GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — As any cancer patient will tell you, the journey is never a straight line.
It's a series of twists and turns, ups and downs; and it can be overwhelming, exhausting and lonely.
Our friend, Boyd Huppert, has experienced all of this on his own journey with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.
Since being diagnosed in September, Boyd has been the model patient, and will soon enter a critical phase of his treatment.
"It's a grind, I won't lie," says Boyd. "I feel like I've been in a hamster wheel for the last four months since I was diagnosed back in September."
His bout with the disease is happening during a pandemic, and in the middle of a Minnesota winter.
It can be isolating and depressing. It's a bubble Boyd can't wait to burst.
"I don't want to mess this up. Yeah, kind of get one chance to get this right. I don't want to mess it up," says Boyd.
Because of the intense chemotherapy, Boyd is immunocompromised, meaning he can't afford to get sick right now, especially with COVID lurking about.
Which is why he has to take every precaution.
But, here's the great news: The chemo is doing its job.
"He's doing phenomenally well," says Dr. Craig Eckfeldt, Boyd's oncologist. "It's really been amazing to see how hard he's fighting and how well it's paying off."
Boyd showed us a chart of his amazing progress over time. His blood was so toxic, and thick with protein back in September, but now, thanks to his treatments, the cancer is almost in remission.
But to get here wasn't easy.
"If you caught me today, you'd say, 'Huppert looks fabulous!' And then, you know, come see me on Sunday, and, you know, I'm struggling a little bit," Boyd says.
"And what do you tell yourself when that happens?" asked KARE 11's Randy Shaver.
"I just need to get to Tuesday," he replied.
Boyd is about one month away from that all-important next phase, a bone marrow transplant.
That's when doctors will remove some of his bone marrow cells, freeze them, then blast Boyd with a super harsh chemo.
"And, what we're trying to do here is overwhelm the cancer with very high doses of chemotherapy," says Dr. Claudio Brunstein, who will perform the transplant. "It's like a sledgehammer approach to knock down the cancer as much as possible."
"This next part won't be fun," Boyd says. "I know that."
That chemo blast will make Boyd physically sick and he will likely lose his hair.
A few days after the chemo, doctors will put his frozen stem cells back in his body.
Those cells will regenerate, and the hope is the cancer will be knocked out for a long time to come.
"It's a hurdle I have to get over if I want to get to the other side, and I want to get to the other side," Boyd says.
The other side of cancer.
There's been glimpses, like on a cold Saturday afternoon, when many of his co-workers showed up at his house to celebrate Boyd's 60th birthday.
For just a moment, life felt normal.
"Oh man, I'll never forget that," Boyd says. "That is something, for the rest of my life, I will never forget."
Nor will he forget moments like being outside of the house, walking with friends like Mark Daly.
No matter the temperature, the two made sure they connected.
The exercise for Boyd was invaluable preparation for the transplant, but the friendship, well that's food for the soul.
"Feel good physically, feel good emotionally," Boyd says. "The two go together, amazing how that works."
Fighting cancer is a fulltime job, and Boyd has worked overtime.
So has his caregiver, and wife, Sheri.
They both can see the finish line.
And Boyd says, when he gets into remission, put on your running shoes.
"I told that to Sheri. There won't be any sitting around here anymore," Boyd says. "We can't wait. We can't wait for retirement. I don't know what the next few years are going to bring. So we're going to do those things as soon as we can."
"I just feel like Boyd is going to beat the statistics and he's going to get into remission and life will go on," Sheri says. "But, I know through the experience we're going to be so much more grateful for every day, every day we have together."
Boyd was originally scheduled to have the bone marrow transplant in January, but because he was responding so well to chemo, the transplant was pushed back to March.
That's great, but his original plan was to hold his new granddaughter shortly after her birth in mid-march.
That will now have to wait until some time in late June to early July.
Sheri says when that finally happens, the tears will flow.
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