Joel Rice of Marysville, Ohio, had not been feeling well for about a month, but his family doctor at first thought he was just having trouble with a lingering cold. Blood tests in Alabama, while on a family vacation, revealed that Joel, a sophomore at The Ohio State University had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). It seemed surreal to Joel.
A local Birmingham hospital had admitted him and was ready to begin chemotherapy when Joel’s parents asked that he be transferred to the OSUCCC – James.
Specialists at the OSUCCC – James started Joel on chemotherapy while they began the process for a bone marrow transplant, his best¬ — and perhaps only — chance for survival. Both of Joel’s brothers were cross-typed, and his oldest brother was a match.
After recovering from the transplant and chemotherapy at his parents’ home, Joel made an unexpected career change. When he returned to school, he switched his major from wildlife management to biology. In 2004, he graduated from the College of Nursing at Ohio State as a nurse practitioner.
A few years later, he got the call he had been waiting for. The Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the OSUCCC – James asked him to join their team. Ten years after his life-saving treatment, Joel was working alongside some of the same doctors and nurses who had cared for him.
Not long after beginning work on the unit, the ten-year anniversary of Joel’s own diagnosis passed. He took a day off to celebrate.
Joel pauses often to thank his brother who donated bone marrow. “I tell my brother frequently that I would not be here unless it was for him,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize the impact they have as donors on people’s lives.”
But Joel personally and professionally understands the impact that the OSUCCC – James Blood and Marrow Transplant Program has on lives.
“The James is the place that serves as a beacon of hope for cancer patients,” he said.
Joel knows that he’s lucky that his parents insisted on admitting him to the OSUCCC – James for treatment shortly after his diagnosis. And there is one thing he’s certain about: “My diagnosis,” he said, “gave me direction in my life.”