Tall, thin Dr. Mary finally called with the biopsy results. Ironically, I was in the exact same chair in my home office where I had been when Dr. Laura called speaking in that soft, broken voice with news that would forever alter my life. ChronicMyelogenous Leukemia. By the time I heard these three little words, I had already accepted the fact that I had cancer. This time though, I knew the call was coming. I could sense it in my bruised bones.
There are many circumstances in life which present themselves that you kind of already know are coming. Yet, when they finally arrive and someone finallyutters the words you either long to hear or long to avoid – it somehow hurts even worse. The blow is not softened, the pain is not lessened. And it is exactly this way because the confirmation causes action to be required; usually it’s one that scares us.
Knowing the call was coming also did not immediately make “accepted” synonymous with “I got this,” or “this will all be ok,” or even “whatever.” In that moment, I was in shock with angry on deck. My initial acceptance was reluctant, but I accepted it nonetheless because it was reality and I had no choice. Oddly, I also experienced an instant relief. I could feel the tension in my neck and back dissipate. All that fear was breaking up, and the burden of the unknown was no longer resting on my shoulders.
The only course of action back then with any chance of avoiding death and providing a solution was a Bone Marrow Transplant. The odds did not seem great and the process itself reminded me how sorry I was for not paying attention in any Science class whatsoever. However on the bright side, I didn’t have to think much about what to do going-forward. There was only one choice, and I accepted it. I was in. Let’s do it, I told Mary and everyone else who awaited alongside me in the abyss for an answer.
Chronic leukemia, I learned, was the “good” kind of leukemia to have…if you had to pick. That’s always a top ten favorite thing to hear come out of someone’s mouth. I know they meant well, but I was not well. My sarcasm, sense of humor, and patience tends to be non-existent when I’m sick, as is the case with most cancer patients. It’s kind of like saying Well…if you’re going to be a Cleveland fan, the Indians are playing tonight and no other channel is working on TV anyway, so maybe they’ll finally win.
The first thing to do in conjunction with all the pre-testing that goes on to ensure your body might even have a potential shot at handling a BMT is to figure out whereyou will have your transplant. My parents, sister, and I drove to IU Medical Center in Indy. Very nice people, very nice facility. I remember taking the tour, trying to take in all the information, trying to be ok. Except I couldn’t and I wasn’t. Nothing was registering, but I kept my head held high and kept on trying. Once in a while, I would understand exactly what was being said and I’d choke back tears. I did not want my parents, especially my Mom, to see me cry.
It’s hard enough watching your kids go through any of life’s regular pain. Couple that with knowing your child might die and there is absolutely nothing you as their parent – the one who protects them, cooks for them, hugs them, loves them unconditionally – can do to make it go away, and it’s too much to take. So crying was not on my agenda. And I made it through the entire day UNTIL…until I walked into the kind of isolation room where I would be undergoing this potential life-saving procedure. It was then that it started to sink in and become as real as any of this fiction had been. I would not see my child, the one whom I protected, hugged, and loved more than I’ve ever loved another human being for at least a month, and maybe never again.
We left Indianapolis and I was silent. The only thing I knew I could control was my loyalty. Let’s go to Cleveland instead. Shock is on base; Anger is up to bat; Game-on.
As I write this, I can’t help but continue to think of Greyson. I was a child and a Mom all at once as I went through these stages of grief. We are all children of someone. We all have family and/or friends who feel completely and utterly helpless when their loved one is diagnosed with cancer. And I know how Nate and Dana and the rest of their family – along with so, so many others – are feeling right now.
I need you to please feel this way now, too. This stuff is real, and it is here and it is NOW. We only have one month to make a difference.
We don’t have to accept cancer and loss anymore if we play as a team.