The Face of Leukemia 2014

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2014 Day 1……..

364 days to live.

364 days to wake up every morning, count our blessing and live. 364 days to write a new and exciting story! You see my dearies pontificating New Years resolutions involving the standard fare of weight loss, higher education, finding love, spending more time with our children, adding onto the house, finding a better job, saving more money, vacationing more, visiting family and friends and so on and so on is just not my style this year. But watching my wife live is.

364 days, until I can count 365 more days of life lived, 365 days written into the history books of our family. Cancer has this funny way of cheating you from a reality lived by so many others, changing the way your life story is told.  Cancer also has a way of sticking in your craw like an annoying persons laugh or an itch you just cant scratch.  It’s there, no one else can see it, no one else can feel it, only those who have it, or love someone burdened by it understand, yet the rest of the world just goes on with its business of worrying about resolutions for which a majority will sadly never achieve.

A new year a new fear.

We are winning this battle! Jacys superwoman body has done incredibly well! The last bone marrow draw showed no signs of Leukemia swimming in her blood, lurking in the darkness like an evil monster. Consolidation therapy starts on Monday and she will begrudgingly return to the hospital for 5 days of chemotherapy.  Her strength is back, she is feisty as ever, feeding horses in the morning and an occasional walk in the afternoon! (rumor has it she was spotted jogging on a levee, but its only a rumor) The next round of therapy will knock her down again and from what we understand recovery gets harder each time she finishes a session. She will come home weaker and a little sicker. Chemotherapy is not for the light-hearted, these patients (my wife included) are my heroes as I have witnessed the strain it places on the human body.  Yet Super Jacy has never deterred from her mission. Kicking cancers ass one cell at a time!

A fear still remains though. What if it (Leukemia) comes back? What if her white blood cell count doesnt recover? What if she catches a common cold during these periods, (something that could kill her) what if?????? These are fears we will live with for the rest of our lives.  Every cough that arises, every sniffly nose, every fever, everytime she feels run down, for the rest of her life she will need to go have blood drawn and see the doctor. 3 more times to go, 3 more week-long sessions, three more weeks of hell.  In the end, a small price to pay to live. Jacy promised me she loved me enough to beat this, she is keeping her word.

Day 1…. Today began our 2014 journey and Jacy spent it the only way she knew how.

It was a day filled with visiting friends, making her children laugh, planning a birthday party for her son and wondering whether or not to shave the small patches of hair fighting against the laws of chemistry. Little strands hanging on for dear life, trying their very best to make my wife look like a chia pet. Biggest decision of the day? Shave the head or let those little hairs grow only to meet an untimely death in 4 days.

With the beginning of a new year I wonder about the thousands of other spouses, significant others, and children all living and loving someone close to them with Leukemia. I worry about the ones who struggle to support their loved ones without the means of expression such as writing brings to me.  Do they lay in bed at night afraid of the darkness, wondering how long, why them, all while scooting a little closer to the one they love just to feel their body heat. Are they ok, do they know its ok to feel the way they feel, can they find peace? I am sure they do and I am just rambling, but its in my nature to worry about everyone and everything.

So welcome 2014! I welcome you with open arms (and Betty’s arms are plenty big enough) for the hug of a lifetime! 2014 we hope you are filled with many misadventures, happiness and love! But most of all 2014, we pray you don’t leave us reeling like your bastard predecessor 2013 did! But if you do, not to worry, the story you tell will be interesting none the less…

364 days… The story begins right now…

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The Face of Leukemia (December 2, 2013)

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Another couple of days spent sitting patiently watching her sleep. For some this could become tiresome or even boring, but not for me. Time trudges on, as the thought of her waking to speak with me, even for just a little while weighs heavy with anticipation!  A second of lucidity, a moment, a glance, the chance to press her cheek against mine long enough to feel close again.

Through all of this, I am reminded that as her husband it’s my job to care for this woman.  It is an honor to ensure she has all she needs and it’s my privilege to do so. But none of that would be as easy as it sounds if it weren’t for all the wonderful people who continue to support our family back home. To continually be humbled by the kindness, care, love and empathy shown to us by our friends, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers is overwhelming to say the least. But I am and I thank you all..

