Scott Boeving of Wingate, N.C., would never ask of himself “How much can one man take?” But no one could blame him if he did.
After Boeving was diagnosed in September 2009 with stage IV non-Hodgkin’s mantle cell lymphoma, aggressive chemotherapy sent the rare, life-threatening condition into remission. But if left Boeving, 63, with severe nerve damage over 80 percent of his body, making him no longer a candidate for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. The chemotherapy also made Boeving susceptible to a bacterial blood infection that nearly took his life.
Boeving’s own health issues come on top of the mobility issues his wife of 42 years, Dottie, 61, lives with because of soft-bone disease that makes surgery for her painful hips and knees impossible.
And Scott and Dottie are living with the very real possibility that they will lose their home, farm and Airedale terrier kennel on 12 acres in Union County, following Scott’s job loss with the fall of the banking industry in December 2008. They had already lost their life savings to corporate fraud in the 1990s.
“Still, I know that my God has not forsaken me, and I pray for healing every day,” said Scott. “The material things are not what’s important and should not have been all along. All the worldly things grow dim unless you have your health.”
Non-Hodgkin’s mantle cell lymphoma is one of the rarest cancers of the lymphatic system. Chemotherapy can often send the disease into remission for 2-3 years, but bone marrow or stem cell transplant is usually recommended for the best chance at a long term response.
Following a diagnosis at their local hospital, the Boevings sought a second opinion at UNC Hospitals and were pleased to learn that Scott was eligible for a small, randomized clinical trial for mantle cell lymphoma patients. Scott’s oncologist, Hendrik van Deventer, MD, assistant professor in the department of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the UNC School of Medicine, is the lead investigator for the national trial.
“Until we came to Chapel Hill, we didn’t get any peace with Scott’s disease,” Dottie said. “From the first, we’ve never felt rushed in our visits. We know we have access to cutting-edge expertise, and we’ve witnessed genuine compassion from everyone we’ve met. And that compassion extends to strangers, many patients themselves, who offer to hold doors or show us short-cuts for getting from one place to another.”
As Scott prepared for chemotherapy at UNC Hospitals, he and Dottie settled into SECU Family House, a 40-bedroom hospital hospitality house minutes from UNC Hospitals. Family House provides comfortable, convenient and affordable housing for seriously ill adult patients and their family member caregivers.
That move meant the Boevings had to find foster homes for their three championship-bred Airedale terriers. Friends in the Airedale Club of America, of which Scott is vice president, stepped up with open arms and hearts. Club members also have initiated fundraising activities on the Boevings’ behalf.
“We really have missed our dogs, and we are blessed with good friends who so readily helped with their care,” Dottie said, adding that the visiting therapy dogs through the UNC Hospitals’ volunteer program have helped ease the void of canine companionship.
Volunteers at the UNC Hospitals and at SECU Family House also have provided musical entertainment with guitars, harps and violins, which, Scott, a music major in college and a guitarist, has especially enjoyed.
“We could not have afforded the treatment Scott’s getting in Chapel Hill without SECU Family House,” Dottie said. “You can feel the spirit when you walk in the door. We were made to feel like family. We have much to be thankful for.”
The Boevings returned to their Wingate home to celebrate the holidays with their son, their daughter and five grandchildren and for Scott to rest and gain strength for the expected bone marrow transplant in the New Year. A bacterial blood infection sent him into the hospital on Christmas Day.
Scott was hospitalized for 10 days, and once dismissed, returned to Family House to be near the UNC Hospitals while on continuous antibiotics. He and Dottie went home in April to rest and came back to UNC Hospitals the first week of June for test results and to talk about next steps.
“We know it was hard for Dr. van Deventer to tell us that because of all the nerve damage Scott could not have any more chemotherapy and consequently he was no longer a candidate for the recommended bone marrow transplant,” Dottie said. “As grim as that news sounds, to us it was a relief because Scott has been through so much already and clearly couldn’t go through much more.
“We believe that all things work together for good and the Lord has supplied us with so much – the gift of Family House and all who have helped us at UNC Hospitals, from the woman who cleaned Scott’s room and prayed with us to the very top doctors in their field,” Dottie said. “We don’t want them to ever think they have failed us because they didn’t. We have a spirit of excitement, and we are going forward with the things we have to do to get on with living our lives.”
Scott is beginning to regain some of the 61 pounds he’s lost since last fall, and his energy level is improving. He still sleeps a lot, but he is able to walk without his cane or walker, which were constant companions for so many months. He’s beginning to drive again, and although he’s a commercially rated pilot, he isn’t able to climb into the cockpit of a plane just yet.
“I’m doing OK,” said Scott, never one to complain. “I’m a little tired, but I’m doing OK.”