The Face of Leukemia- Just look at me, really its ok.

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Bald is beautiful

We’re all born bald, baby. – Telly Savalas

I collect hats. It’s what you do when you’re bald– James Taylor

It’s a great event to get outside and enjoy nature. I find it very exciting no matter how many times I see bald eagles –Karen Armstrong

What’s so brave about being bald? I’ve not fought for my country or found the cure for cancer I’ve just gone out without my hat on! -Gail Porter

You know it is interesting to me this stereotype associated with being bald. If you’re a man, it’s obviously genetic. Poor you, trudging through life with the same cranial cul-de-sac formed upon you as your father and his father before him. Unless of course you are a skinny, emaciated man then you must obviously be dying from some rare form of cancer. Or you just happen to be Billy Corgan jr. or Michael Stipe then ROCK ON DUDE!!! BALD ROCKS YEAH!

But what if you are a woman? Sinead O’Connors’ shiny domeness was by choice, a political statement against a traditional view of women. (well-played I might add)  But what if you don’t have her “balls”, what if you are brought screaming and kicking into baldness? Seriously think about this, in our society a woman unfortunately is judged the moment she walks into a room. Not for her sunny personality or Mensa card-carrying IQ. Nope, she is judged for her looks. Make-up, clothing, body weight, eyes, breasts and of course her hair. That is right, men will either ogle a woman within the first 30 seconds, ponder ogling her over the next 30 minutes or write her off. In the mean time women within the room will smile to your face and talk shit the rest of the evening. Sorry ladies its true, I have witnessed more than my fair share of character assassinations based on any one of the above criteria not being met to perfection on more than one occasion.

People get real comfortable with their features. Nobody gets comfortable with their hair. Hair trauma. It’s the universal thing-Jamie lee Curtis

So imagine, carrying this social pressure your entire life only to wake up one day without one of these aforementioned 6 major sight line musts for survival. What would you do? How would you behave? Would you curl up into a ball and cry or say fuck it and march boldly into the world claiming my hair will not define me!

Jacy lost all her hair on or around the first week of December. It has gone from sadness to a fun playful experience then one of empowerment! She has come to terms with this loss, worn a few wigs to help with a social awkwardness associated with a woman not 1474617_10153673039070221_12575420_nhaving hair, and in the end decided that 9 times out of 10 bald is beautiful.

Now while none of us can say with certainty what we would or would not do as it has not happened to us personally, I am proud of my wife for taking this strong-willed, brave stance. She does indeed have a perfectly shaped head and I think she is hot, hOT, HOT bald! Really, like she could never have hair on her head again and it would be ok with me! The woman is drop dead gorgeous! Throw in her stunning smile, caring heart and amazing personality, well ladies and gentlemen we have the trifecta of baldness!

But let me say this before I drone on too much about the woman I love and her shiny new dome. When we are out in public.

I see you.

I see when you stare at her as though it is wrong for her to be bald.

I see you when you look behind her and sigh as though you just cant relate. It’s ok, we understand if you cannot, but please don’t be fake.

While eating in a restaurant I see you staring, with your smart ass smirks, elbows flying into each others ribs while walking by outside. Moron it’s a window, if you can see us I can see you!

My ears may be 47 years old but your mumbles are not quiet enough. She hasn’t lost her breasts and even if she had you shouldnt be staring trying to figure it out so don’t look, she isn’t skin and bones so quit guessing her weight, and yes she lost ALL her hair, so stop wondering about places you cannot see and how much wax is being saved.

If you are going to stare don’t look ashamed when I make eye contact with you, walk up and ask questions, we are always open to discuss Leukemia and its effects upon our lives.

When you do have something to say, dont automatically behave as thought this is her last day on earth. The news media has ruined the public in regards to behavior when confronted with a bald woman. Smile say hello and ask away with glee! We are happy to be here and so you should be as well. Who knows the bald woman you talk with may have alopecia, thusly not really needing you to pray for them, unless you feel that will raise hair follicles from the dead?

If you have had a couple of drinks, your inhibition is lowered and you feel as though it is the perfect time to act like an ass with rude or inappropriate comments about this beautiful human being or any like her that may be in my presence, understand this, I WILL  make it the very worst night of your life. I promise..

When my wife takes her wig off in the middle of a store and it shocks you, just chuckle. It is funny, we laugh about it all the time and will laugh with you I promise! But if you can’t chuckle politely than at least close your mouth, that looks funnier than her bald head and we would hate for you to feel bad about yourself.

Remember, people going through chemotherapy are no different from you and me. Most of them have an incredible sense of humor, some have survived the very worst of treatment, others are still dealing with an inner loss while a few are looking at just making it a few extra days.  These people, these priceless examples of survival and strength, still need to laugh, love, talk, and feel. They still need to be accepted as the very same human beings they were before cancer. They know they are not the same inside and nothing will ever change that, but what they don’t need is to be reminded through ignorance, insensitivity and callousness.

