February 15. Leukemia is the general term used to describe a number of malignant diseases where the blood-forming organs produce increased numbers of leucocytes. Those (hard to pronounce) cells are colorless and are found in the blood and lymphatic systems, which are important in fighting disease. In very broad terms, leukemia is classified according to how fast it progresses and the type of cells affected. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly than Acute leukemia. While there are about a dozen or so different sub-types, the four possible permutations and main types of leukemia are:
1. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
2. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
3. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
4. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
I had CML. Greyson has ALL. You will learn all about Grey, this year’s Boy of the Year, very soon.
The only course of treatment for CML back in 1998 was a) do nothing and maybe live 5 more years or b) have a Bone Marrow Transplant with the caveat that not many people get through those well, if at all. I immediately asked what Option c) was.
There wasn’t a third option. My only sibling, Sarah, was tested to see if she was a match and could be my Bone Marrow donor. She and I held hands as we walked back to the room at IU Med Center where her blood was drawn for testing. She hates getting her blood drawn and was paler than a baby’s butt after they got done taking multiple vials. Our parents were in the waiting room. I can only imagine what was going through their minds, watching us from behind as we made that unknown trek.
A few (long) weeks went by before we learned the outcome of the testing: 3 out of 6. Sarah was only a half-match and therefore could not be my donor as my body would reject her marrow. I clearly remember both receiving that phone call and placing the ensuing one to my family. It was if they had “failed” somehow. That call in and of itself felt like I had already lost the battle; like the hope which we had all mustered up from the time my sister’s blood was taken to the time the phone rang had immediately disappeared, replaced by doom.
The emotional roller coaster families facing cancer go through is indescribable; yet I know most of you readers explicitly understand this. Most of you have either gone through it yourselves, or have witnessed it via extended friends or networks.
My patient care advocate explained that the next step was to search “the registry.” I was only familiar with one type of registry at that point in my life (anyone want this crystal swan thing?) and now apparently there was some potential stranger in some database who could help save my life.
Thankfully, “apparently” turned into a reality. Thank you, Beth Robison, for being on the registry.
68 Days. Keep racing.