gee has faced mixed responses from people when she has declined speaking engagements over the past few months.

“People see me on TV and think, ‘Oh, she’s doing great,’” Gee said. “What they don’t see is that I sit down during the commercial breaks, that I get tired very easily and that I get very anxious.”

All of these are common side effects after a stroke.

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‘If it hadn’t been for those around me’

When Gee started experiencing stroke symptoms, thankfully those around her knew the signs and acted quickly to get her lifesaving help.

Harned quickly noticed that something just wasn’t right.

“I noticed she was sitting on the floor rubbing her leg while I was doing the weather. I thought something was odd then, but we’re on live TV,” said Harned, a long-time friend and colleague of Gee’s. “Then I noticed as she began to give the news that she was slurring a bit and having trouble reading. Within seconds she was on the ground. I called out to the floor crew to call 911.”

Gee attributes the crew’s fast action with saving her life.

Aaron Ellis, assignment editor, was working that night but was in a different area of the building. He recalled the producer announcing over the building’s intercom that something was wrong with Gee.

“Everyone in the building, which was a skeleton crew because of the holiday, jumped in and did their part,” Ellis said. “I sent the reporter who initiated the 911 call into the studio to take over the on-air duties while I took over relaying information to MetroSafe.”

Having been co-workers and friends with Gee for many years, Ellis knew about her past medical history. He encourages everyone to be aware of their loved ones’ medical history and medications.

“Dawne is smart! She has most of her medical information stored on her smartphone,” he said. “I was able to access the information and relay it to MetroSafe during the call and with first responders who arrived on scene.”

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Although she doesn’t remember much from that Friday after Thanksgiving, Gee wanted to thank those who rushed to her aide. She received that opportunity recently when the Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center reunited her and six other stroke survivors with their care teams.

At the event Gee became emotional when her own story was shared from the podium. One by one, members of her care team stood to be recognized.

“These people saved my life,” Gee said through tears. “Thank you isn’t enough.”

Today Gee is back to doing the work she loves, anchoring the news, helping others in need through her “Pass the Cash” TV segment and spearheading the charitable organization she founded, “A Recipe to End Hunger.” S

he continues outpatient physical therapy once a week. Over the coming months she is looking forward to transitioning out of medically-supervised physical therapy and starting an exercise program with a personal trainer.

“I’m hoping to lose a few more pounds and continue building up my strength,” Gee said. “I’m also working on getting my blood pressure more under control.” She continues to count her blessings for the people who support her along her journey.

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SoIN Style with Kye Hoen

President and Owner of Kye’s

Photo by Danny Alexander

Whenever I am choosing something to wear I always think, “Is it fun? Am I comfortable? Is it current? Is it classy?”

What I love most about Southern Indiana are the people. I taught school here for 14 years, owned and operated my business for 23 years and lived here for over 50 years. The relationships and bonds that I have been fortunate enough to develop over the years are one of my life’s greatest joys. The small town feel with big city amenities very close by is such a positive – and of course “my” river.

Most people don’t know that I once did the dance the Y.M.C.A with the Cowboy from the Village People. Also, I am a licensed and ordained minister and have had the pleasure to officiate many marriage ceremonies at Kye’s and elsewhere.

My life quote is “No matter how you feel. Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.”

My professional goal, as it has been for 23 years, is to strive to improve Kye’s and the service we offer our clients. Personally, my goal is to appreciate each day, no matter what it brings and to truly live in the moment.

Even though my Mother passed away several years ago, her influence has remained with me throughout my life. She taught me to work hard, always be a lady and above all else love with all my heart.

Kye’s

500 Missouri Avenue

Jeffersonville

812.285.8500

www.kye-s.com

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Virtual Reality Goes to School

Purdue Polytechnic has installed a phone booth in its New Albany campus building that dials up the future of experiential technology

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by Danny Alexander

A project by two Purdue Polytechnic Institute New Albany professors to harness virtual reality (VR) as a teaching tool has turned into a compelling attraction in the school’s lobby on Charlestown Road.