Look into the face of cancer, tell me what you see.

I see LOVE…

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The Face of Leukemia- A day for surprises…

 

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What does it mean to “touch” a life?

Everyday we walk this earth, worrying about our “in the moment” crises, complaining about our “bad” days, struggling to get ahead, feeling father and farther behind. But do you know what it feels like to actually touch someones life? To be that moment, that bright and shining star leaving someone wanting to see you again, yearning to feel the warmth your presence brings. Do you?

I believe everyone does. I believe every single person walking the face of this earth is just what I described to someone. Maybe to more than just one, but at least one person in your life feels that way when YOU walk through the door.

It becomes very easy to forget what our presence can mean to people in our lives. As I previously stated life itself does have a strange tendency to get in the way. But what if we could look outside ourselves for just a minute? Have the ability to look back upon our lives feeling the emotions within people surrounding us. Know in that moment of weakness leading us to complain about life, while feeling down upon ourselves that those moments are ok, but in reality are really nothing more than a  waste of our energy.  A waste of our precious time.  What if we could do that before we leave this earth? Before it is all recounted upon the lips of a friend or family member without us ever knowing?

Today-

Today I stood by while my wife was mobbed by students at her school. They looked like puppies held at bay as we rounded the corner onto a black top designed for play. These children lined up into perfect rows, facing their teachers. Until one noticed a look of surprise cast across another’s face, and as most inquisitive minds do, turned to see what caused such a shocked reaction.  It started slowly, a gasp, then murmurs of Ms.Jacy here, and another there, until they all were screaming it loudly! Ms. Jacy!!!!! MS. JACY!!!! Not knowing whether to run or stay in perfect formation the looked; “like puppies on a leash”. Until they could no longer contain themselves and all it took was one puppy to break free from the constraints of rules. They came fast and I saw a smile arise from my wife (Ms. Jacy) and emotions shared from these children that said to me; this is her moment. She now knows…

This was the moment as a human being you hopefully realize you mean more to the world than your little daily problems will allow you to believe. A moment when you stand back and let a wave of love overcome you. A moment that most people won’t realize until its to late.  Watching my wife smothered in love from both students and co-workers today left my heart aching with joy. At one point while speaking to some colleagues she began to cry at how much she missed them all, how much she loved her job, her classroom and what it meant to be a teacher at Dixon Montessori School, surrounded by colleagues who felt as she does towards these children.

She cried and I stood aside; normally I would have swooped her up, protected her, whisking her away, shielding her from emotional pain. But in this one moment, I just stood there, gulped down hard as to not look weak and let her friends, her co-workers surround her with love.  This was her moment of clarity and I prayed she was, for a second standing outside her body to see, just what she means to these kids, these parents, these friends.

We left after roughly 30 minutes or so, Ms. Jacy becoming increasingly exhausted. As we walked through the campus, several children grabbed at her sweater, looking for hugs, looking for a smile, looking to tell her they loved her, missed her and couldn’t wait until securedownload-9she returned to them, healthy and whole.

It was in fact the longest walk ever, back to the car.

Cancer sucks, cancer changes your life forever. Our lives together will forever travel a new and different path aligned with Leukemia but together will win this fight.

As you head into this holiday, who are you a shining light for, who waits to see you smile, what family member(s) want nothing more than to spend time with you? Who makes a difference in your life? Who can you not wait to see? What person(s) take up every moment of your thoughts because of the joy they bring into your life?

I beg of you, find out if you don’t know the answer to these questions. Dont waste time wondering, don’t wait until its to late to know.

Today witnessing the empathy and caring my wife has shared  with so many others, her passion for being a teacher and friend, that same love and emotion shared in return; just being a part of that experience with her, leaves me feeling very blessed.

Of course I already treasure the gifts she has brought into my life.  I know who the one person is that I yearn to see, that I long for, whom I cant wait to see walk through the door. The person who brings light into my life.

Just look at her smile, it says it all…..

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The Face of Leukemia (December 18, 2013)

 

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SSSHHHHHHHH

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of silence. Normally right now I’d be cozied up in my captain’s chair, shorts on, comfy t-shirt, freshly showered with a hot cup of tea off to my right. Then carefully place my iPhone ear buds into place and with the stroke of a finger, “classical to study by” gently lulling my senses, firing a few neurons, stimulating a thought process into action.

But not tonight.

Tonight there is not a sound echoing through the corridors of our home. Four children off to sleep, two dogs snuggled up to a few human blankets while one stands guard at the front door and the other ones at my feet. I’m still in my shorts, we are out of tea and the silence is just to grand to ruin with any music of any kind. Yep pretty nice..

