Friday, 12 September 2014 20:26

Light the Night Walk

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A Letter from Grassroots President Mike Anderson


Grassroots Nation:

As many of  you are aware, I am a 29 year Cancer Survivor.  During the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year at the University of Maryland, I was diagnosed with Chronic Myologenous Leukemia and told I had a 50/50 chance of seeing my 21st birthday.  I was 20 at the time and living my lifelong dream of playing college football.  I was a HS All American at DeMatha with over 20 college scholarship offers.  I chose MD over Stanford and Penn State and was pursuing a degree in communications on the way to fulfilling the ultimate dream of playing in the NFL.  First chapter of the book I am writing about my ordeal is linked at the end of this page, if you are interested.

It was such a scary and difficult time for me to handle that news at 20 years of age.  I was offered the option to get into an experimental therapy program.  The drug that I went on was not approved by the FDA at the time.  I was truly a guinea pig and the research program that I was in turned out to be a blessing for me. Interferon Alpha worked magically for me and many of the other people who were in the program.  

Obviously I am still here, so God wasn't ready for me just yet.  I didn't understand or even believe that at the tender age of 20, but I do now.  I now believe that God wanted my life to go in a vastly different direction and it did.  The drug and the prayers all worked together to put me into remission within 2 months. My white blood cells dropped from 110,000 in July of 1987 down to 8,000 by the middle of September.

I was able to play 2 more years of football at MD, and I also played 1 year on the Terps basketball team as well.  I got that degree and parlayed it into a successful post football career.  20 years later that research become the Foundation for drugs that are now in pill form and are saving lives every day.  Coach Mike is a believer in research and the role that scientists and drug manufacturers play in God's master plan.  I stayed in remission for 27 years without an issue with Leukemia.

During the summer of 2014, as many of you may remember, the Leukemia reared it's ugly head and came out of remission in a forceful way.  Once again, it was the month of July that it struck.  On July 17th I received the news from my Oncologist that the Leukemia was back and my white blood cell counts had risen up to a whopping 130,000. I was as sick as I can ever remember being and it did not look good for me.  Very bad times for me and the GYFL Fall Season was in jeopardy as I lay in a hospital bed praying for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Thank God for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the money that is has raised over the last 30 years!!!! That same drug experiment that I was a part of in 1987 was the basis for the drug that I was put on this summer. The drug is called Sprycell and it is truly amazing.  It is in pill form now, which is awesome.

I started taking it on July 25th and after only 1 week, my counts were down to 57,000.  By the 2nd week my counts were back down into the normal range at 7,000.  I literally cried tears of joy at the Medical Center and thanked God for this medicine.  Once again, God was performing miracles for old Coach Mike and using science to make it a reality.

I can't help but think of what may have happened to me and how many young people would be negatively affected if there was no research to find treatments and cures.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has played a major role in preserving my life for the last 29 years.  I owe them a debt of gratitude that I could never repay.

They asked me to be a spokesperson and ambassador for the organization in the Fall of 2014 and I was honored to accept!!!!!!

The problem was that one of my flaws is my lack of discipline and focus at times.  I worked hard to merge the GYFL and the LLS together to raise money and awareness for the disease.  Our first agenda was to promote the Light the Night Fundraising event in October.  However, I guess "Life Got To Me."  I got really busy again, as I was getting more and more healthy, my passion for Grassroots took over as it always does and before I knew it I was putting less and less time into my role as LLS Ambassador.  

We did NOT do well with the Light the Night Walk and officially dropped the ball.  On the one hand, I was receiving the greatest news in the world from my doctor.  The Sprycell was working like clockwork and I had gotten to the point where there were 0 Philadelphia Chromosomes in my bone marrow.  

I was not officially "Cured" of Leukemia, but there was not a hospital in the world that would have been able to detect it in my bone marrow.  God, the doctors, and the science had once again combined to save old Coach Mike.  

The GYFL was continuing to grow and before I knew it, I was 100% back in the grind.  What I was not doing was placing any of my attention on one of God's purposes for my life, which is to play a major role in the fight against Leukemia.  It took the passing of one of Gods young angels, DJ Deramus to bring me back to reality.  

At least once every couple of years, I will get a random call about a person that is stricken with Leukemia.  One of God's purposes for my life is to be an inspiration to them and to be living proof that Leukemia is NOT a death sentence.  I didn't understand why God took my dreams away from me at 20 and allowed the disease into my life. At 49 years of age I understand why.  He needed me to be an inspiration for others that get the dreaded news.  Every year that I live with the disease gives more and more hope.  For me not to embrace and focus on that mission is forfeiture of one of the purposes that He has for me.  So I always take those phone calls and I always go visit.  