Saturday while staring at the east Kaiser wall an epiphany overcame me! So after a little one on one discussion, today with Jacy’s help the two of us acted upon that revelation.

This morning my wife woke up, shuffled her way into a shower, did her hair along with a little make-up. Now this of course took all the energy saved up from a solid nights rest that one participating in chemotherapy could muster, but that did not deter her from participating in this master scheme. A phone call, some texting, our kids taken to school without the slightest knowledge (because loose lips sink ships), and I stealthily rolled into the parking lot of Dixon Montessori Charter School at 0800.

At 0815 I cleared the threshold of Ms. Jacy’s classroom with nothing more than a smile, a cell phone and one iPad mini in hand.  The students were gathered together and a simple question and answer period began. You see Ms. Jacy (as most already know from reading my blog) was hauled off to the hospital right after returning home for her lunch break on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. Although her students knew what was happening through reports on Thursday and Friday, they had not seen or spoken with the teacher they have all grown to love since.

That was about to change

Jacy’s students know me either as Mr. Jacy or Firefighter James, Ms. Jacy’s husband. So not a lot of time was wasted with useless questioning about my presence. The kids were excited to see me and to hear the latest news, especially in person. But when I held up the iPad and explained my plan the place went nuts!

Now it took me a few tries as I am not the most advanced person immersed in the world of technology. But for the rest of my life I will never forget the sounds of joy that came from each and every student when I turned the iPad around and there was Jacy’s smiling face looking back upon these students. They cheered and clapped and screamed HELLO! A few “bomb-diggities” were tossed about freely! It was fantastic.  She could see all of them and they could see her. I stood as still as I could holding the iPad up so she could take in the room and they could feel as though she was right there with all of them.  This woman truly loves these kids, all of them and they love her! She has spoken of them everyday since being incarcerated in the Kaiser hospital system.  She told them all about her stay, what was happening with her and how much she missed them! It was grand.

When we were finished,  looking down and saying goodbye into the iPad, she beamed at me with a look of happiness. The look on her face warmed my heart, but being the ever gruff man I am supposed to be I choked back a bit of mist in my eye, told her I would see her in a couple of hours and hit the end button.  Walking out of the classroom I knew Jacy had just received a good old-fashioned jolt of uplifting spirit! Something we all need from time to time, but more so for her right now.  Looking back, pretty sure some skipping was done on the way back to the car. Maybe even a selfie high-five?

This week is going to be a long one. There are more complications like the persistent headache that never goes away, continued fatigue and weakness, there are also some sporadic nosebleeds which have us worried just a bit.  She can’t bleed as there is no way for her blood to effectively clot, so she has been receiving blood and platelet transfusions.  Friday is D-Day and it cant come soon enough. It’s when we find out whether the first round of chemo did the trick! There is a long road ahead for us and every time we meet the doctor I feel as though it is preparation for the road to get longer. But never the less we will travel this road and hopefully meet some really wonderful people along the way. Hopefully we can spread the word about Leukemia and the effects it has on its victims, their families and friends.

The face of leukemia spares no one.  It belongs to your mother, your father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, friend, acquaintance, and stranger.  The face of Leukemia can attach itself to any and every person in the human race and it does not discriminate. The face of leukemia cares not about your age because, old face, young face, the face of an infant it still survives. The face of leukemia doesn’t care about your  financial status, whether you vacation in the Hampton’s or live in a cardboard box under a bridge.  The face of leukemia is driven by this disease and the victims it inhabits therefore the face of leukemia is and always will be you.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, what would I do if I had cancer? Who would I turn too. What questions would I ask? How would I react? Would I be ready to take cancer on and kick its ass without wavering?

I never asked myself those questions before now. But I have, and I am going to do everything in my power to make this a success for the woman I love. I am also going to tell everyone I can about leukemia, it effects, its signs and symptoms.  Then with a little luck, the power of positive thinking, prayer and the amazing skills associated with the many medical professionals we have encountered up to this point.

“The face of leukemia” will have a happy ending!

Because I love her face, and leukemia can’t have it anymore……

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