On April 16, 2013 Chris and I were finally in the Oncologist office after a week of trying to get in. Chris was experiencing severe bone pain in his back, night sweats, and what appeared to be an iron deficiency. As we start talking to her, Chris begin to explain his symptoms. She started using medical terminology and kept saying “Leukemia”. While in her office, she expressed the need to get Chris into the hospital as soon as possible, but while we were in her office, we would go ahead and do blood work to check his numbers and she suggested we do a bone marrow biopsy to get the ball rolling. I kept telling Chris everything would be ok. Little did we know, this visit was about to begin the biggest journey of our life.
That night, the on-call doctor at the hospital had his nurse call to check on Chris. Unfortunately for us, he had a low fever so we ended up in the hospital that night. This started our hospital stay. A couple days later, the oncologist called me to let me know she had the results of his bone marrow biopsy. The results came back positive for leukemia. He was then diagnosed with ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Her phone call to me was very difficult. I’m sitting next to my husband in his hospital room while she is explaining to me our situation and what is about to happen and how sorry she was to have to tell me this. Trying to maintain a calm state was very difficult. It broke my heart to have to tell my husband that he had leukemia and try to explain the process the best I could. Not something a wife should have to do, but I did. Our life changed at that moment.
The next steps were meeting with the on-call doctor and getting Chris upstairs into the Bone Marrow Clinic of GA. Apparently, Chris’ insurance company decided that they could not handle these kinds of medical cases and had agreed to allow patients to go into this clinic at Northside hospital. Little did we know; this was the best clinic in the Southeast. Our group of doctors were amazing. So once there was a room open, Chris moved upstairs to the clinic. This was all surreal. At 33, he has leukemia. And it’s rare for someone his age to get this disease. But, we were in this together and we were going to make it through. So, we meet to go over treatment plan and the next steps to start the road to recovery. At his age, his body could handle a regimen that they give children. Very serious rounds of chemo to attack the leukemia. 13 different types of chemotherapy in various different forms. This treatment plan would be for 2 1-2 Years. This plan would continue even when he was released from the hospital to continue attacking the bad cells and keep the disease from spreading. Once he was in “remission”, he would be released from the hospital. But they don’t know the exact timeline. It would all depend on how the body responds to the chemotherapy. This was our new normal.
Chris ended up staying in the ICU for 33 days before he was released. During his stay, I was there every day and weekend without the boys. They were not allowed to visit because of germs. That was extremely difficult for everyone. Life revolved around this new way of life, which was survival. After 33 days, Chris was in remission. Remission for a blood cancer patient meant he could come home, but his rigorous treatments continued to make sure the leukemia didn’t come back. Luckily for us, the chemo worked and he did not need a transplant.
For the next 7 months, Chris lived in our master bedroom. I was not allowed to use it due to germs, bacteria, and possible infections. He took a handful of chemo pills every day and a steroid once a week. He also had to take neupagen. Along with all the pills were daily treatments at the clinic-from IV treatments to breathing treatments and blood transfusions. These treatments continued for the next year and a half. He really just slept and took meds. It was a new way of life for all of us, including the boys. Daddy was home, but not really. I say we all adjusted, but I’m not sure if you really “adjust” to this. You just live and do the best you can. Even after the months of sleeping, he wasn’t himself. You could see how the effects of chemo hurt a human, but also bring them back to life. We just wanted him to get better. That year and a half was tough. We were very blessed in such a tragic situation. Chris ended up with some other health issues from the chemotherapy which allowed him to stop his treatment plan early. He ended up with psoriasis of the liver (and not the fun way either as he always says), which was a blessing in disguise. I don’t think he could have kept going through more treatment. It’s a journey. A journey that I feel was necessary. Part of our life for a reason. The best part about our story is I can say my husband (and our family) is a Survivor! And we are truly grateful.