Stephen’s Story

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Some of you may not know Stephen or don’t know how his situation came about.  Here is a little synopsis by me, his mom.

Stephen Kenneth Griener is the 3rd of our 6 children, and what can I say…he’s adorable.  He has always loved life and loves to play. It has always been a rare moment to catch him without a smile on his face.  When he was young, he would beg to stay home from school and play.  As soon as he got home from school he would run outside and stay out there for hours at a time just playing.  He has been super active his entire life and I think his constant level of physical activity and fitness is really blessing him now.  Some of the things Stephen loves to do are play any sport, crack jokes, tease brothers and sisters, and just enjoy life all around.   From the time he was little, he played baseball and football, but his real love was swimming.  He started swimming for HAST in American Fork when he was 6 years old.  All that swimming helped him when he started playing the trumpet in 7th grade.  The amazing lung capacity he had built up in the pool made playing the trumpet easy for him!  He has always had a tender and spiritual side to go along with his playful self.   His playful side had to learn how to be quiet sometimes.  He had a habit of giggling during prayers (which he told us he finally learned to control while on his mission.)  Some of his other talents and quirks include: talking like Donald Duck, puffing his cheeks out HUGE, making funny videos, playing with any little children that come around, speaking Spanish, and making people laugh.  He is also an Eagle Scout, earned his Duty to God award and is a great student.  Stephen graduated from Lone Peak High School in May 2008.

After attending BYU for a year, Stephen was ready to serve a mission for his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  On July 15, 2009 he left on a mission to the New York, NY South, Spanish speaking mission.  He really loved his mission and his mission leaders, President Nelson and his wife .  During his time on his mission he was able to meet people from all around the world.  He loves NY.  In November of 2010, after having served nearly 18 months, he started getting sick fairly frequently.  Each time he got sick it seemed to be something simple like a cold or sinus infection, and he was treated and seemed to get feeling better, but only for short periods of time.  In January of 2011 he started to feel even more sick and this time he was not getting any better.  If you know Stephen, you know he has an incredible ability to ignore pain and just keep doing whatever it is he wants to do.  When he was in elementary school he use to come in from recess with blood all over and he didn’t even realize he was hurt.  He just focuses on what he is doing, and on his mission he just did the same thing. By March it was evident that something was seriously wrong.  He had lost about 20 pounds, was anemic, had a continuous fever, night sweats, a cough and extreme fatigue. He saw doctor after doctor and none of them were able to figure out exactly what was going on with Stephen. At this point, he had gotten so sick that no matter how badly he wanted to be out doing missionary work, he simply didn’t have the energy. After talking to President Nelson, we decided he needed to come back to Utah for further testing even though he only had 4 months of his mission left and he wanted to stay there so badly! The tests that had been done in New York had pointed to possible cancer.  During this time, Jeff and I were living in Santiago, Chile with our 4 other children. We found out on a Friday evening that Stephen would be coming home to Utah, and knew that we had to be there before he got home. I quickly called Delta and luckily got the last 6 tickets available to return to Utah. Saturday was spent packing up everything we had with us in Chile, Sunday morning we went to church and said our good-byes to the friend we had made there, and that afternoon we were at the airport! Our flight from Chile left Sunday evening, and we arrived at Salt Lake International Airport Monday at 11:00 am. Stephen arrived that night only 6 hours after we had gotten home. Before moving to Chile, we had sold our home in Alpine, so my parents had their basement ready for us to move into.  I knew Stephen was sick, but I didn’t realize how sick he was until we saw him at the airport.  He was skinny, grey and running a high fever.  That night we all sat in the basement in shock.  He was home from his mission, we were in the USA, and Stephen was sick.  It was a crazy time.

Early the next day, Stephen met with Doctor Nibley at Utah Cancer Specialists. Stephens’s mission president had been the former CEO of IHC and had put us in contact with the best doctors he knew and had personally called Stephens doctors to make sure he received prompt treatment.  He had a CAT scan on Wednesday, met a surgeon on Thursday, had a lymph node surgically removed on Friday morning, met again with Dr Nibley Friday at noon and we were given his diagnosis of Classic or Nodular Sclerosing  Hodgkin Lymphoma.  We learned that he had two large tumors pressing on his heart and lungs, and the doctor felt like it was important for him to start chemotherapy immediately. He didn’t take the time to do a bone marrow biopsy at that time.  His staging was III-SB or possibly IV-B if it was in the bone marrow.  The treatment was the same regardless of the staging.  He was sitting in the Chemotherapy chair by 3 that afternoon. Needless to say we were again in shock. Just one week before Stephen had been living and serving in New York City, and our family had been in South America, and yet here we were, at the infusion center watching our son go through his first of many chemotherapy treatments.

The first Chemotherapy he received was ABVD.  The majority of Hodgkin Lymphoma patients receive this therapy and are cured.  At first, it looked like this would be the case for Stephen as well.  As time when on, his scans looked less promising and after he finished all 12 treatments on August 31st 2011 he had his final PET scan.  This scan revealed that his cancer had begun growing again.  When cancer has grown through a chemotherapy treatment, the next line of defense is to do a more aggressive chemotherapy followed by Stem Cell Transplant or BMT for Bone Marrow Transplant.  This brings us to the stage we are at the beginning of this blog.  He will have 3 to 4 treatments of ICE chemotherapy, followed by a month hospitalization where he will have very aggressive chemotherapy.  This chemotherapy kills the cancer but also kills your bone marrow.  Following the chemotherapy in the hospital they infuse previously harvested stem cells from your own body, back into your blood.  These stem cells then return to the bone marrow and begin producing new blood cells. Because this is such an intensive and aggressive form of chemotherapy, it is highly successful, but also has a lot of potential risks and adverse side effects that can come from this. In order to avoided any of these adverse effects, Stephen has to stay in the hospital in a sterile/filtered room for one month, and then we have been told to plan at least 100 days of recovery time after, in which he will have a weak immune system and will have to have someone with him 24 hours a day just in case. In most cases it takes at least one year if not more for patients who undergo this procedure to begin feeling back to normal.

