IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Leukemia diagnosis: Patient is walking his way back to health

Patient Story

After becoming disoriented, Gary Wilcoxen learned he had acute myeloid leukemia. Now he’s finding his way back to good health by enjoying long winter walks in the woods.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

It started with confusion. Gary Wilcoxen couldn’t remember how to drive his red Chevy Silverado home from work. He sat in the cab and tried to figure out what to do next.

When his wife of 16 years, Amy Wilcoxen, learned about her husband’s distress, she noticed other signs too. They made an appointment with a physician near their Vermillion County home. Tests followed – including a biopsy – and Wilcoxen was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

In August 2019, Wilcoxen became a patient of IU Health Dr. S. Hamid Sayar. He recently completed chemotherapy, including consolidation treatments and is now on a daily maintenance pill.

His new focus: To rebuild strength. Ironically, the man who learned about his diagnosis after becoming disoriented is enjoying long winter walks near his rural property.

“Our walks are between two to four miles a day, and Gary is doing more and more work around the farm with his dad,” said his wife. “His stamina continues to improve, his hair is growing back. His last CT scan showed much improvement in his lungs after a bout of pneumonia in December.” He hopes to return to work in April at Thyssenkrupp, a German steel manufacturing company.

Before his diagnosis and treatment Wilcoxen was known throughout his community as the guy who was always willing to lend a hand - shoveling snow, mowing fields, or unloading rock for friends and neighbors.

“We’ve been so blessed with everyone at IU Health,” said Amy. “They are like family away from home.”

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Cancer

Cancer care includes a variety of treatments, systematic therapies, surgery and clinical trials.

Leukemia

A cancer of the blood caused by the bone marrow producing abnormal white blood cells that crowd out healthy ones.