All Neurons firing properly.

A moment of pure heaven like this seems the perfect time for a bit of reflection covering the last 29 days.

  • Iran agreed to limit their nuclear development program
  • Chinese Spacecraft Change 3 safely landed on the moon
  • Paul Walker, Ray Price, Peter O’Toole, Eleanor Parker and Jim Hall all passed away.
  • Nelson Mandela as well walked towards the light.
  • Hanukkah has begun and Winter solstice is upon us.
  • School shooting in Colorado
  • Hospital shooting in Nevada
  • Oh yeah and that whole my wife was diagnosed with Leukemia starting a scary fight for her life.

Oh hey that last thing! Yeah funny thing about that last one there, because of that little bullet point I knew none of those things above it happened. Can you believe that? It appears as though my full focus was on one thing and one thing only. Apparently there was neither time nor wanten for me to flip on a television and search out these wonderous revelations.  Seems as though reading, learning and living a life of leukemia can really skew a fellas sense of priority.

Case in point; just prior to cuing up the old blogger keyboard this evening my finger (on its own of course as I would never) clicked upon the Yahoo banner and up popped all these top headlines Yahoo believes I should know about. Amazingly enough not one of them held an accurate title as most were standard stretched truth “catchlines” instead. It also seems as though most stories revolve around “celebrities” as if our lives would wilt into the unknown without our latest gossip over Kim K or what the Jackson’s are suing over in regards to their dead iconic son.  What wonderful philanthropy has lofted Brad Pitt to sainthood and why the hell is Angelina Jolie 98 pounds? So it seems as if by worrying about the effects of Leukemia upon my wife and our family, worrying about the hundreds of thousand United States citizens suffering from Leukemia and other forms of cancer every second of every minute of every day. My thought process is severely flawed. According to polls and data it appears the American people don’t care, but what they do care about is the Real Housewives of some dumbass city? Or perhaps how millionaires actually need assistance finding a date! Really? You are worth millions and you need to waste your money using Ms. Smartypants to find someone for you? COME ON! Not buying it! Then of course there is Kanye laying it all on the line, like a police officer or soldier, risking his very life to entertain us poor lowly citizens.  Yep over the last 29 days I got it wrong…

I always knew being so wrong would feel so right!

So here I sit very content with these current choices as my wife sleeps soundly. Gone are the night sweats for now. No more needing to have me fetch a pain reliever at all hours of the night. Gone is that horrible aching pain associated with a feeling of her bones exploding while creating new life within her blood stream.  Gone is the never ending headache. Gone is also her hair, all of it, everywhere, seriously, ok except her eyebrows which so far is pretty cool. But man can you imagine waking up one day to find all your hair is just gone? Can you?  But anyways you know what isn’t gone? Her beautiful smile.

Jacy’s smile as I have written in the past is one in a million. Leukemia has not taken her smile from her face. She wears it proudly each and everyday. Leukemia is keeping some of her energy, which is to be expected, but even that is a battle she is slowly starting to win!

We met with Dr. Truong today and we still have a long road to go with 3 more consolidation therapies planned. (One week a month, for three months in the hospital for chemotherapy) We are also being referred to Stanford for a possible bone marrow transplant. Once at Stanford more data will be in and all our options will be revealed.  But in the end, we are way ahead of schedule, her white cell counts are through the roof and the last marrow draw showed no immediate signs of Leukemia! We are beating this monster handily! Wait for it, wait for it, YES everyone that means we ARE Kicking Cancers Ass One Cell At A Time! Ok not really we but she…

So in the end I think I will keep the television off.  In the end it appears that maybe just maybe whats going on around me, in my personal life might be a bit more important than whether or not Mylie Cyrus’s life IS a wrecking ball.

And at the end of the day, I think I’ll just sit here, relaxed, enjoying these tiny moments knowing the woman I love is sleeping peacefully and because of her will and tenacity I get to enjoy her for yet another day..

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The Faces of Leukemia. Today

 

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Today the faces of leukemia came from far and wide. Gathered in a small gymnasium to help support a teacher, a mother, a wife, a friend.  They came from church, a walk on a warm Sunday afternoon, they came from the store, Christmas shopping, from watching the football game, but they came. They came to be tested, a simple DNA swab of the cheek looking to be the next bone marrow transplant match!

Today the faces of Leukemia looked me in the eyes. Some cried, many smiled, almost every one of those faces hugged me. People I have never met, people who know people, who know my wife, people who know people, who know other people who know my wife. People.