The VR adventure they provide for the building’s visitors, using an Oculus Rift headset and a menu of content options, is pretty cool by almost any generation’s adoption of the term.

But the device itself goes beyond cool. The two forces behind the project – Rustin Webster, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology at the school, and Richard Kopp, associate professor of computer graphics technology – found an old wooden phone both, likely from inside a restaurant, at Joe Ley Antiques on East Market Street in Louisville.

“Because VR can be disorienting, we needed an enclosed environment with a seat so people wouldn’t lose their balance and fall,” Webster explained.

There was work to be done on the old booth. “We painted all the wood, did a lot of brushed aluminum trim treatment, silk-screened the windows, put chrome plating on the floor and ceiling and applied white subway tiles to the inside,” said Kopp.

Then Kopp’s computer graphics students provided imagery to turn an old phone booth into a 21st century movie theater experience. The exterior graphic, developed by Kopp’s students Ben Durcholz and Bailee Kruer, blares, in movie poster art and melodramatics: “NOW SHOWING – VIRTUAL REALITY – EXPERIENCE OTHER WORLDS.”

It was truly an interdisciplinary student effort. “We hired students interested in developing code for VR,” said Webster, whose familiarity with the technology goes back to his work with a military contractor in Alabama trying to integrate VR into Army training and education programs.

“We also needed software developers, digital asset developers and people to provide texting, lighting and audio.” The booth was placed in the school’s lobby, heavily trafficked not only by students and school personnel but also by workers and visitors to the private business offices that occupy some of the building’s upper floors.

The hope was that people would be attracted to the booth and feel invited to go inside and “experience the experience.”

“Oculist Rift comes with a lot of free, pre-programmed software built in,” said Kopp, “so anyone can pick and choose almost anything they want to do.” Primarily, he said, it’s the world of video gaming in 3-D.

But gaming, or some other form of entertainment, is not the endpoint for the two educators. They want to improve the technology enough to make VR a viable educational tool. “Research shows there’s a big increase in learning and retaining content when the process is interactive,” Kopp said.

“There are too many passive-learning lectures in the world,” agreed Webster. “Part of my research at Purdue Polytechnic Institute is figuring out how to get VR into a classroom and replace ‘death by PowerPoint.’ ”

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Extol Magazine Dec.-Nov. Launch Party

Photos by Danny Alexander

Oct. 13  | Floyd County Brewing Company in New Albany

The Extol team launched our October/November issue Oct. 13 at Floyd County Brewing Company, 129 W. Main St. in New Albany, at  a party presented by SoIN, the newly-branded Clark-Floyd Counties Convention-Tourism Bureau. Guests packed the house at the event, which was also sponsored by Families4FC.com,  B.YOU New Albany, Hosparus Southern Indiana Dancing with  the Stars and Purdue Polytechnic Institute, New Albany. Attendees enjoyed complimentary appetizers, giveaways and music by DJ Jaybird of Mundo Mix of 100.9. Additionally, Floyd County Brewing Company donated 10 percent of sales made during  the two-hour event to Hosparus.

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(Clockwise from top left)  Jennifer Abbott, Kate Kane, Brian Hampton, Jim Epperson, Luanne Mattson, Regina Walker-Tekulve and Todd Read | Blake Montgomery and Jamie Smith | Michael and Erin Sizemore | Caitlin Throckmorton, Rashna Carmicle, Debra Flowers and Brooke Verno | Matthew Tyldesley and Isidro Valencia | Tiffany Nelson, TaNiya Herron and  Frances Lewis.

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Extol Magazine Dec.-Nov. Launch Party

Photos by Danny Alexander

Oct. 13  | Floyd County Brewing Company in New Albany

The Extol team launched our October/November issue Oct. 13 at Floyd County Brewing Company, 129 W. Main St. in New Albany, at  a party presented by SoIN, the newly-branded Clark-Floyd Counties Convention-Tourism Bureau. Guests packed the house at the event, which was also sponsored by Families4FC.com,  B.YOU New Albany, Hosparus Southern Indiana Dancing with  the Stars and Purdue Polytechnic Institute, New Albany. Attendees enjoyed complimentary appetizers, giveaways and music by DJ Jaybird of Mundo Mix of 100.9. Additionally, Floyd County Brewing Company donated 10 percent of sales made during  the two-hour event to Hosparus.

