CINCINNATI — A freak accident at his eldest son’s birthday celebration turned into a discovery Grant Gieseler could never have expected: incurable cancer.
First, there was the broken back.
“I knew straight away,” Gieseler said. “I felt it snap.”
The anniversary celebration ended with Gieseler in the emergency room at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.
“They put cement in my broken vertebrae to make sure they didn’t continue to crumble,” he said.
Recovering at home, Gieseler read his online medical records from the scanner, noticing a red flag that no one had discussed with him.
“I was reading the reports and I saw at the bottom of the radiology report a caution, a red flag, potential malignancy, possible myeloma,” Gieseler said.
Turns out he was diagnosed with light chain multiple myeloma.
“The average age of diagnosis is 72 years old. I’m 35, so well below, but the VA oncologist said I’m by far the youngest patient he’s ever had,” Gieseler said.
Gieseler now goes to chemotherapy every Wednesday to knock the cancer down far enough to qualify for a bone marrow transplant. His wife, Jenni, is by his side during doctor visits, tests and treatments.
Due to his diagnosis at such a young age, there is some discussion as to whether there might be a connection to the exposure to something during his time in the Marine Corps.
Gieseler was medically discharged in 2010 following a knee injury while serving in the Corps. Although he receives medical care through the VA medical system, the VA does not cover everything related to his treatment.
Jennifer Strong, facility revenue manager at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, said treatment and all medications given to her as part of her chemotherapy sessions at VAMC were covered without co-pay. Gieseler’s out-of-pocket expenses come from take-out medications.
“After reviewing his account, based on his income, he doesn’t have to pay for any of his visits. The only thing he’s responsible for paying right now is his prescriptions. But the good thing with his insurance and having those claims go through all that money comes back here to Cincinnati VA dollar for dollar, so we can do things like expand our hospital, hire more vendors. So that money is vital to getting back to the VA,” Strong said.
While the treatments are covered, up to 12 daily prescriptions he takes add up.
“One of the drugs that I take 21 days straight and then seven days off costs $17,000 a month,” Gieseler said.
The changing life has put additional stress on her and Jenni’s daily life and their outcomes. His wife works from home as a celebration consultant for Macy’s. Gieseler is no longer able to work as he once did and they burn through life’s savings to get through it month after month.
“We’re in a situation now where we don’t work often, things are definitely getting tough,” Gieseler said.
Gieseler’s brother started a GoFundMe page to try to help offset medical bills and daily living expenses. As for his diagnosis, Grant is a realist.
“Without a bone marrow transplant, the prognosis isn’t very good, usually one to two years,” Gieseler said. “But with a bone marrow transplant, the technology is improving and the drugs are improving. I told the doctor I needed 10. My boys are 7 and 8, so minimum 10 for the to go to school.
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