Today the faces of Leukemia were happy, excited, the way one is excited at an opportunity to win the lottery and  in an offhanded way they did have that chance. Becoming a bone marrow match is truly (in my opinion) an honor. One bestowed upon a “hero”. Because that’s what you are once chosen. A Hero! You now have the ability to change someones fate. Helping save a life simply by donating something you have matching something they need to survive. If that isn’t heroic then I don’t know what is!

Today 193 people made it into Blood Sources registry! ONE HUNDRED NINETY THREE new members of an elite club, praying they are chosen to receive that call! They may never get the call but like winning the lottery even though the chances are slim, you can’t win if you don’t play! And play they did!photo 3

Today the faces of Leukemia continued to come and go, many I knew personally, more I did not. This day, this Sunday in a small school gymnasium, I hugged more people than ever in my meager life. Each and every one of them who asked or just greeted me with a hug received the very best hug I could give. It was least I could do to say thank you on this day, today.

Tonight my heart tonight is overflowing with love.  Emotionally spent, tired, typing this is extremely hard as for once finding the right words to describe these feelings is challenging. My family is like everyone else’s family, we work hard, go to school and church, we donate when we can and always try to help our fellow neighbor. We are nothing special by any means. But today it felt as if my wife was a rock star! She has always been one as far as I am concerned. But I guess our little town thinks so too! So humbling, so amazing, so inspiring, so much love and admiration held for everyone who helped run our bone marrow drive along with every single person who took time from their day to come down.photo 1

Today when we opened the doors at 0900 and started setting up I prayed we would get at least 50 people. 50 people would have been awesome, as 10am rolled around some friends came by and a few more trickled in. My sister was there working a table along with lots of personal friends and coworkers. Standing out front all I could think was dear lord just let us get 50 registered today please! I never ask you for much, I always ask on behalf of someone else, but please help me out today with at least 50 people joining this registry.Then at around 11 am it happened. Cars came in slowly at first then a little more and suddenly we were inundated with people from everywhere! Shaking hands and hugging people I knew, didn’t know, friends, family and acquaintances! They just kept coming and coming and it was, well it was, AWESOME!!!!

Today a community pulled together for one of its own and that person just so happened to be the woman I love, my best friend, my wife. Talking with a dear friend it came to discussion how amazing it is, we all live together, go about our daily routines, passing each other paths without so much as recognition at times and yet when one is in trouble we all head the call. We all band together to protect one of our own and even if you don’t know that person, you may be friends or family with someone who does and that’s good enough for you. Now they are one of your own as well.

Today talking with all the wonderful people of this town it amazed me how true that last statement really was, as through these conversations I knew people in passing. As friends of friends, as family members of other family members, and in realizing this just how connected we all really have become. A community. Six hours came and went in a flash. It was astounding. Reporting home to my wife who was surrounded by close family and friends, she sat in awe of all the fuss. But to me it makes perfect sense. We all touch someone in our lives, some of us are fortunate to touch many people either in spirit or through deed. Jacy is one of those people, she shines brightly on all in her life. She brings a joy and happiness to those around her that is hard to deny. She cares about everyone, is passionate about her students, and loves her family. She is Jacy.

Today I saw the true meaning of community. Today we may have saved someones life.  Today I felt love and compassion on a whole new scale. Today I came home humbled by it all. Today I thanked God for answering my prayers.

Today, is the start of tomorrow. Thank you all for giving me that…

Tonight I will sleep quietly next to my sweet wife, wrapped in the warmth of every single hug I received,

Today.

Still kicking cancers ass one cell at a time!

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The Faces of Leukemia (December 14, 2013)

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My face….

Its midnight and I can’t sleep. Facebook says: write something…. But I can’t, not for lack of inspiration but because my writings are more than Facebook can handle, the emotion, my feelings, inner torment. These feelings take more than a few lines to describe, more than a paragraph to sum up into a neat tidy little package. These yearnings, longings, fears, unknowns, hover over my head. They are kept at bay most of the time, squashed into remission by a steel will and optimism. Yeah optimism. The problem with optimism for myself is I am a natural pessimist. The person who says no first than after careful consideration reconsiders my response. Some would call it a natural negativity, I call it lessons learned through life experiences.

Why cant I sleep, what is tugging at my brain causing fear to paralyze me in bed with the light on? Waiting, no, praying the monster under the bed doesn’t come out to play?

It is the darkness.

With darkness comes silence, with silence comes thought, with thought comes sadness and with sadness comes fear. Fear for control I do not have, fear for an outcome which I know not an answer. Fear one morning I will awaken from this dream or nightmare and find myself alone. Now being alone is not so bad, that is when you have someone to come Unknownhome too. Being alone brings peace, it allows you an ability to discover and rejuvenate your self-awareness. That is unless you are already comfortable in that department. Being alone should be by choice not by design. Being alone should never be forced upon you unwillingly, in a cowardly act or unforseen circumstance. In the end it doesn’t matter what it is,or how it happens, I am scared of being alone.. I am scared of losing my friend, my wife, to that bastard known as cancer.