Most of the times the calls are for kids. DJ was one of those kids.  I went to meet with him and his family and I had an absolute ball with him.  DJ is just an amazing kid.  I believe I inspired him and his family that day and I will never forget it.  His spirit was infectious and I planned on staying in his life.  Once again, my lack of focus and discipline flaw showed up and I dropped the ball.  I didn't stay in contact like I had planned.  I got "busy" again.  I thought he was doing well and I lost touch.

Unfortunately, DJ lost his battle in late July, about a month ago.  He has his wings now, and his family is stronger than any family I have every met.  It tore me up inside to know that I dropped the ball again, this time on a kid.  His father Derrick is a stone cold warrior and had to console me from my guilt.  Amazing kid, and amazing man.

On August 23rd, my partners Neil Hamilton and CaSandra Davis-Perriliat gave me an amazing idea and inspired me to get back on the horse with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and find a way to connect the GYFL, the GYM Foundation, and the Deramus family.  We are working on a plan that I expect to be life changing.  

With September being Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month, we are scrambling to put together a GYFL and GYM Foundation sponsored program to attack this disease in a major way.  Orange is the color of the month and we are going to rock Orange the same way the NFL rocks Pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month.  We have a number of great ideas that we are working through, but one of the first things we are definitely doing is MAKING THIS A PRIORITY.

I am sick and tired of dropping the ball and I must make a commitment and stick to it.  Just to show how God works, I put a FB post up yesterday about these ideas.  One of my coaches significant others was diagnosed with Leukemia 2 DAYS AGO.  He reached out via IM and asked me if I would speak to her.  It was no coincidence that I was going through this struggle and looking for an opportunity to redeem myself in DJ's name.  I told him I would be at the house that night.  

We spent 4 hours together and I did my best to inspire her.  I will not give her name but I am excited about the fact that she WILL be seen by MY DOCTOR this week, Dr. Edward J. Lee.  Dr. Lee happens to be the best Oncologist in the world as far as I am concerned.  He has treated me since I was 20.  So you say, how did you get an appointment at 11:00pm at night for the same week?  It is called faith and belief in God.

My phlebotomist, who has been taking my blood for the last 15 years is my doctor's right hand man, AND his son played in Grassroots.  I called him at 11:30pm and he answered.  Come to find out that when I mentioned his name, his lady knew that name and asked me what college he went to.  She thought she knew him.  Well I got him on the phone and not only did she know him, they went to college together 25 years ago and had just lost touch!!  He got to work this am and moved Dr. Lee's schedule around, so she will be seeing the best oncologist in the world this week!!!!

Look at God......

So here is the deal.  We are going to go hard to beat this disease and we NEED YOUR HELP!!  Now is when I need you guys to rock and roll with me.  We must raise money to attack these dreaded blood cancers. I can't be one of those people who benefited from something and did not give back.  I am asking each of you to see it in your heart to support me and support he LLS.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has a great program called Light the Night!!!  It is a walk to raise money and awareness and I need for all of you to sign up and walk with us.  I will be setting up a page for GYFL and I need for you all to go to it as soon as it is up and learn everything you need to know.  I need you to register for the walk in mid October and I need you to donate whatever you can.  

We will also be taking donations at every GYFL game this Fall and I need you all to donate.  We will have 4 Thursday night games at county/city recreation fields that we can't charge a gate fee for, so you will get to come for free.  If you could see it in your heart to donate a portion of the gate fees that you were planning to play, we can raise some serious money.

We have thousands of GYFL alums out there who are a part of our family and tons of additional family and friends.  I see no reason why we can't blow this campaign out of the water!!!  As much as I still need to raise money for Grassroots and the GYM Foundation, this is top priority for me right now and I am asking for your support!!!!

Keep on praying for me as I am not out of the woods yet, but God is Good and so is the LLS!!!!!  To support us, learn more about the Light the Night Walk and how to beat Leukemia, as well as how to donate, PLEASE CLICK THIS LINK NOW!!!!!!

If you are interested in hearing more about my ordeal at the University of Maryland, please Click Here to read the first unedited Chapter and give me your thoughts.


Love you guys!!

Coach Mike

Read 4097 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2016 16:10

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