On March 24, 2006, I received the worst news of my life. It had been an average Friday. Shortly after I arrived home, the phone rang. It was my doctor telling me I had leukemia.
Are you sure? I feel fine. Yes, I'm positive. A hematoligist/oncologist I recommend will call you as soon as we get off the line.
I'd gone to the doctor two days earlier complaining of a swollen finger. Lyme disease? Rheumatoid arthritis? Blood tests were done, including a CBC. It was the CBC that showed I had leukemia.
The new doctor called and in 20 minutes explained everything I needed to know right then about the disease. My husband walked in during the call and I told him I had leukemia. His face went from disbelief to shock in a second or two. I told the doctor I'd meet him the next day at the hospital.
There were plans to unmake, relatives, friends and colleagues to call. Then I had to tell my kids. Try being a scared, tearful mother putting a relatively positive spin on leukemia. They too were shocked and terrified. They didn't know what to ask or expect, just like me.
In the next 7 years, I would have 10 doses of chemo, 7 of total body radiation, 2 stem cell transplants, 75 units of blood, significant graft versus host disease wherein my donor attacks my body, 15 doses of targeted radiation to destroy a patch of leukemia on my skin, and monthly low dose anti-cancer injections. The injections are on-going for the foreseeable future.
I'm lucky to be alive, although some days don't feel like it. I have a 30% chance of surviving for 5 years post-transplant. Three and a half years down, one and a half to go.