I roll over in the night and she is there, even sleeping she lazily smiles at me with the brightness of a thousand suns. She holds me in a way that even I can’t explain. I sleep well because her rhythmic breaths sooth me so. A touch of the hand, a brush of the leg, a heavy sigh, they all lend to the comfort that can be sleep.  And yet now no matter how positive things are looking in regards to her health, no matter what is happening in our lives there will always be an unknown. The unknown is Leukemia and it will remain hovering over us for the rest of our lives.

How many days do we have? Is it a year, three, five, ten or twenty? What is the outcome Unknown-3and why can’t we know. Doesnt the cosmic powers that be, the holy heavens above know we have children? Doesnt anyone understand the importance of this woman seeing her children grow up, get married, have children of their own? Doesnt my selfish rant have some bearing on our future? Although ultimately, knowing might not make things any easier, bitching about it now in a rudimentary way is cleansing.

Darkness creeps slowly, with it sounds of others sleeping makes me inevitably jealous. Closing my eyes, squeezing them tight,  praying sleep will come quickly for exhaustion consumes my very being. Reaching out slowly, nervously grasping a small bead like switch, turning off the light, which instantly turns on a fear. With this fear comes loneliness, with loneliness comes a absurdity in regards to wasted time worrying about an emotion that shouldnt be there since she lays right beside me, healthy (as healthy as one can be) and alive.

I hate you darkness! My heart beats faster, my respiratory rate rises and it becomes easier each time to hate you more! You envelop me, smothering me like a blanket, restraining me as a straitjacket would.. Your coldness leaves me sweating, wallowing in ice water and before I know it I just can’t swim anymore. Darkness you take pleasure in ruining my life, keeping me from the sanity so many others enjoy by midnight. You are to busy feeding my thoughts and dreams waiting for the cloak and dagger game you play to emerge from the shadows. I hate you darkness, I god damn hate you..

So many are wondering what its like, how your life changes upon learning someone you love has Leukemia or cancer. The questions are normal and I love being able to answer them. I am very thankful it is me who gets to support this woman. I am thankful God found a job for me that falls within my realm of understanding. I am thankful that I can hold this woman up, and help her walk through the next 6 months of chemotherapy surrounded by nothing more than our will and love. Most people wonder if there is something more, if there is something better they should be doing with their lives. Not me, God gave me my job, its right in front of me and she loves me to the moon and back. I don’t want to disappoint her, I don’t want to lose her, I don’t want to be alone.. Selfish as it seems…

Fuck you darkness, I hate you, I hate you all to hell….

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(Please understand this is just a rant. I am fine, we will prevail, we will kick cancers ass! I am not looking for sympathy or pity, but helping those understand some of the irrational thoughts happening when you are alone, in the middle of the night, trapped with  nothing more than the unknown and a crazy brain that refuses to quit thinking. It is after all why I write…) 

 

The Faces of Leukemia (December 12, 2013)

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Sun shines upon my face, the warmth of its gentle touch brings peace to a troubled soul. I can stand outside, I can walk freely, I can run in the sun like a 6-year-old child filled with glee.  I, I, I, I, I……..I can.

Today came the slap in the face we have been waiting for, a realization that she cannot. Yes I knew this, yes I tried my best to shield her from this simple fact. But today not through talk but action, she realized finally and fully that she cannot.

Tears flowed like rain….

A healthy vibrant (although exhausted) mid thirties woman no more than 22 days ago has been reduced to a small stepping, feet shuffling, woman trapped within the confines of her own home.  She puts up a wonderful theatrical front for all to see. But once the curtains have closed the orchestra’s plucked its final chord, the seats silenced through desertion. She no longer needs be onstage, whats left of her energy and spirit emerges. For now, a bit broken, for now a bit low, for now a heavy weight upon her heart. For now sadness as a simple act of vacuuming the floor leaves her spirit crushed, her emotions raw.

When she feels as though she “can’t”, she looks into the mirror for strength, what she sees is not what you would expect. It is not the woman who 22 days ago had a full head of hair, its is not the 14 pounds lost from her full perfectly formed body, it is not sadness in her desperate eyes. Desperate only for answers as to why?

It is who she perceives to be the real “faces” of Leukemia.

(These are but a very small portion of family and friends we love and cherish all of you)

These faces that she loves so, who have taken up or absorbed her every waking morning since the moment they first met. The faces of her friends and extended family, the faces of those who uplift her in spirit and love.  The faces of Leukemia are far and wide, reaching as a pebbles ripple in a calm lake. Starting out with a small splash, tight and circular expanding, eventually touching every open space upon the water, becoming still upon reaching an open shore.

