I had taken Jesus to the emergency room that Sunday night for a spider bite - the culmination of two months of vague symptoms we hadn’t been able to pin to any diagnosis: occasional bellyaches, pain in her hips and legs, frequent fevers that would spike in the late afternoon and be gone by the next morning.
After Two complete hours of full blood count The doctor and nurse came into the room and closed the door and revealed that Jesus had leukemia.
An hour later, Jesus and I were being transported by ambulance to an hospital . The bags of fluid and antibiotics from the IV pole that wasn’t supposed to be in our room dangled above his gurney.
My hands were trembling and my mouth was dry, but I did my best to keep smiling and talking to Jesus, who was shaken and anxious by this point. Getting the IV needle into the back of his hand had been miserable — I had to physically restrain him while he cry — and I knew there would be plenty more “pokes” where we were headed.
“His blood work is very concerning,” the nurse said. “I know this is
a hard word to hear, but we’re most likely looking at some sort of blood cancer.”The nurse put her arm around my shoulder, then, and asked me if I wanted to take a minute before they brought Jesus back into the room and got things going for the transfer to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston .
“His immune system is basically shut down at this point,” the doctor explained. “They’ll want to figure out what’s wrong, and start treatment right away.” The oncologist we met the next morning said the same thing: he was 99.9% certain it was leukemia. Still, I didn’t believe it. Rather, I couldn’t believe that any of this was happening.
Even when the tests for leukemia cells in Jesus blood and bone marrow over the next two days came back positive, and we knew without a doubt that it wasn’t a mistake at all, I ran up against a wall of mental resistance each time I tried to tell myself, in my calmest, most sympathetic inner voice, that this was our reality now: We were a family with my husband with cancer.
It’s been three and a half weeks now since
Jesus diagnosis. He is doing ok , and although he has a long road ahead — two more years of chemotherapy at least, the next six or seven months of which will be intensive — all signs point to a full recovery. His type of leukemia, ALL Pre-B, has excellent cure rates, and he has responded well to treatment so far.
His limitations and treatment schedule have, of course, had a huge impact on our daily lives: Jesus isn’t starting work this fall because her immune system is too compromised by chemo to be in a crowded space with other people.
Meanwhile, there will be countless clinic visits and hospital stays, and managing my work schedules and childcare coverage around those, adding in the ever-present possibility of an unplanned hospital stay feels like a full time job. And then there are the medications to administer, records to keep, insurance paperwork to fill out.
But for the most part we’ve accepted and are accustomed to our new reality. We’re getting through it, one day, one treatment cycle, one challenge at a time. The shock and fear of the first days are long gone, replaced by patience and determination.
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