My name is Jim Lightbody was I was diagnosed on October 7, 2015 with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was admitted immediately to the hospital to start a Chemotherapy regiment. Like most things in my life, I thought “I got this”, little did I know I did not have it. Five days into the Regiment, things took a turn for the worse. My wife Wanda came to visit after work and realized something was going terribly wrong, after some investigation, she discovered I would be alert for 5 or 10 minutes then sleep for 4 or 5 hours. Concerned she had me evaluated, and a pulmonologist discovered that I was having an allergic reaction to a drug in the regiment that was causing bleeding into my lungs. I was immediately moved to MICU. As the rapid response team was gathering to further evaluate me and prepare to treat the bleeding, I went into respiratory failure then cardiac failure. Since the team was already gathered in the room, they were able to resuscitate me and stop the bleeding in my lungs quickly. I was then placed into a medical induced coma to heal and the doctor gave me a 2% chance of survival over the next 48 hours.
During the time I was in a coma, Wanda had to make some tough decisions, one of which was to have a tracheostomy placed into my airway. After 3 weeks, the doctors declared me in remission and were ready to start letting me out of the coma. As I was coming out of the coma and alert, I could not communicate due to the tracheostomy, I was also so weak I could not write and it took herculean strength to just to press a letter on the IPad. At that time Wanda and I devised a set of signals to communicate to each other. At that time, I realized something went terribly wrong and I was in for a fight, but first I had to preserve what I had and start rebuilding. After 3 more weeks of recovery in MICU I was transported by ambulance to an inpatient rehabilitation center to work on my strength, independence and learning how to walk. We were told to expect our stay in rehab to be a few months. After 2 weeks I was walking with assistance devices, discharged way ahead of expectations and finally returned home. My next visit with my Oncologist was a tough one, we discussed that I needed a stem cell bone marrow transplant to survive but in my current condition, he would not perform the transplant. We devised a plan that I had to lose weight and become physically stronger before I would be cleared for transplant.
During the next few months I was administered chemotherapy regiments and working on my strength and loosing body weight. Just as I was preparing for gastric surgery when the road turned again. One week before I was scheduled to have surgery, we discovered I had relapsed and the Leukemia was back. We faced a tough decision to treat the Leukemia first, or proceed with the Gastric surgery. The safest is to treat the Leukemia first, but this would delay the surgery and stem cell transplant. If we went ahead with the surgery, then treated the Leukemia, there was a risk involved that for a month after surgery I could not be treated with Chemotherapy, but I could be losing weight while treating the Leukemia. We monitored the progression of the Leukemia and made the decision that we would proceed with the surgery, then fight the Leukemia. During my recovery from the surgery I had to mentally prepare myself for the next battle with Leukemia. This time I knew I was head to head with the disease, but I knew I had a team behind me. I also knew the treatments and how Leukemia attacks and I was not going down without giving it my all. During the month of recovery from the surgery, the Leukemia started progressing rapidly and I was admitted back into the hospital exactly 4 weeks from the surgery to start my fight. Oh and by the way, the same drug I had the reaction to in the first round, was going to have to be administered to me again this round. It took allot of courage to hold out your arm, look at the doctor and say I trust your plan and let’s do this again.
After a few weeks in the hospital, I was declared back in remission and was discharged. The next few regiments of Chemotherapy were easier and I did not have any issues. In September 2016 I was admitted back into the hospital this time for my stem cell transplant. I was prepared and told that this Chemotherapy Regiment was the “Mother of all chemo’s” and be ready to fight. By this time, I had lost 150lbs and was walking 3 to 5 miles a day. I was physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the fight. To say that there were not times during this battle I did not feel defeated, but I was ready for it. I was discharged from the hospital ahead of expectations. Two weeks after being discharged from Stem Cell transplant, I was able to successfully complete the Light the Night Walk in Montgomery County, followed 4 weeks after that by the Dallas Light the Night Walk. During my time fighting AML, the LLS society was there offering support and encouragement. As I transitioned into a Survivor, LLS provides me a community of other Survivors to share stories with and also setting goals like completing the Light the Night Walks.