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(Clockwise from top left)  Jennifer Abbott, Kate Kane, Brian Hampton, Jim Epperson, Luanne Mattson, Regina Walker-Tekulve and Todd Read | Blake Montgomery and Jamie Smith | Michael and Erin Sizemore | Caitlin Throckmorton, Rashna Carmicle, Debra Flowers and Brooke Verno | Matthew Tyldesley and Isidro Valencia | Tiffany Nelson, TaNiya Herron and  Frances Lewis.

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The Face of Hope

Story by Steve Kaufman | Photos by Danny Alexander

John Bostock has brain cancer, so why does he feel like the luckiest man alive?

Nobody should have to say “glioblastoma” without the words tripping awkwardly out of their mouths. It’s a tough, tongue-twisting word, made all the more twisting by what it represents. In the past year since John Bostock was diagnosed with glioblastoma– an aggressive form of brain cancer – the word has become an everyday familiarity to John and wife Jessica, a young Floyds Knobs couple.extol_digitalcover_400x600_12

Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer generally beginning in the brain. It has non-specific symptoms in its earliest stages, is almost always Grade Four by the time it’s detected and there appears to be no clear way to prevent the disease.

Only about three out of 100,000 people a year develop the disease, though most are usually in their 60s. Once diagnosed, the common life expectancy is 12 to 15 months. Less than five percent survive longer than five years.

John Bostock was 34 years old when his glioblastoma was discovered, in the summer of 2015. In that respect, he defies a few of the odds. He’s statistically too young. He’s supposed to be one of the 99.999997 percent who’d never even heard the word.

For him, it was like walking across a railroad track with no reason to think a train was coming right at him. In other words, not particularly lucky.

And yet, the other word John and Jessica say, frequently and convincingly, is “lucky.” As in, “We’re very, very lucky!”

Who says that? Lottery winners, maybe, or people who’d had a good week in Las Vegas.

“Lucky” is not the word you’d expect from a young couple with an infant daughter and a brand-new home-of-their-dreams farmhouse who were told, over an excruciating Fourth of July weekend, that the husband and father had this rare form of brain cancer and might have only six months to live.

No Time for Pity

Once John was diagnosed, there didn’t seem to be much time for self-pity. For one thing, the Bostocks knew they had a lot of work to do, starting immediately. For another, they had a daughter, Olive (who will be three in January), at home who needed their care and attention.

Plus, they faced an overwhelming program of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, doctors’ visits, grief counselors, paperwork, insurance forms and an unending overload of medical information. “It was all a blur,” Jessica says now.

But, they also had a wonderful support group of family members on both sides, who researched the disease, got involved in the driving and running and going that was involved, and kept up a steady flow of reassurance.

“I remember having conversations with my father-in-law,” recalled John, “and he said the goal is to bostock2prolong and extend this as far as we can, until new research or treatments hopefully might come along. There was never a feeling of ‘I’ll beat this’ so much as ‘let’s keep trying to prolong this.’ We’ll get through this today, and then we’ll get through tomorrow, and then the next tomorrow.”

“We were told that John might have six to 12 months to live,” said Jessica. “But we’re not the kind of people who crawl into our holes and cry each day.”

When Crying Came

Not that there wasn’t plenty of crying, too. “We all cried a lot and had horrible days and great days,” Jessica said. “I talked to my mom, honest conversations about what would happen in a couple of months if John weren’t around – insurance, jobs, money – not fun conversations.”

Coming to grips with unfairness? Not easy.

“But life’s not fair for a lot of people,” said Jessica, “and we have each other. It has given us a whole new definition of ‘fortunate.’ Small things don’t matter anymore. It completely changes your perspective on life.”

She said there were lots of evenings, sitting around watching TV, when she’d get up and go to her room to cry, so as not to upset John by breaking down in front of him. Later, she found out he was doing a lot of the same thing.

