February 14, 1956 – February 8, 2014
Below is the testimony of my husband Silvio Quintas when we both launched Here to Serve together in 2011. My heart was broken when Sil died suddenly from a complication of his leukemia and Parkinson’s Disease on February 8, 2014, after he suffered bilateral pulmonary embolisms. He was a big part of Here to Serve and going on without him is a challenge every day. But I also know, without a doubt, that is what he would want… ~ Katie Quintas
After multiple regiments of antibiotics to fight an infection that would not go away, I was given blood tests to check my white cell counts. The white counts were high even after the antibiotics were finished. My primary care physician sent me to an oncologist to have more tests. I found out I had leukemia.
Still Feeling Blessed!
There are many forms of leukemia, some more deadly than others. I was fortunate to have a highly treatable form of leukemia…but only because of recent advances in research and treatment. Just a few short years ago this leukemia would have been much harder to battle. I was feeling blessed…even more so after my wife found, who I consider, the most amazing oncologist Dr. Ronald Paquette. Dr. Paquette was the first oncologist in the world to conduct leading-edge clinical research into the highly effective Gleevec drug therapy for my particular form of leukemia. So all things considered, I was feeling I could beat this cancer and the journey would be something I could handle.
As I started my clinical trial with Gleevec and Dr. Paquette, and endured numerous bone marrow biopsies without being put under general anesthesia, and experienced the fatigue and nausea that goes along with treatment…I then began to suffer the effects of being diagnosed with cancer. Even so, I continued to work and had the support of family, friends, and coworkers. I saw that the hardest toll was on my family who was worried about my health. My wife was on a mission, which for her is all-encompassing…she would stop at nothing to make sure I was well taken care of and that I was also taking care of myself and getting the best treatment possible. My son seemed mad at God that I not only had cancer but a year earlier had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I, however, was feeling that things were under control and overall my life was blessed.
Nothing Prepared me for this!
That changed within a few months when, after my son had an MRI on his sore knees, we found he had Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in his bone marrow! His form of cancer made mine look like a sore throat! His cancer was throughout his bone marrow also appearing on the surface of his bones in numerous areas. It was only now that cancer took real meaning in my life. Now I was scared, now I felt the pain of a cancer diagnosis, now I knew what it felt like for my wife to have someone you desperately love diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Suddenly my life took a turn…my perspective changed, my sense of well-being was gone, and my prayer life moved from requests to begging God.
I worried about the stress this would have on my wife with both of us (husband and son) diagnosed with cancer at the same time and being treated at hospitals across town from each other, me at UCLA Medical Center, and my son at City of Hope. I worried most of all about my son who would be in the battle of his life at only 16 years old. Admittedly, life did get hard physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I prayed without ceasing not for myself, but for my son that God would spare him and bring him through this difficult journey unscathed and with his health intact. We were blessed by an abundance of family, friends, acquaintances, and even people we did not know coming alongside us to provide help and support.
Yes, it was a thorny journey, wrought with complex health and daily living challenges, in large part for my son and wife more than for me. I never took the time to truly evaluate my own situation as I was determined to count my blessings and focus on the good in life. Yes, there were days that were hard and I was tired constantly. However, the good news is, both my son and I are in remission today. (See my son’s story in this section too!) The real heroes in this are my son and wife. My son had an infinitely more difficult battle with cancer and never showed a moment of self-pity. And my wife who was the caregiver to both of us held down a full-time job providing for us in ways I still cannot wrap my head around!
Nevertheless, she burned the candle at both ends for close to a year. Shortly after our treatments ended, she returned to her office full time. It was then her boss left the company and she did too joining a local nonprofit. After a short tenure at this local nonprofit, she resigned when she was told her mother had terminal cancer and she wanted to be at her side, which was on the other side of the country. Cancer once again reared its ugly head in our family. But this time the battle was lost, and my mother-in-law passed away a short time later.
My wife began to seek a new direction and that direction came with the inspiration for Here to Serve to help other individuals, families, and caregivers tackle the challenges of a loved one with a life-threatening health crisis. I encourage you to support her in that effort to help others in similar situations through Here to Serve!