In October of 2012 Travis had been experiencing pain in his abdomen and chest. Travis is only 44 years old. Knowing that his annual department physical was coming up, he elected to wait to bring up his concerns with the doctor at that time. During the physical it was discovered that his spleen was swollen to 4 times larger than his liver. On October 12, 2012 Travis was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), a type of cancer that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow. It then invades the blood. The particular type of CLL which Travis has is a rare and aggressive type.
On October 14, 2012 Travis began chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Travis spent 30 days at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Cancer Center undergoing treatment. Travis then returned home and started outpatient treatment in Prescott Valley. One night, Travis noticed a small black mark on his upper gum. Travis had an appointment to see his doctor in the morning, so he decided he would be fine to go to sleep and bring it up then. In the morning however, the infection had spread so quickly that his entire mouth and gums were completely black and he had become gravely sick. Travis was taken to Yavapai Regional Medical Center where he spent several days in the ICU. Travis was then taken back to Scottsdale Shea where he underwent intense antibiotic treatments. The antibiotics were so powerful that it took him 100 days just recover from their effects on his body systems.
In January of 2014 after months of intense chemotherapy and antibiotic regimes, Travis cancer was deemed to be in remission and he immediately began working to return to full duty as Firefighter in Sedona. January 11, 2014 was his first day back on the rig.
On May 20, 2014 just a few months after returning to duty The Slide Fire broke out in Oak Creek Canyon. Travis was off duty that day, however, when the department “All Call” went out he quickly returned and immediately engaged in fire suppression as well as evacuating hundreds of residents and tourists from the fast moving fire. Travis was ultimately assigned to work the fire in an extended capacity. One night while working the fire, Travis felt a familiar pain in his abdomen. It was the same pain he felt when his spleen had been found enlarged and his cancer was first discovered. At that moment Travis knew his cancer had returned!
Travis completed his assignment on the fire, and went to his doctor where it was confirmed that his cancer had returned, and returned with a vengeance. A high white blood cell count is between 8 and 10 thousand, Travis white cell count was 30 thousand. Doctors proposed a bone marrow transplant as the only way to save Travis Life, and hopefully a cure.
A search began, and it was soon learned that Travis sister is a 10 out of 10 match to be a bone marrow donor. Because of this, Travis will return to Scottsdale Shea Cancer Center on August 27, 2014. Travis will undergo a week of intensive chemotherapy to completely wipe out his immune system and kill off all his white blood cells. Travis will be quarantined from everyone, including his own family for at least the next month. This is to protect Travis from infection, as he will have no immune system and any exposure could kill him.
During this same time his sister will start a regime to increase her bone marrow production, which will be a painful process for her. Over the course of two days Travis will receive his sister’s bone marrow. Unlike other transplants where the recipient’s body can reject the transplanted organ, in the case of bone marrow transplants, the bone marrow could actually reject Travis.
After Travis is released from quarantine, he will need to live in very close proximity to Scottsdale Shea in the event he becomes sick. He will also require full time in home care, which his wife is receiving training for so she can be his care taker.
Travis is believed to be the first Firefighter in the State of Arizona who has successfully had his cancer declared work place related and received benefits for his care by the State Compensation Fund. Travis credits this to the volumes of documentation that Sedona Fire was able to provide on all the fires, hazardous incidents, and exposures he had over the course of his 13 years. Travis wife and coworkers also worked tirelessly to file all the required documentation with the State.
There will still be huge financial burdens for the Powell family however. In addition to his wife Laura being Travis in home care taker, Laura is also going to homeschool their 8 year old son Tristan and 5 year old daughter Chyler. As a result, the Powell’s need to rent a residence in the Scottsdale area for about 6 months so they can spend as much time together as a family as possible. His children have been forced to grow up way to fast as a result of Travis illness. Both Tristan and Chyler enjoy participating in gymnastics, jujitsu, and playing soccer.
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