Learning About Radiation And Chemo

There was also the matter of getting right into the treatment plan. “When you get the glioblastoma diagnosis, your treatment plan is pretty much set in stone,” Jessica said. “There’s no ‘here’s what you could do.’ It’s, immediately, six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, every single day.”

“Radiation helps kill the remaining cells and the chemo keeps the tumor from coming back,” John explained. The surgery removed 99.2 percent of the cancer. The rest couldn’t be removed without risking brain damage. “I can live with that 0.8 percent tumor. The goal is to limit it to that.”

Blindsided By Fate

Limiting a tumor was hardly the goal in May 2006, when the two Floyds Knobs youngsters who had known each other since Floyd Central High School – introduced by families who were exceedingly close to each other – got married.

Nor was limiting the growth of cancer a goal in January 2014, when tiny Olive was born in difficult circumstances. There were other medical concerns then. “She came into the world 10 weeks early, weighing all of three pounds,” Jessica recalled. “We had had a hard time conceiving her, and I went into labor at just 26 weeks. I was in the hospital for a month on bed rest; she was in the hospital for six weeks. She came home weighing five pounds. This tiny little thing was a blessing, a miracle.”

Glioblastoma wasn’t in their vocabulary in the spring of 2015, when John began having migraine-type headaches he thought were from allergies.

He also recalls, retrospectively, that he had been having problems balancing the precise Medicare pricing calculations he was doing for Humana, where he worked. “Basic functions,” he says now, “but I could never get things to match. Very frustrating!”

He’d not had recurring headaches before, and these always came in the middle of the night, waking him up with all kinds of pressure, “but I took Advil or Excedrine Migraine and kept grinding through every day.”

Plus, Jessica said, “we went to all these places – a chiropractor and our regular family doctor – and nobody seemed concerned about it.”

Eventually, they went to a neurologist who put John on steroids, which helped for a week or two. “He told us, there were no signs that I needed any immediate tests, like a brain scan,” John said. “I’d had no history of headaches; he agreed it was probably migraines due to allergies.”

Then the headaches started coming back, and John started not making sense a lot of the time, frequently coming home from work at lunchtime in pain.

Rush To The ER

One Friday a year ago July, John came home for lunch, and Jessica left him something to eat before going out of the house.

“When I came home at night, he hadn’t remembered eating the lunch,” she said. “He was being unusually weird. I was upset and I insisted we go to the hospital right away. John’s mom, stepdad and I took him to the emergency room at Norton Downtown (in Louisville), and they took an MRI. The scan came back that there was a 5-centimeter mass on the right front of his brain.”

Neurosurgeon Todd Shanks performed the surgery on Monday.

Sharing Inspiration Jessica said they weren’t eager to talk to others about the condition once John got home and into his grueling set of treatments. “I guess I thought, ‘Who cares, this is our problem.’ But we did have friends and family who needed to know what was going on.”

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To keep that group informed, she found CaringBridge.com, a social networking web site that allows people to post blogs and exchange information, mostly about health and disease situations.

Jessica formed the John Bostock Journal – https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/johnbostock – with an intial entry dated July 5, 2015, that was simply headed, “Surgery”: “I totally forgot to mention that John’s surgery is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Probably between 2-4. Should last 3-4 hours and he should be in little pain afterwards. We will stay until Wednesday or Thursday and then will return home and will know much more about the treatment plan next week.”

What Jessica found was “we got such a warm and wonderful reaction from people I didn’t know. People said things like, ‘You don’t know how inspiring you are, how much we pray for you.’ It made us feel good. If our story can be an inspiration to anyone, how great is that?”

She said, “People tell us that when they complain about the weather or about their kids, they think about us, and that gives them perspective – and that’s amazing!”

Sometimes, said Jessica, “people think people with cancer talk about it all the time, but it’s completely the opposite. People say to us, ‘Oh, I don’t want to make you talk about it, you probably talk about it all the time.’ No! We don’t talk much to other people and, when we did, we found that was therapeutic.”

