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Helping People Is What Brings this Multiple Myeloma Patient Joy

Kenneth and Rose Henderson with their dogs on a hillside

Kenneth "Ken" Henderson, multiple myeloma cancer survivor, pharmacist, and entrepreneur loves the story of Jon Huntsman’s life. In some ways, their stories are similar. Like Mr. Huntsman, Ken and his wife, Rose, have always been committed to helping where and how they can. Rose recalls how Ken has always set aside a portion of the money they make to help those in need.

When he was 22 months old, Ken’s father passed away. His mother was left to raise him and his three siblings, with the help of grandparents. Ken would split his time between his home in Texas and his grandparents’ home in Oklahoma. "My mother and grandmother were very giving people," he says, "It just seemed that is what you are supposed to do. It makes Rose and I feel good to help those in need."

Once, when supporting a local homeless shelter, Ken and Rose purchased food for more than 300 people. They took their two young children to serve dinner. When one of the guests came back for seconds, Ken’s son asked his dad if it was alright. Ken said yes. He told him their family was there to serve.

Ken served on the board of Goodwill Industries at the age of 21. He also served as a regent of Seminole State College in Oklahoma. He and Rose’s past philanthropic efforts include restoring the historic Grisso mansion in Oklahoma and owning a wildlife refuge for exotic animals. And in 2007, Ken received the Citizen of the Year award in Seminole, Oklahoma.

In December 2015, Ken was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It’s a cancer where abnormal plasma cells build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body. After being turned away by other cancer centers, Ken called Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). He heard back the same day—a turning point in his care.

Kenneth Henderson on a bike in the mountains

HCI recommended a bone marrow transplant as part of his treatment plan. Ken then dedicated himself to improving physically, including recovering from three fractures in his spine, so that he would be eligible to receive the transplant.

July 7, 2016, on his 70th birthday, Ken rode his bicycle 70 miles from his home in Starr Valley, WY to Jackson, WY, for his final chemo treatment at St. John’s Health, an HCI affiliate hospital. In the months to come, he would receive his bone marrow transplant at HCI’s main hospital in Salt Lake City, UT. But on that birthday morning, he woke up early to start his ride. He wanted to prove to HCI by achieving this feat that he was qualified to receive the bone marrow transplant and that he would survive the treatment.

Two years later, in 2018, Ken was one of eight climbers to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise awareness for blood cancers. Each climber had someone they were climbing for, though Ken was the only one with a blood cancer. They raised nearly $400,000. Incredibly, despite being a transplant recipient, Ken’s climb was successful and he took an HCI flag with him to the top.

Kenneth Henderson at Kilimanjaro holding an HCI banner

"There are many challenges that come with having a blood cancer with no cure." Ken says, "But we just try to enjoy the time we have. "

Now, several years since his diagnosis, Ken is incredibly grateful for the treatment he received. The HCI difference, he says, is in the way he was treated: always with kindness and a smile. Facing a multiple myeloma diagnosis is difficult, but Ken has approached it the way he always has–with his whole heart and soul. Shortly after his last visit to HCI, Ken and Rose went on a two-week humanitarian mission to Tanzania. Since his treatment began, he has donated more than 30 times to HCI. These gifts are on behalf of those "that deserve to be honored." Ken says, "I know they will use that money wisely – wherever it might be needed."

Cancer touches all of us.