WESTFIELD — When he was diagnosed with a form of lymph node cancer last spring, Derek Jones had hardly shown any signs he was sick.
The diagnosis was Non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma, a slow-growing type of the disease that often presents no obvious symptoms, such as enlarged lymph nodes or fatigue.
Following four rounds of chemotherapy and other treatment, Jones, a Crawfordsville native who now lives in Westfield with his family, has been cancer-free since October. But doctors told him the chronic disease would eventually come back.
“Of course, my prayers are that it won’t,” Jones said by phone from his office at a downtown Indianapolis bank, where he’s a senior commercial lender. “But all that being said is, right now I’m, you know, effectively normal.”
Jones is now raising money for research through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year campaign. His friend, Scotty Banks, is competing for the men’s title in a 10-week competition kicking off Thursday. The winners will be crowned at a gala in May at JW Marriott Indianapolis.
Donations can be made at https://pages.lls.org/mwoy/in/indy20/djones. The link will go live on Thursday.
The society funded Jones’s immunotherapy treatments, and has helped advance all but seven of the blood cancer treatment options approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2017, according to the group’s annual report. Jones’s medication, Rituxan, has been used to treat other types of cancer and a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
“That medication alone will add decades to Derek’s life,” said Jones’s wife Kari, a New Market native.
Jones had considered entering himself into the competition before deciding to join Banks’s fundraising team. Banks is a regional trainer and coach at Orangetheory Fitness, where the Jones’s are active members.
“I went into Orangetheory the weekend I was diagnosed and he was one of the first people I told,” Jones said, “and I thanked him because I had worked out really hard for the few years leading up to this diagnosis, and the mental toughness that I gained in those workouts and really pushing yourself [helped me] and I was in the best physical health of my life”
Jones was able to continue working and coach his now 8-year-old son, Isaac’s, baseball team during treatments. The Jones’s have two other children, Olivia, 10, and Ava, 7.
“My wife and I are both faith people, so we believe that we had a lot of prayers around us right away, and it just kind of helped keep things in perspective,” Jones said.