Local cancer survivor, Tony Valk, stresses the importance of donating blood

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Every Wednesday for almost two decades Tony Valk was a constant on News Channel 11.

Viewers made an appointment at Noon in front of their TV to hear his gardening and landscaping tips, but nearly two years ago, he walked away.

7106D91637724E4E8031E4250F97B46CWhat many of you didn’t know is he was in the midst of the fight of his life.

Today he’s winning that fight, but he wouldn’t be here today without people donating blood.

December 18, 2013 – A week before Christmas a still smiling Tony Valk made his last Valk Talk appearance on News Channel 11 at Noon – the end of an 18-year tradition.

What we didn’t know at the time was that for the previous three years he had battled a chronic form of leukemia; one that was becoming more and more serious and needed immediate attention.

“It was a pretty daunting, intimidating journey ahead of me with the leukemia and blood cancer ahead of me,” said Valk. “I remember being in there thinking, I’m not going to be back.”

In the weeks that followed, Valk headed to Texas in hopes a bone marrow transplant would save his life.

“There’s no sign of any disease presently,” said Valk.

And it did. But he would’ve never made it to this point if it weren’t for dozens of other donors.

“I’m a blessed, blessed man and a lot of it is because there were people there,” said Valk.

In the years leading up to that transplant he constantly needed blood transfusions and thankfully, he never had to wait for one.

BAF33C5934E84C669353BEFB3F02DB71“Whenever I needed those dozens of units over that course of a period of time, it was wonderful to know that they were there,” said Valk.

In all, he received an estimated 30 to 50 pints – the equivalent of an entire blood drive.

“I would not be living had that blood supply not been there, it’s just a fact,” said Valk.

Today, there are others just like him whose lives’ depend on that constant blood supply too.

“We all know of blood being needed in the case of terrible car accidents and things like that, but most blood is used in the treatment of disease. Diseases like leukemia,” says Gwen Hunter, American Red Cross Blood Services.

Valk is now using his experience to encourage others to donate blood – just like he did multiple times a year for two decades back when he was healthy.

The universe has since repaid him.

“Who would have known that I would have been one to need that steady, steady, steady need ultimately,” said Valk.

Who would’ve thought he’d ever step foot in our studio again.

Twenty months after leaving with some serious doubts he returned.

“It has changed, of course things do,” said Valk.

Beaming with joy and gratitude, “This is awesome. This is awesome,” exclaims Valk.

In recent months, his family’s taken the vacation of a lifetime and his son’s graduated from college, “My oldest daughter is getting married in two weeks.”

All examples of precious life moments he might’ve missed if 30 to 50 others hadn’t opened up their hearts and given a little of themselves.

“All we want and pray for is that we don’t have a resurgence of the cancer. Well, we hope for that too. Yeah, and as of 20 months or so, that’s been the case,” said Valk. “

If Tony Valk’s story inspires you to donate — we’re in your corner with a way to give back.

Johnson City Police Officer T.K. Salling giving blood on September 2, 2015.
Johnson City Police Officer T.K. Salling giving blood on September 2, 2015. Click on the image to see a gallery of those who have given blood.

The News Channel 11 – American Red Cross 9th Annual Battle of the badges continues through September 11th.

Several men and women in badges answered the call for donors during a drive at the Johnson City Municipal Building at 601 East Main Street.

The goal of the blood drive is to increase the blood supply and educated the public about blood donation and to honor our first responders.

See more stories related to our Battle of the Badges campaign at: http://wjhl.com/category/battle-of-the-badges/ 

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