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Broken back leads to cancer discovery for Marine Corps veteran

Marine Corps veteran faces new war he never expected
veteran incurable cancer
Posted at 8:23 PM, May 16, 2022

CINCINNATI — A freak accident while celebrating his oldest son’s birthday turned into a discovery Grant Gieseler could have never expected: incurable cancer.

First, there was the broken back.

“I knew right away,” Gieseler said. "I felt it snap."

The birthday celebration ended with Gieseler in the emergency room at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.

“They put cement into my broken vertebrae to make sure that doesn't continue to collapse,” he said.

Recovering at home, Gieseler read through his online medical records from the CT scan, noticing a red flag nobody had discussed with him.

“I was reading the reports and I saw at the bottom of the radiology report attention, red flag, potential malignancy, possible myeloma,” Gieseler said.

Turns out he was diagnosed with light-chain multiple myeloma.

“The average diagnosis age of diagnosis is 72 years old. I'm 35, so well below, but the oncologist at the VA has said that I'm by far the youngest patient he's ever had,” Gieseler said.

Gieseler now goes to chemotherapy every Wednesday to knock the cancer down far enough to qualify for a bone marrow transplant. His wife, Jenni, is by his side through the doctor’s visits, tests, and treatments.

Due to his diagnosis at such a young age, there’s discussion as to whether there could be a tie to exposure to something during his time in the Marine Corps.

Gieseler was medically discharged in 2010 following a knee injury while serving in the Corps. While he receives medical care through the VA medical system, the VA doesn't cover everything tied to his treatment.

Jennifer Strong, facility revenue manager at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, said the treatment and any medications given to him as part of his chemotherapy sessions at the VAMC are covered with no co-pay. Gieseler's out-of-pocket expenses come from take-home medications.

“After reviewing his account, based upon his income, he does not have to pay for any of his visits. The only thing that he's responsible to pay for currently are his prescriptions. But the good thing with his insurance and getting those claims to go through all that money is coming back here to the Cincinnati VA dollar for dollar, so that we can do things like expand our hospital, hire more providers. So that money is vital coming back to the VA,” Strong said.

While the treatments are covered, up to 12 daily prescriptions he’s taking add up.

“One of the medicines that I take 21 days straight, and then seven days off is $17,000 a month,” Gieseler said.

The life development has put added stress on his and Jenni’s daily lives and their bottom line. His wife works from home as a celebrations consultant for Macy’s. Gieseler is not able to work like he once did and they’re burning through life savings to get through month by month.

“We’re in a situation now with not working often things are definitely getting tight,” Gieseler said.

Gieseler's brother launched a GoFundMe page to try and help offset the medical costs and daily living expenses. As for his diagnosis, Grant is a realist.

“Without a bone marrow transplant, prognosis isn’t a very good one, one to two years typically," said Gieseler. "But with a bone marrow transplant, technology is improving and medicines improving. I told the doctor that I need 10 years. My boys are 7 and 8 years old, so minimum 10 years to get them through school.”

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