Wednesday, April 13, 2011

L is for Leukemia

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Leukemia--from the Greek leuko, meaning white, and emia, meaning blood.



Leukemia is a blood cancer characterized by the proliferation of blasts, immature blood cells that originate in the bone marrow and eventually destroy normal blood cells. You can see the large blasts in the picture.

I was drawn to write about leukemia. I don't know why. I sent a proposal for the book which would become "A Candle for Nick" to my editor. In this story the heroine's son has leukemia. I didn't know that a few weeks later leukemia would dominate my life.

My husband went to the doctor, complaining of a sore throat and fever he couldn't shake. A blood test showed he was severely anemic. He saw a hemotologist and was eventually referred to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I remember the very moment he got his diagnosis. I remember the doctor's cool, clinical voice: "You have acute myelogenous leukemia." I remember the thoughts that flashed through my mind: first, that our lives would never be the same, and second, the irrational thought that I had somehow caused the disease by my choice of plots.

The doctor continued. "You said you were interested in a clinical trial. The research nurse will explain it to you." That was it? No, "Do you have questions?"
No waiting for his words to sink in.

He started for the door and was half way there when my daughter said, "And if he decides to have standard treatment, then what do we do?"

The doctor stopped and whipped around to glare at us. "Go home," he nearly snarled. "Standard treatment is not what this hospital is about." He shook his head. "Where would medicine be if we just gave standard treatment? Fifty years behind where we are now." I have never hated anyone so much in my life.

Ralph did have the clinical trial and later a stem cell transplant. And there were mishaps and complications and through it all, I finished my book. Romance--happy ending. But Ralph's ending wasn't happy. Leukemia is a potent adversary. A doctor told me once that blood cancers are among the hardest to cure because they're systemic, not confined to a particular organ. Leukemia is a monster; it crawls through your body, killing as it goes, changing a healthy man into a ghost. He died almost a year to the day after his diagnosis. I donate some of my royalties from the book I wrote to the leukemia society.

I'm not sure why I chose to unleash these memories for the letter L. Perhaps because leukemia haunts me still and will forever.

6 comments:

Dafeenah said... [Reply to comment]

I can't imagine what that must be like. I admire your courage for being able to share your story with others.

Dafeenah

Debra Ann Elliott said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! Just a heartfelt post. My prayers are with you. Thanks for stopping by.

Meryl said... [Reply to comment]

What a moving post. I think its good for you to write about it. I have found that releasing and addressing the traumas in my life have helped me heal (mostly). I think there are some scars that will always remain, a bit more faded each year, but ever present. This may be one for you, but know you have friends all over this web, and from your many posts, a loving supportive family.

All the best,
Meryl

Elizabeth Young said... [Reply to comment]

I lost my sister to leukaemia when I was 10 and she was 13. That word still triggers many, many things in me, probably regret being the greatest. Thanks for sharing about your loss.

Murugi Njehia said... [Reply to comment]

I admire your courage and Know God is with you.

Stopping by from the A-Z challenge

Margaret Hall said... [Reply to comment]

Quite tearful, dear friend..but, thank you for taking the time to share part of your life with us..
Blessings your way...

 

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