After retiring in January, Jim Miller had several activities and destinations on his list he hoped to accomplish. All of that came to a staggering halt when he was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma months later in April of this year.
Being a two-time cancer survivor is part of why he was chosen as the honorary chair for this years Steele Waseca Relay for Life this weekend.
“I was honored to be chosen as the chair this year, even though I don’t really like the attention,” he laughed. “I do feel that I need to tell my story. There’s a lot of people out there going through things like cancer. It’s stories like mine that prove why we need to keep fundraising for cancer research because there are many types of cancer out there that don’t have good treatment available yet. I’m extremely fortunate and grateful that I have a cancer they have figured out and can treat easily. I hope that one day that can be said for all cancers.”
Miller had his first brush with cancer in 2008 after a lymph node in his neck became swollen. His prognosis wasn’t great with the disease at the time having a five year survival rate of just 20%. Miller was determined to beat the statistics, participating in several studies and cutting edge treatments.
“When I got cancer the first time, I knew what I had to do,” Miller said. “I just got up and put my boots on and got what needed to be done, done. You have to fight it and come out on the other side.”
Following 18 weeks of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and bone marrow transplant, Miller was officially in remission. He said he pulled a lot of his strength from recalling his own father’s battle with cancer when he was just 12-years-old.
“He had cancer four times, and I was with him every step of the way,” Miller recalled. “He taught me how to live my life while dealing with cancer and how to keep going. I’m grateful for everything he taught me.”
This time around, Miller’s treatment plan is radically different from his first brush with the disease nearly 15 years ago.
“This time I don’t have to do any sort of chemo or radiation. I just take a protein blocker pill every day,” Miller said. “It’s advancements like this in cancer treatment and research that make all the difference in the world for people like me.”
Miller said while talking to his oncologist about treatment plants, he was informed that advancements in treating cancers like his have changed exponentially.
“Scientists were able to basically figure out what the cancer needs for food and it’s a certain protein in my body that it needs,” Miller said. “The medication I’m on blocks my body from making the protein so the cancer should go into remission. It’s just amazing. They’ve come a long way on these cancers like leukemia and lymphoma using these pills and it’s a direct result of the money donated to cancer research.”
He said at an appointment in May, about 40% of his bone marrow was affected by the cancer and he and his doctors hope that come October, that number will have decreased significantly with the help of the protein blocker medication and he will go into remission once more.
The Relay for Life of Steele and Waseca counties will be from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Steele County Fairgrounds. A silent auction and other activities will be held in the Beer Gardens and luminaires set up throughout the grounds.
To purchase tickets and luminary bags, contact Mary Boettger at 507-390-5760. Additional information on the local Relay for Life can be found at www.steelecountyrelay.org.