Friday, February 18, 2011

The day my life changed.

  You wake up in the morning knowing that it's a new day but never know exactly what the day will bring.  April 29 was that day for me, the day we lost one of the most amazing people I have ever known, Chris who most of us called Toph.  As this was completely unexpected and life changing enough in itself, me and my friends promised each other we would get physicals to make sure we were all as healthy as we could possibly be.  I for some reason kept putting off making the appointment, and once the appointment was scheduled I tried calling to change it.  When I called that day to change it the lady told me they didnt have anything for a few months and while I contemplated on moving it back a picture I keep of Toph fell out of my wallet (which has never happened) and I almost took this as a sign that I should not push this back anymore.  This being a routine physical there was not too much I had to tell my Dr. except there was some bruises on my legs that were taking longer than normal to heal, but didn't think too much of it.  The next morning the Dr. called me at work to come get some more blood taken so they could run some more tests, still I felt there was no reason to worry.  I went that Friday morning before work and they took a lot more blood, and later in that day I got another phone call saying I needed to schedule an appointment with the hematologist (blood specialist), which they let me know that next Mon there was opening.  When that Monday came I went to the appointment by myslef thinking they were going to tell me I was anemic or something simple.  The Dr. sat me down and told me within the two days of me giving blood, my white blood cells had dropped pretty rapidly, and gave me a list of options in which it could be, half of those things we had ruled out already, til finally he got down to a section talking about things dealing with my bone marrow.  He wouldn't go into too much detail since he didn't want me to worry until we got results and then suggested we do a bone marrow biopsy, there was a 20 min window before another Dr. had to do one so we could squeeze that in or wait 2 1/2 weeks until he got back from vacation.  Really I had know idea what to do since I was still hoping I was anemic, I asked what he would do. Telling me the results of these tests could be serious he suggested we do it that day so we could get the results ASAP. So they told me what it enatiled got me ready and there it was.  I layed there still in shock this was happening, and now regretting my decision to go to this appointment alone.  That Thursday I was working and when I checked my phone I had 5 missed calls from a number I didn't recognize my heart sank as  I listened to the voicemail. The first one was from another Dr. since mine was on vacation by now saying she was an oncologist and they made an appointment for me the next morning at 8:30 and suggested I bring my family with me to the appointment, and told me I would be admitted to the hospital.  I lost it, walked out of work and went home not knowing what tomorrow held for me.  My family and I all sat in the Dr.s room on Aug 13th as she started to explain, really the only words I heard were Leukemia, cancer, and chemo.  She also told me I would be admitting myself into the hospital for about a month to start chemo right away.  That's what we did I admitted myself went through about 5 big tests that day and started taking chemo pills right away.  I guess it was shock and disbelief we called friends and family to tell them but for some reason it never fully sank in.  My mind and body went into overdrive knowing no matter what I had to do I would do it. 
   Everyone I talked to told me a postitive attitude was the most important thing about going through this, since I tried to look at life that way I embraced that full on.  We learned soo much about APL Leukemia. I considered myself lucky that I got this type of Leukemia since it had one of the higher success rates of treating and not coming back. A few Dr.s told me this had a high success rate but it was one of the hardest chemo treatments to get through for it's one of the strongest chemos they use. Since I didn't have time to process this my mind was still focused on what I needed to do until my main Dr. walked in from vacation and said I cant believe that you are sitting here.  He also told me that we were very lucky we did the bone marrow that day bacause the form of Leukemia I have is very aggressive and he didn't even want to think what would have happened if we waited another few weeks. I then realized how the timing of all this worked out, since the Leukemia is agressive it had only been in my system for a few months and earlier detection of it would have been hard to trace. (I guess in my case I was very lucky to put my physical off until I did)  Everything was going as expected in treatment being tired, nauseous, not a big appetite, and the minor infections one would get from not having an immune system (which the chemo depleated).  About two weeks into the treatment they gave me an antibiotic which I started having an allergic reaction to, they called a Dr. up and as he stepped out to get something to counter the reaction, I went into anaphylactic shock, throat closing, eyes swollen shut, all that good stuff.  My dad ran and got him and they called code blue as I wasn't going to be able to breath in just a few minutes. Crash carts and a staff of about 10 people swarmed in my room.  My poor parents stood by and watched in fear as they told them if they couldn't intubate me I wasn't going to make it. Out of the few things I remember the thing I hold on to is when they were having trouble getting the tube down to intubate me there was a moment when everything went white and I felt my body start to give up, at that moment I so clearly heard the distinct voice of my friend Toph telling me to be strong and I couldn't give up now.  I woke up two days later in ICU, I had made it through.  I was in the hospital for 5 1/2 weeks all together that first stay with a couple of "close calls" due to low blood pressure and infections, but I had already made up my mind I would do whatever I could to make it through. Although there were days I thought I dont know how much more I could take my amazing family and friends were there to hold me up. The nights left alone with my own thoughts I could feel Toph was right there by my side to keep me strong and protect me. 
   The next 10 weeks I did as outpatient treatment through the chemo clinic being given Arsenic. Hearing they would be using Arsenic on me I thought I was in for another round of bad side effects, but it was actually the opposite.  I would sit at the clinic every day talk with the nurses get to know the other patients and hear their stories, in which we would all learn, grow, be strengthen by each other, and most importantly be surrounded with other people that knew what you were going through.  During that break from the hospital I was able to fully digest and cope with what my body had gone through, take time to evaluate my life and who I wanted to become. I learned that you can't change anything in the past and the future hasn't been determined, to live life to the fullest and enjoy the moment of right now that you are given.  After completing my outpatient treatment, I knew there were still two more rounds of chemo I would have to endure.  Once again on Jan 17 I admitted myself knowing this chemo wasn't going to be as strong and hopefully the side effects would be less.  Now taking hold of whatever I had control of, which with chemo really isn't that much, I was determined to do whatever I could.  I walked 3 to 4 miles around the 5th floor of the hopsital since I wasnt allowed to leave the floor, which yes was walking in a square with an IV pole around and around, learning that it took 18 laps to make up a mile.  Having no clue if this was really helping I knew it mentally helped me, and other patients and their family memebers told me I was motivating them to do more even if it was just getting out of bed that day, or try to walk a lap themselves.  The Dr. told me I should be in the hopital around 3 weeks that round.  A week and a half later they said I could go home since I was doing so well, as long as I was careful and stayed on house arrest til my immune system was back up.  With a minor fever and a quick trip to the ER, which they sent me home with antibiotcs, I passed that cycle with a breeze! My Dr said I can do my last treatment outpatient which I will start on Mon and will go at with the same attitude of beating it instead of it beating me. 
  As I started to write this down yesterday I decided to go to cemetery and sit with Toph to write it, since he was my strength through getting me through all this and really the reason I'm here today. In the middle of writing I found out another friend of mine passed away, and once again Toph was by my side when I needed him the most!!  Learning to cherish the life that you have, make the most out of it, and value those around you, is the biggest reward I have gotten out of this.