John agreed. “Sometimes you have to talk about it out loud, instead of just talking inside your own head. Sometimes we’re surprised by the answers.”

“We’re not scared of crying anymore,” said Jessica. “We’ve been doing this for 15 months. We’re not scared about reliving it.”

Finding Faith

The Bostocks also get great comfort from their church, Northside Christian Church in New Albany, which they had been attending for some time – “but we’ve never missed since John got diagnosed.”

“We probably took it for granted before,” Jessica said. “I have a relationship now with God that I didn’t know I could have.”

Keeping Olive Happy

That moment was much appreciated because John needed to be the same father that little Olive kept expecting him to be.

“After John’s diagnosis, it was Olive who made us get up every single day and put a smile on our face, because we had no other choice,” Jessica said. “And John’s being home and spending time with her made them so close. We’d go to the zoo, and then we took her to Disney World. It made her happy, and that made us happy.”

But, living a normal life was important for more than simply Olive. It was important to all of them. They credit much of this to Dr. Renato LaRocca, John’s oncologist.

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“He always says, ‘love hard, travel, drink wine,’ ” John said. “He tells me to eat healthy, but also have some red meat if we go to a steakhouse.”

“He says, ‘Live life to the fullest and enjoy yourself, you never know what tomorrow will bring,’ ” said Jessica. “It opens your eyes and your sense of things around you that you didn’t really pay attention to before.”

Dream House Deferred

At first, much of the focus of normal life was on the farmhouse the Bostocks had purchased, off of Paoli Pike in Floyds Knobs, just four weeks before John’s diagnosis.

“We love old houses, and this was our dream house,” said Jessica. “Lots of character, on a couple of acres. We were so excited – and then ‘boom!’ ”

Initially, she said, it was a great project to focus on, diving into it, keeping them busy, their minds occupied. Eventually, though, with John not working and with the determination to travel and take Olive to Disney World, they sold the house.

“For me at the time, with John having 12 months to live and not going back to work, it made sense to sell the farmhouse,” said Jessica. “The plan was to make the best of everything for him so we would regret nothing.”

Pills And Daddy’s Backpack

Without the farmhouse, the focus turned to all the treatment options that might keep John alive. Through John’s brother, Zach, a hospital administrator in Naples, Fla., who had worked at Jewish Hospital in Louisville for 13 years, they were plugged into a pipeline of information.

It was through oncologist LaRocca that John was approved for Temador, a “chemotherapy pill” specifically for glioblastoma that he takes every four weeks.

LaRocca also helped arrange for John to be fitted with a new device called a Optune, from Novocure, a kind of helmet specifically developed for glioblastoma (which you can see John wearing on this cover of Extol). It was still in the final testing stages, but LaRocca sent a request to Humana, and John was approved as a non-recurring tumor patient.

John explains: “It creates a ‘tumor treating field’ that confuses the cells, inhibiting them from rapidly dividing and regrowing. It forces them to turn into normal cells.”

There is a soft helmet-like device around John’s head and a power supply that’s strapped to his back. Developed by Novocure Ltd., a British oncology research company based on the Channel Island of Jersey, the first iteration weighed six pounds. The newer version, the one John wears, has been trimmed to a more comfortable 2.7 pounds. (The company explains it was able to reduce Optune’s size and weight “by utilizing novel digital signal generation technology.”) It received U.S. FDA approval this summer, but it has been available in Europe in 2015. John was fitted for his a year ago.

The Bostocks refer to it, cautiously, as “John’s life-prolonging device.” Olive calls it “daddy’s backpack.”

“The timing of this was practically a miracle,” said John, “in that it was approved at just the time we needed it. They still don’t have enough data to determine how this might change the prognosis long-term, though some preliminary data said it could prolong a patient’s life about a year past what the current diagnosis is.

“I’ve worn it a year, now. I will wear it for as long as I need to!”

What’s Ahead?

John, who admitted to a somewhat bumpy educational tenure the first time around – “I went back and forth between Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University Southeast (IUS), getting an associate degree from Ivy Tech. I was a terrible student” – is back to taking online business classes at IUS in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree.

