Southsider Voice correspondent
A Charlie Brown tattoo on John “Andy” Axsom’s forearm humorously hints at the unfunny theme of his unlucky life.
At age 33, Axsom was suddenly widowed with two young children.
Two years ago his only sister died of breast cancer complications on his birthday.
One month after becoming a newlywed for the second time, Axsom, 46, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I felt guilty,” Axsom said of his 2012 marriage to Janine. “I got married and then I just fell on my face.”
The diagnosis of MS was yet another moment under Axsom’s black cloud of bad luck. The mysterious disease disables the central nervous system and affects more than 2.4 million people worldwide.
Soon after the diagnosis was official, this busy, happy guy’s mobility was abruptly limited. He frequently fell and fought off feelings of despair about the future. Trying to accept the serious life challenge got even more frightening when treatment options failed.
“Andy did not respond to one single drug,” Janine Axsom said of her husband.
“For almost two years I was in a constant relapse,” he said.
Aggressively, he decided to take charge of doing whatever was necessary to extend his quality of life.
That’s how Axsom applied for acceptance into a stem cell transplant study, a promising opportunity in Chicago for adults living with the serious disease. But then insurance issues again brought that bad- luck cloud to his life.
“I got kicked out of the study when my insurance would not pay anymore,” he said.
When he applied for acceptance into the Chicago study, Axsom knew that the Federal Drug Administration had already approved the stem cell transplant in other countries, including Germany and Russia.
Because the medical community in Russia has more frequently and successfully conducted the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Axsom wasted no time applying for treatment there.
“It is not a study in Russia,” Axsom said with a smile. “It is a healing procedure. They kill my whole immune system and build a brand-new immune system, using my own stem cells. You can’t reject your own stem cells.”
Undergoing treatment in Russia would likely lead to disease remission, which would allow Axsom to actively finish raising his children, Brandon, 16, and Elizabeth, 14, spend more time with his stepchildren, Sara, 23, Samantha, 20, and 17-year-old Joey, and of course, more happily enjoy his marriage and life.
That’s why he and Janine desperately hope to raise the money necessary for the 16-hour flight, the 30-day hospital stay and the medical bills.
For now, Axsom grins and keeps his sights on the happy stuff, “I’m standing up and I’m happy. I’ve got the best attitude. I just don’t have good luck.”