Giving blood was a double blessing
Donating blood saves lives. For Ken Jones, giving blood actually saved his.
The experience of this 65-year-old retired Hyannis firefighter underscores that when you donate, you benefit from a health check of your blood and blood pressure.
“Had I not gone to Cape Cod Community College’s blood drive that day, I don’t know if I would be alive today,” says Jones.
“Before you donate, you have your finger pricked for a blood sample. I donate all the time, so I did not anticipate a problem,” he recalls. “But they told me this time that my iron was off and I could not donate. They also urged me to visit my physician.”
After Jones did just that for a more thorough blood test, he got a call the next day. I remember the doctor’s words: “You have issues.”
“I felt great, not at all run down. I didn’t think in a million years there was anything the matter with me,” Jones remembers.
His doctor ordered an immediate colonoscopy and endoscopy. A large tumor in his colon was detected. It was cancerous.
What surprised Jones the most was that he had undergone a colonoscopy three years earlier and everything was normal. Moreover, he is a routine blood donor and there was no problem with his blood only three months earlier.
“I remember walking out of my doctor’s office after the prognosis and asking myself, ‘what do I do now?’”
The answer was surgery, followed by 12 rounds of chemotherapy at Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center at Cape Cod Hospital. His final treatment was completed in September 2014.
A month later, a CAT scan revealed no signs of the cancer. Follow-up exams have been equally assuring.
“I had no symptoms of the cancer,” Jones emphasizes. “Moreover, since my blood was fine three months earlier, who knows how fast the cancer was spreading. It already was Stage 3b. Had I waited simply for my annual physical, it might have progressed to Stage 4 and my prognosis today would not be so rosy.”
One frustration for Jones is that he cannot donate blood for five years following his chemotherapy.
“That hurts. I have always donated,” he says. “As a firefighter and EMT, I have seen intimately the urgent need for blood at accidents and in emergency rooms. I always understood that tomorrow it could be you or a loved one whose life depends on a neighbor’s blood donation.”
Jones also learned how important blood donation can be for cancer patients.
Some cancers cause internal bleeding, which can lead to anemia. Cancers that start in the bone marrow such as leukemia crowd out normal blood-making cells, leading to low blood counts. Cancer also can lower blood counts by affecting organs such as kidneys and spleens, which help keep enough cells in the blood. Of course, surgery to treat cancer also may lead to blood loss and a need for red blood or platelet transfusions.
“There are 168 hours in a week. One hour of that can save a life. There is such a feeling of reward when you walk out. You feel blessed to give back,” says Jones.