He said Humana is keeping the door open for him, should he decide he’s ready to return to work. “I’m teeter-tottering about going back.” Jessica, who had started at IUS, ended up going to hair school at The Hair Design School in Louisville. She now works at Angell Salon & Spa in Sellersburg.

John gets an MRI every 12 weeks. “The first couple of scans were apparently hard to read,” he said, “because the scar tissue from the surgery shows up white, just like the cancer cells.”

In early April, they were told his scan “was stable.” In July, there was evidence of “considerable shrinkage.” In September, “stable again – no change.”

“Stable is good,” they said, together.

“The doctors are happy where we are a year into all this chemo treatment,” said Jessica. “They’re happy with the way John lives his life, how regularly he wears his Optune, how proud they are of John going back to school.

“They’re mostly positive about the results of the bloodwork, the platelets are really good.”

The docs have been positive, she said, but they’ve also been honest. “We’ve shown we can take it and we can handle it. We just keep doing the same things. I want to know exactly where we stand, and I always ask the hard questions.”

Searching For Answers

Like a lot of 21st century questioners, Jessica and John also turned to the Internet for answers.

“The Internet can be a scary place,” said Jessica. “You read a lot of uplifting stories about cancer-sufferers who’ve beaten the odds, but then you run across the occasional story, too, like ‘My mom was told she had 18 months to live, but she died within six months.’ ”

Particularly frustrating for the Bostocks is that there’s no particular explanation for why John was hit with this.

“I have no medical history to speak of,” John said, “there was nothing like it in my family.”

“We did some research about living near a nuclear plant,” said Jessica. “For some reason, this area has a lot of glioblastoma – not just Southern Indiana, but also Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.” (Editor’s Note: Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee worked with nuclear reactors in the 1940s, during World War II.)

“They wanted me to take a survey to find some common things among all these glioblastoma patients,” said John. “There are no findings yet. I’d love to know.”

He mused that he used to drink from plastic cups, “but Jessica does too. We all the use the microwave oven.”

A Cluster Of Cancer

There are 22,000 diagnoses of glioblastoma a year, all of them Grade 4. “We found out that the mother of a friend I grew up with passed away a year ago,” said John. “When Jessica put it on Facebook, (the friend) reached out to us. And there’s a man who lives near us who also wears the Optune device. “So three of us within a few miles. Maybe we should move.”

A year ago, USA Today reported that the Indiana State Department of Health was asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate “a potential cluster of brain cancer cases.”

“State health officials started looking into concerns this summer that an unusually high number of people living in the same neighborhood in Henry County east of Indianapolis had been diagnosed with a type of brain cancer, known as glioblastoma, over the past 23 months,” said the article, dated Oct. 23, 2015. The article quoted state health commissioner Jerome Adams as saying, “We are listening closely to people’s concerns and methodically investigating these cases.”

Focusing Forward

For the most part, though, Jessica and John keep their focus clearly in front of them.

“John’s no longer on radiation, and he’s in the 13th month with this pill and wearing the Optune device,” Jessica said. Reviews of his progress will continue.

If John’s platelets get too low, the medication will likely have to be switched, but they say there are always other drugs in the pipeline or, because of where John’s tumor site was, perhaps there might be another surgery.

“At the end of the day, it’s all guesswork,” Jessica shrugged.

“Of course, that all might be 15 years down the road,” said John. “At that point, I’m winning.”

“If you were told you had a year left to live, think of all the things you’d do,” Jessica said. “We were told he had six months to live. It’s now been almost 17. This is our story and we can’t do anything about it. There’s no other way than to be positive about it. John and I have been given a gift. We get to look at life through a new lens, that of a cancer patient. We take nothing for granted and our hearts have expanded more than we can imagine over the past year. We are confident in knowing that our paths have already been carved, that God can bring silence to our busy minds and that we consider ourselves the luckiest people alive.”