Stephen has a lot of faith and is such a fighter, and you are all a big part of that.  We thank you for all of your prayers, fasting and help in Stephen’s behalf.  He has received a lot of notes, snacks and phone calls over the past few months, and I can’t tell you what a great emotional boost they have been for him as well as the rest of our family.  It has definitely been a mental battle to keep a smile on everyone’s faces.

We have had several people who have offered to help raise money for his transplant and we will be organizing something soon.  We will set up a bank account and post information on the blog.   Insurance pays the majority of the costs but there will still be upwards of $20,000 that the patient needs to pay for this one procedure.

We LOVE you all and THANK you from the bottom of our HEARTS for helping us SUPPORT STEPHEN!

The Griener Family

 

15 Responses to Stephen’s Story

  1. Ann Ricks says:

    Dear Griener Family,
    Thanks for making the effort to create a blog. It will be a great way for us to hear about Stephen’s progress. We know he has the best family in the world to support and love him!
    Our love and prayers,
    Dale and Ann

  2. Liz Miller says:

    Dear Greiner Family,

    I am Liz Miller, Thom Landro’s sister. Kate recently emailed us about Stephen and told us about your blog. We are so sorry for all that you are going through. Our neighbor died from cancer a year ago and it was heart-breaking to watch their little family go through that. Stephen seems like a fun-loving young man! Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

    Mike, Liz, Emma, Preston, & Cameron Miller

  3. John MGuire and Fam says:

    Dear Stephen and Family,

    It was so nice to see you all at Daniel’s homecoming today. Stephen seemed so cheerful (and his facial hair looks so dashing); We hope he doesn’t loose too much of it. We are so grateful he can have the medical attention he needs. We pray for him each day and are so happy to see him doing well. Thanks for keeping us informed, we look forward to future updates.

    Love John, Dona, Kimberly, Nicole, Sallie, Jacob and Sam

  4. Kate Landro says:

    Stephen,

    We think you ROCK!! We love and Support YOU!! Thanks to your family for making this blog so we can follow your progress. Our thoughts and prayers are with you!! Praying for a speedy recovery!
    HUGS!
    the Thom and Kate Landro Family

  5. Lynne Stevenson says:

    Great blog Jane – loved the slide show – get to know your son a little better. We send our love and best wishes to you and your family through this experience. Love ya, Lynne and family

    • Roy McGuire says:

      Stephen, You are the greatest! Remember their mothers did not doubt and neither does your grandpa and grandma. We love you. Grandma & Grandpa McGuire

  6. I am ever ever so grateful for this blog!!! I have been so worried and been in constant curiousity about what i really going on. I served with Elder Griener my last transfer when he first got sick. We took him soup and ice cream and I sent him to the dr that had helped me. I was hoping it would help. When I saw he was home and with cancer I was absolutely horrified. (I was at my husband’s side all through his cancer experieence.) I asked Elder Griener about everything but didn’t get much of a reply. I am so grateful to be updated. I would love to come visit? I’m only in Logan Ut. Just know that he became one of my very favorite elders very very quickly and I wanted to stay longer one reason being him! He made everything so much fun and he was always so happy, chirpy, and so so funny! It broke my heart to pieces to see him get sick enough to where he was so wore out he couldn’t even fight it to pretend to be who he really is. Please let me know/keep me updated. I love that boy to pieces.

    • Jane Griener says:

      Thanks for the message! It’s always great to hear from someone who knows him from his mission. We would love to have you visit if you are down this way sometime. Just call or email us first to make sure we are around. When Stephen is feeling good, you never know what he’ll be up to! I forgot to mention in his story that he is still going to BYU and trying to carry about 6 credits. When he feels good he stays in Provo. Thanks again for your comment! Jane
      PS my cell number is 801.367.5847 and Stephen’s is 801.875.0099

  7. Barbara Kollar says:

    Hi Jane, my dear old friend from grade school. I’m late at getting up to speed on this blog-thing – even to the point of reading them. I just read the post, “Stephen’s Story” and am blown away. I can literally feel your love as parents for Stephen, and his (Stephen’s) strength as he fights this. I knew this was serious, but not until reading your post, did I realize how serious it is. And yet, you, strong lady/mama, you just keep going. “Just keep swimming”, right? My love and prayers to your family, Jane. I can’t imagine what you all are going through. All I know is the love of a mother for her son, or daughter, and want little more than to always protect them. Stay strong, friend. You have strength coming from many people. xoxo – Bobbie Kollar

  8. Doris Rasmussen says:

    Thanks so much for sending me the link to your blog. I think about Elder Griener everyday and wonder how he is doing. We pray for him as well and hope to come see him when we get home in February. He was such an inspiration to all of us here in the mission.
    Love
    Sister Rasmussen
    Mission Nurse Specialist
    New York South Mission

  9. Yarcka Salazar y Familia Jimenez, says:

    Fuerza a la familia y estremos orando por la pronta recuperacion de su hijo Stephen, gracias por crear este blog y asi poder saber como va todo, dios les bendiga…adelante..todo tiene que estar bien para ustedes que son una bella familia y gente esforzada, saludos.

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  12. Itsy says:

    I love Stephen and you’re family

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