The faces of leukemia are all those touched by this disease. It starts with the victim, and I say victim because by definition that’s what you are, a victim. Every person within the victims sphere is touched, then every person who is friends or family with those people are touched and the ripple spreads.

One person affected by this disease turns into hundreds if not thousands of people effected. All reaching, all wondering why? Just as Jacy wonders why?

Just as I quietly wonder why?

So how many people can become the true faces of Leukemia? How large would a collage of faces become? What can we do help those people as they themselves process what is happening to those they know and care about?

We gain knowledge and we fight! Not for a week, not for a month, but for a year, and a year after that and we continue to fight! Because Jacy is not the only face, because there are hundreds of thousands of victims out there, hurting as she is hurting, wondering as all of you are wondering and sharing the very same pain and experiences. We fight!

Writing is how I fight. Helping with a Bone Marrow drive that not only will help my wife at some point but maybe find a match for someone else is how I fight. The faces of Leukemia range from a year old to the elderly, they are victims and as I have explained so are their families, friends and loved ones.  For them as well as my wife we must fight.

It is not enough to just walk through this world oblivious, thinking this will never happen to me. Because I guarantee if you know someone with cancer, if you have heard of cancer if you have felt the sting cancer leaves upon you then Yes it can happen to you.

So today and everyday we must keep the faces of leukemia in our minds, the faces of all cancer patients in our hearts and we must fight…. Suffering a loss is not an option, celebrating a victory no matter how small is….

We must keep kicking cancer ass, one cell at a time..

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The Face of Leukemia (December 11, 2013)

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And so another aspect of this journey begins, a long and winding road filled with new highs and lows. The first hurdle has been crossed. The hospital is temporarily behind us as we will head back towards it in a month. Now begins a fight of great proportions.  Battling her compromised immune system.

4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).

That is what we are hoping to achieve over the next week.  It doesn’t sound like much but in the grand scheme of things it’s the difference between life and death, staying home and heading back to the hospital. Walking then running, being surrounded by family and friends ar remaining in isolation.

Jacy’s white blood cell count was obliterated, dropped to zero by chemotherapy. This was of course designed as such to decimate the mutated cancerous “blasts” of immature cells invading her system, slowly eliminating her ability to fight infection, damaging other cells and choking her system with further useless cells.

Before she was able to come home her white cell count needed to rise above 800 and for days we would get excited as it rose to 600 then dropped to nothing with an onset of fever and night sweats.  Jacy’s platelet count would drop meaning her red cells were disappearing and her body was having trouble converting or carrying oxygen within her system.  Chemotherapy as I have said before destroys all cells.  You must kill them all so new ones can grow and flourish.  Or as the doctor put it, be brought as close to death as one can get before being allowed to live. So everyday would start out with a new blood transfusion, platelets and a lot of rest.

Along with all this cellular bombardment comes the neupogen shots. These shots are started after white blood cells slowly start production. What is neupogen?

Filgrastim- (Neupogen) is a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) analog used to stimulate the proliferation and differentiation of granulocytes.[1] It is produced by recombinant DNA technology. The gene for human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is inserted into the genetic material of Escherichia coli. The G-CSF then produced by E. coli is different from G-CSF naturally made in humans.
Filgrastim is marketed under several brand names, including Neupogen (Amgen), Imumax (Abbott Laboratories), Grafeel (Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories), Neukine (Intas Biopharmaceuticals), Emgrast (Emcure Pharmaceuticals), Religrast (Reliance Life Sciences), Zarzio (Sandoz), Nufil (Biocon) and others.
Apricus Biosciences is currently developing and testing a product under the brand name Nupen which can deliver filgrastim through the skin to improve post-chemotherapy recovery of neutrophil counts.

Ok so that was the technical doctor jargon, a pharmacists evening read. The down and dirty is Neupogen jump starts your system, telling it to make white blood cells and make them now!!

Neupogen is given through subcutaneous shots, started in the hospital and once we achieved a white cell bench mark the responsibility has been passed to me for in home treatment.  For all the greatness that is Neupogen there are also a few side effects for Jacy to deal with and they are;

The most commonly observed adverse effect is mild-to-moderate bone pain after repeated administration and local skin reactions at the site of injection.[3] Other observed adverse effects include serious allergic reactions (including a rash over the whole body, shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, and sweating), ruptured spleen (sometimes resulting in death), alveolar hemorrhage, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and hemoptysis.[3] Severe sickle cell crises, in some cases resulting in death, have been associated with the use of filgrastim in patients with sickle cell disorders.[4]

The bone pain is killing her! It hurts to lay down, it hurts to stand up, she explained it to me as such, “my bones feel like they are exploding”. Can you imagine feeling as though your bones were exploding? I can’t.