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Service Above Self

By Stacy Thomas | Photos by Danny Alexander

Every day, the Rotary Club of New Albany puts its mission into motion

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of the word “rotary”’ is: of motion; revolving around a center or axis; rotational. In the case of the Rotary Club of New Albany, the organization is a group of members in constant motion with a mission revolving around serving their community.

“Rotary Club is an international service organization with 1.2 million members. There are multiple clubs in Southern Indiana, including Clarksville, Corydon, Jeffersonville and Salem. Here in New Albany, our club just celebrated our 100th year of serving our community,” said Chad Dimmitt, president of the New Albany Rotary Club who has been a Rotarian for six years.

“I was originally invited to a Rotary meeting by my friend Bryant Hanson, a fellow Rotarian,” said Dimmitt. “It didn’t take long to want to become involved in our many community service projects and programs. When you work alongside so many service-oriented individuals, like I get to do through Rotary, you are quickly inspired to serve as well.”

The New Albany Rotary Club is involved in numerous current and past service projects, which include preparing meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House; The Angel Tree Program, where funds are raised to shop for children during the holidays; Rotary Readers who spend time each month reading to students in area schools; and the annual Scholars Banquet honoring top graduating seniors in Floyd County.

In addition, the Rotary Club of New Albany also partners with other Southern Indiana organizations, including Hope Southern Indiana, New Albany/Floyd County Habitat for Humanity and Exit 0, the Jeffersonville-based homeless outreach.

The Rotary Club also gives grants and raises money for donations to benefit community organizations like the Louisville Youth Group, Floyd County Veterans Court and Open Door Youth Services. The Club also was involved in raising funds to benefit the hurricane relief effort in Haiti and the rehabilitation of a school in Jamaica.

“Our overall goal as Rotarians is to continue pursuing projects and programs that make our community, dudeour country, and the world a better place to live,” said Dimmitt. “Locally, our club just partnered with the City of New Albany to install a public drinking fountain in Bicentennial Park.”

And, the club’s annual Community Toast and Benefit Banquet recognizes a community member for best exemplifying the Rotary Club motto of “service above self.”

“Each year the event proceeds are split between our club for local grant programs and a charitable beneficiary of the honoree’s choosing,” Dimmitt said. “Over the past 23 years, more than half a million dollars have been raised to benefit local community causes through this annual banquet.”

The Club houses members of all ages and occupations – some have been Rotarians for over 50 years, some are brand new – but all members share the same goal – working together to improve the world in a variety of ways that are important to each individual.

“We are a great mix of business professionals, community leaders, and educators who come together to serve more effectively than we could individually,” Dimmitt said. “I think the most common misconception about a Rotary Club is that our purpose is for business networking. The truth is, being a Rotarian connects you to a world-wide network of partners with the common goal of serving humanity. I was blessed to attend this year’s Rotary International Conference in Seoul, South Korea.”

There, Dimmitt was inspired by meeting other Rotarians from around the globe who are actively promoting peace, fighting disease, such as polio, providing access to clean water, supporting education and helping to grow local economies.

“Rotarians here in New Albany and Southern Indiana have the opportunity to make a direct impact in their local communities, as well as have a hand in improving lives all over the world,” said Dimmit. “I invite anyone who is interested to come join us. The best way to learn about us is to visit us for our  weekly meetings, or join us for one of our many community service projects.”

Rotary Club of New Albany www.rcna.us | Meetings Thursdays at noon at The Calumet Club, 1614 E. Spring Street in New Albany | For more information, contact Chad Dimmit at 502.396.3384 or cdimmitt@centra.org

Other Southern Indiana Rotary Clubs

Rotary Club of Jeffersonville: Meetings Tuesdays at noon, Clarion Hotel, 505 Marriott Drive in Clarksville

Rotary Club of Clarksville: Meetings first and third Wednesdays of the month, Clarion Hotel, 505 Marriott Drive in Clarksville

Rotary Club of Corydon: Meetings Tuesdays at noon, Kindred Transitional, 150 Beechmont Drive in Corydon

Rotary Club of Salem: Meetings Mondays at noon, The Steven’s Museum, 307 E. Market St. in Salem
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