CHC – The Cancer & Hematology Centers

“My Diagnosis Doesn’t Define Me”

Chris Ford, 49, of Grand Rapids, has always been active in his community and life. Single father of three, Chris can be found at a Chicago Cubs game, at church with friends, or on a hike with his family. Working in the healthcare field for many years, Chris suddenly switched roles, becoming a patient.

“My doctors wanted to check more into my issues.” Chris said, “I realized my doctor is not just trying to do their job, but they are taking the next step for their patient.” Upon further investigation, he was sent to Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan (CHCWM) to see Dr. Erin Pettijohn. “Chris has a chronic form of Non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma called CLL/SLL.” said Dr. Pettijohn. “We were able to utilize a multi-disciplinary approach with a review of his biopsies at our hematology tumor board and further molecular testing to come to a more specific diagnosis.”

Experiencing medical trauma in the past, Chris felt overwhelmed with new information on his health. Calming his fears, he repeated a phrase that would get him through treatment. “God has me exactly where he wants me. I lay everything down; I don’t get to pick and choose,” he passionately said. “During inpatient stays, my daughter Jadyn would write these up on my patient board for me to never forget.”

As a Practice Coach for Trinity Health, Chris was now navigating how it is to be a patient. “The mission and core values the providers and CHCWM embody. The personal and the professional effect, the reciprocity of me being heard. I’ve had my badge the entire time, but now as a patient. I am so thankful that this is my team.” Chris said with gratitude.

As a survivor of domestic abuse, Chris spoke of his motivation during treatment, “My past painful seasons help me navigate my diagnosis.”

Learning to balance a new pace in life with work, fatherhood, and his treatment Chris takes it one day at a time. Some days are spent video chatting with co-workers from a hospital bed, others outside playing with his children, “I’m on my journey to normalcy. I’ve lost the urgency of life. I stopped rushing.” He said.

Dr. Pettijohn stated, “Although his journey has been complex, he is thankfully now responding well to treatment with chemo-immunotherapy with the hope for a long-term remission ahead. Chris has been an inspiration to all of us throughout his treatment with his incredibly gracious and optimistic outlook.”

Outside of his diagnosis Chris has many passions in life. He strives to raise his three children, Justus, Jadyn, and Harper, with a compassionate heart and to always be there for them in times of need. Born and raised in Chicago, Chris is a super fan of all Chicago sports, but you can also find him hiking many miles in Northern Michigan. His faith and family are what grounds him and guide him.

Chris wants every patient to know that advocating for yourself is crucial in healthcare. He feels a sense of peace with his journey because cancer doesn’t define him; his story does. Cancer is just a chapter in his life, not the main character.








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