So we are finally home and the last 48 hours have been an adjustment. Jacy is still exhausted, but very, very happy to be in her home. She is sleeping a lot (which is good), her bones are exploding inside, fatigue comes from walking downstairs (although we did journey outside yesterday which was awesome). The bed is soaked from night sweats and she awakes at 3 am unable to return in slumber. Jacy is also coming to terms that her life in the forseeable future will not be the same. This is going to be the hardest for her. Not being able to ride her horses or walk outside to play with the dogs is bringing much strain to the newest face of Leukemia. The thought of not being able to teach in her classroom this year is devastating. But she will prevail.  She is an incredibly strong woman who will triumph over this bastard known as Leukemia.

Today I held her as she cried over a current life lost, the realization of a unkown future, and the feeling of utter helplessness. I have always considered myself a strong person, but until you have faced a battle of this magnitude, become a true foundation for the person you love. You realize everything you have done in the past pales in comparison. Then you cry, not in front of her, but alone, so that foundation remains steadfast. My tears of sadness shedding her pain not mine. Throwing those feelings away, never to be seen or felt again, because we can only live for the positive.

Remission is a word the both of us are longing to hear. A word associated with freedom from the grip cancer/Leukemia has upon a soul.  We will walk every step together towards Remission, holding hands, moving slowly until we arrive.

Still kicking cancers ass, one cell at a time.

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The Face of Leukemia (December 7, 2013)

 

IMG_2037Hair:

We trim it, grow it, wax it, shave it, style it, comb it, do crazy things with these human DNA carrying follicles for attention. Hair, its funny we don’t really think all too much about hair as it’s an assumed portion of our anatomy. From the day we are born all of us walk through life with hair of some kind layering our bodies; some more than others and some less than others by choice, but hair none the less. imagesCAQUXXXU

But there is an elite crowd of human beings walking this earth. They belong to a very special club. A club that no one wants to join, no one person is standing at the clubhouse door banging fervently to get inside. No one..  Yet rumor has it close to one million people are card-carrying members of this fraternity.  One million people have come as close to death as you can get then climbed their way back inheriting a lifetime membership along the way. One million people. Think about that for a second….

So what do these one million plus club members have to do with hair?

They don’t have any! That is right, not one single follicle, not a stray, a sprig, a whisker or unkept eyebrow. It hasn’t been shaven down to the epidermis or plucked by a crazy tweezers wielding lunatic. Every single hair, all 140,000 strands of color enhanced, vanity driven strands are gone.

This of course is the norm when you are enrolled in the chemotherapy club, everyone’s worst nightmare right?  Its funny really when you think about it, we as a society put so much emphasis on our hair.

Turning grey or tired of your look- Color it, trim it, shape it.

Falling out- Rogaine

Thinning- Hairclub for men/transplants/comb over

Trends- Shave it, mohawk it, pixie cut, curls, bun, dreadlocks, cornrows, bob, etc..

And yet when it has all fallen out, what emphasis is there? To wear a hat or a scarf? As a chemotherapy club member you never have to worry about haircuts, dyes, styles etc.. All you need to worry about is whether or not your noggin stays warm.  There are thousands of hats, scarfs, and bandanas to choose from, or hey just step out like Mr. Clean and rock that shit!

Imagine waking up one morning and finding all of your hair-and I mean ALL OF YOUR HAIR gone. You are lying in a bed of your own hair. Pubic hair, pit hair, leg hair and arm hair and of course the hair from your head. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you smile taking the high road and consider it just another chapter in your already interesting life? Or would you curl up into a ball, terrified to walk amongst the hair gifted for fear of being spotted, ridiculed by the insensitive or pitied by the ill-informed. I am not making a judgement for one way or the other, but if I had my choice I am pretty sure a bitchen tattoo would make its way onto my dome, helping me to celebrate the obvious. I am still alive and kicking cancers ass! Now in no way am I advocating for my wife to get a tattoo on her head. It was purely a rhetorical question.

Why am I traveling down this little pathway? Because that is exactly what happened today. Jacy started officially losing her hair. Its coming out a thin handful at a time, and when she sits up in bed her hair looks like a dog when it sheds. Strands poking out of everywhere with strands littering her pillow. Staring at this and fighting an overwhelming urge to pull them out myself (it’s the ape in me) I found myself pondering those very questions. Thinking about all the times I cracked ignorant jokes about looking as a chemo patient to friends. How would I feel? How would you feel if this was happening to you?

Now luckily enough a sense of humor is what all of our friends and family have and my wife is no different. We have joked heartily about her losing hair and tomorrow I am going to shave it all off to save her from choking to death in the middle of the night on an unruly chia pet looking clump! But just the same it has changed my sensitivity level or judging from that last crack maybe it hasn’t? I digress…

Do you really want to know how much you love someone? Do you really want to understand if you or your partner are shallow and vain? Shave each others heads and see if one of three things happen.

