Monday, February 25, 2013

Let the Games Begin!

I still don’t think this has sunk in.  I haven’t mentally processed the fact that I even have leukemia, let alone that it is a deadly disease that threatens to kill me, left unchecked. From the time the doctor faced me and told me the stellar news, I’ve been in practical mode, getting things done: packing for a month-long stay (maybe more) at the hospital, doing laundry, setting bills to pay, and talking to family about what I’m facing in the days and weeks ahead. Thankfully, I was able to come home over the weekend and get some of the details taken care of, but when your life has just been ground to a screeching halt like this, it feels like everything is in a state of chaos.
Physically, I have felt tip-top with the exception of a headache courtesy of my spinal tap on Friday.  I still have doctors coming in today, surprised that I’m feeling as well as I am considering that 50% of my bone marrow is apparently teeming with cancerous cells. Apparently 20% is the benchmark, so you can see this isn't inconsequential. That’s a comforting thought, huh?
Mentally, I think I’ve accepted what’s in front of me and have mapped out what I can expect in broad-brush terms. That helped me to discuss with my employer how best to move forward. Everyone there was incredibly supportive, far more than I could have expected, especially in that I’ve only been a part of this organization for just over three months. And the real kicker is that the blood test that started this whole adventure was a part of the company’s insurance incentive. I’m not the first person to have had his life literally saved as a result of this simple screening.
I’ve spoken to a number of people in preparation for the next month and on the one hand, I’m faced with the stark realities of chemotherapy and its side effects; on the other, I’m feeling better about being able to weather it. I’ve also run across people who would urge me to seek alternative forms of treatment or fly to another city for another treatment option. As far as I can tell, I’m in the best of care and am being handled carefully, deliberately, and aggressively to ensure my odds for survival are the best.
Thanks to my friends Betsy Peterson and her partner Tracey Rush who is on the downside of Hodgkin’s lymphoma (the crowd roars), and their friend, Linda Huntimer who is also a cancer survivor and was able to get me a lot of practical information quickly. Big thanks to Paul Pavao, friend of mine from many years ago and father in-law of my own daughter, who is a fellow AML-survivor.  That my daughter’s father and father in-law are both dealing with acute leukemia kinda had her more than just a little concerned.  What are the odds? 
So, I’m sitting in a private hospital room – a room with a view, nonetheless. In less than 24 hours, I’ll have toxic chemicals dumped into a special IV line called a “pick line” which will attack the nastiness inside my bone marrow that threatens to take me out. We have some tests yet to run including another bone marrow draw, which I am eagerly awaiting, like having teeth pulled without Novocain. But that will give us what we need to know. Maybe then, it'll fully sink in and I can emotionally process this.  I know at some point it will hit me and I'll have the same shock as those I've broken the news to and come to terms with it all. For now, onward toward beating this thing!
Let the games begin!