January 31, 2012

Our Neighbors: A marathon for life

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Rodney Hendrickson finished the Derby Festival half-marathon in Louisville in two hours and six minutes last year. But it wasn’t his usual one hour and 51 minute average.

“Fifteen minutes over 13 miles is a big increase in time,” Hendrickson said. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

After rigorous testing, he found out in September that he had defused, large cell B Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Each day became a new goal for Hendrickson, from the first drip of chemical poison at the starting line, as his life became a marathon race against lymphoma.  His wife, Alice, daughter, Autumn, and son, Jimmy, kept pace with him the entire battle.

“I looked at it as a marathon because I’m a marathon runner, and they’ve ran every step of it with me,” Hendrickson said.

He had six R-CHOP chemotherapy treatments, three weeks apart over a four-month period.

“My oncologist tells me that type of chemo is the most toxic, harshest type of chemo that there is, and I had very little problems,” he said.

Before treatments and diagnosis, he was more active than ever, running about 1,400 miles a year, averaging more than 100 miles a month and cycling 2,500 miles a year.  His doctor said he had an 80 percent chance of survival due in large part to his fitness level and the cancer was at a stage three on a scale from one to four.  

Not only did his family fight the battle with him through the four longest months of his life, so did his Facebook friends.  Every day, he posted his daily thoughts as well as his progress on chemotherapy.  On some days, his Facebook friends shed tears and responded with prayer, while other times they would bombard him with 150 “likes” because of joyful news.  

The following are a few of his journal entries:

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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