  1. You both laugh until snot blows from your nostrils then fall into each others arms with smiles upon your faces.
  2. You realize in that moment you partner is hands down the most beautiful person you have ever known.
  3. You stare at each other uncomfortably acknowledging you are so shallow that you cannot see the beauty within. Only the trappings of what is on the outside.

Lucky for me as I stated previously this has changed my sensitivity towards others, and as far as my wife is concerned, well I have always seen the inner beauty of this woman. When I look into her eyes and kiss her lips there is nothing else. Bald or full of hair, when she smiles at me the world is a better place.  I don’t think she really knows the power her smile and personality carry in this world but I am pretty sure she is about to find out.

Anyways, Jacy already knows how to rock the bandana! That my friends is just freaking awesome!

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Kicking Cancers Ass once cell at a time!

 

 

Fear

Looking through my archives this morning I came upon this blog I wrote in May. For those who have asked me; “how do you handle everything” in-regards to my family, my job as a firefighter and of course accepting Leukemia into our household. I think this explains my thought process or belief system the best.

They call me Betty

fear

What is fear?

Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible….. Nice definition.

But why are we “fearful”?

Some say it is the perceived danger that awaits us in the future and yet when true danger becomes a part of the present we still handle that very same danger with no more fear than that of which we wasted endless emotion in the beginning. Should we waste precious…

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The Face of Leukemia (December 6, 2013)

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!

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The joy, laughter and excitement of a young woman twirling, running and singing!

Yes that is the way I feel right at this very moment, for you see the woman I love has been given a bit of a reprieve! There are many unknowns in life but today we worked only on the “knowns” and the news was good, no great! News that our family needed to hear, and it was glorious!

So like a young woman in love, running across the Austrian hillsides, Betty is giddy with excitement! For you see this woman, this friend, partner and wife was told today by her doctor that she will live! She will live! SHE WILL LIVE!!!!!Unknown-4

Ok all funny drama aside, truth be told we went from a 5 year window two days ago to a 10 year window of survivability today! That ladies and gentlemen is huge! This specific strain of AML Jacy is carrying is the MOST treatable of all its ugly little counterparts.  No other abnormalities within those strains were detected either wich makes her chances for a longer happier life much more realistic. Tears of joy as my wife can now rest easy with the knowledge that barring any unforseen infections, relapses or just plain old crappy circumstances this woman, this mother of four will see all of her children grow up! For me personally that is exciting news to say the least. No one has spoken of remission yet but as strong as my wife is that is not out of the realm as far as I am concerned.

But through all the happiness, the baby steps towards recovery, the hard-fought singular battles.  There lies an undercurrent, a feeling for myself of  helplessness as I watch her slowly wither away (yes she is losing weight) unable to walk around the floor we are currently on without exhaustion. Suffering through boughts of diarrhea and nausea. She currently can’t eat because of sores in her mouth, a side effect of the chemotherapy. She doesn’t deserve to suffer like this, no one does, but especially my wife.  I want to carry this burden for her more than anything. Ease the struggle, take away the pain, remove worry and doubt. I want to do that for her, I need to do that for her and yet, there is no way for that to happen.

Her hair is finally starting to fall out and no matter how much I joke about it, or promise her she will remain the most amazingly beautiful woman I know, she is worried. Not for herself but for me, for her children. You see what she fears is it will scare the kids and I wont find her as attractive anymore. What she doesn’t understand, what I seem to have failed in all my attempts at communication throughout our marriage is; I see her from the inside out, I have always seen this amazing woman from the inside first. Now don’t get me wrong, my wife is incredibly beautiful on the outside as well!  But what makes her attractive, what makes those eyes shine so bright or her smile gleam under a mid day sun? It’s the radiance of her soul shining through.

So how do I convey to her that hair or no hair, skinny or fat, in shape or not, there is nothing that will ever change when I look deep into her eyes. The feeling I get while holding her hand, or the nervesnous still encasing me when she leans for a kiss? She needs to know, and I mean know that we will walk this path together, side by side and I will carry as much of the burden as humanly possible.  Fighting cancer is a WE thing, not a ME thing. No one fights alone, no one! And when that someone is the one you love, that trust, that honesty shared between you both from the moment you said “I do” throughout the years evolving and growing until this very moment, is exactly what the two of you use to lean on each other and make it through!

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, that was little bi-polar moment huh? Happy then somber, well then lets get back to happy shall we? 

Now where was I? Oh yes, THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SO- Oh to hell with it! We are KICKING CANCERS ASS!! YEAH!!!

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