The initial tests came back negative, but his lymph nodes remained swollen and Tulsa firefighter John Buck went back to the doctors for a second look.
The diagnosis in late 2009 sent him to Houston for 50 days of chemotherapy at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where doctors had expertise in his rare form of head and neck cancer.
For Buck and his wife, that meant taking off work and being away from home for nearly two months, not to mention follow- up treatments and recovery time.
"The financial crisis is almost as bad as the medical crisis," Jenny Buck said. "Of course, it's not life and death, but it's just as real."
Luckily, old college friends lived in Houston and let the Bucks stay for a while. And colleagues from the Tulsa Fire Department pitched in to help pay for hotel rooms part of the time.
"We got to thinking about people who have to go through it by themselves with nobody to help," John Bucks said. "What are they supposed to do?"
A block east of Hillcrest Medical Center, the Hospitality House provides overnight suites free of charge for out-of-town patients at Hillcrest and 13 other hospitals in the Tulsa area.
More than 500 families a year stay there, with an average of 16 families on the waiting list at any given time.
A couple of years ago, Buck came up with a plan to help Hospitality House while also promoting his other favorite cause, physical fitness.
In "Half a Hundred for Hospitality," volunteers do push-ups every day for 50 consecutive days, commemorating the time Buck spent in treatment.
Sponsors pledge a certain amount per push-up.
"So you can work on your own fitness goals," Buck said, "and also be helping other people. It's win-win."
Last year, about 50 people did more than 125,000 push-ups to raise more than $33,000.
But this year's effort seems likely to smash that total with a little extra help from Buck's 5-year-old daughter and her classmates at Channing Day School.
The pre-school students will start their daily push-ups Feb. 15 and continue through April 5.
"It's important for kids to learn about fitness," Buck said, "and to learn about giving back to the community. This is doing both."
The money raised will support the daily operating costs for the 13 family suites at Hospital House.
"We have all the same expenses that every household has, times 13," said Toni Moore, president and CEO. "So you can just imagine."
More than 250,000 hospital patients and family members a year come to Tulsa from more than 50 miles away, she said.
"The financial stress is enormous," Moore said, "and we're trying to ease that burden a little."
For more information, or to volunteer or sponsor Half a Hundred for Hospitality, call 918-794-0088.
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
SUBHEAD: Hospitality House: students, former cancer patient help out
Original Print Headline: Pushing up for patients