Monday, March 13, 2017

Are There Angels Among Us?

It was not that long ago, early in the evening, when our telephone rang. I know that this may not seem strange to you, but you must understand, that where we live, there is no cell service; which means that other than solicitors, we rarely get calls. (I am sure you are aware that a cell phone is incompatible with a land line, right? I mean you cannot text, so what would be the point? lol)

So, as the phone continues to ring, I debate whether or not to answer. Eventually, I succumb and  pick up the receiver;  warily saying "Hello?"

On the other end of the phone I hear an introduction, "Hi, my name is Kelly and I am calling on behalf of the Leukemia, Lymphoma Society and wonder if I could have a few moments of your time." This, of course, allows me to put down my guard and to actually listen to what Kelly has to say.

The reason for her call was to ask my opinion on ways that our Boise Chapter of the LLS, could improve on our local Light the Night Walk. After speaking with her for awhile, I realized that I had met Kelly, last year on our walk. It was Kelly's first walk and her father has just passed from Acute Myloid Leukemia. I remember her being totally overwhelmed and emotional, and I remember feeling so sad to have met someone, who so recently had lost someone they loved, to blood cancer.

And I remember being so impressed that she was there! Light the Night is an uplifting fundraiser for blood cancers, but it is also a very sobering experience; while there are always success stories, there are also many losses.

At any rate, as we continued to chat, the subject wound its' way around to the wonderful LLS staff that we have here, in Boise, and all of the work that they have done in getting Survivor/Fighter shirts made for those of us still in treatment, fighting our disease. She then mentioned that she had just read something online about that and I told her that it was possible that what she had read, was on my blog.

There was silence on the other end of the phone, and then she said "Wait! What is the name of your blog?" I told her and she said "Oh, my God! I have been looking for you!"

Apparently she had been reading my blog, and it had been some comfort to her; it seems as though our chance meeting was meant to be. We excitedly exchanged personal information and quickly became social media friends! lol

Which leads me to the next part of this story.

Kelly is currently fulfilling a promise that she made to her father; she is working in a hospital and volunteering and raising money for the LLS. She vows to pick up the fight against cancer, where her father left off, and to fight in his honor.

These are her words:

Two days before my dad lost his courageous battle; I looked straight into his sunken eyes and with wobbling cheeks, vowed that I would now take over.
“Daddy, you’ve fought so hard. You can now let go of your ugly pain and run into the arms of your angels. I promise that I will continue to fight this battle, in your honor; until my last breath has been taken.”

Kelly has kept her promise to her father and is continuing to work in the very place she took her Dad for treatments, and she continues to volunteer her time to the LLS.


For the truly remarkable part of this story, I want to share with you an absolutely amazing, and very touching story that Kellly experienced and shared on her social media outlet page.
These are her words and her experience and I asked permission to share them with the world; I pray that you are as inspirited, encouraged and fascinated as I am.


"Please bear with me even though I need to wipe tears from my eyes and gunk from my nose as I tell you a tale, which even I cannot comprehend.

It was a usual day at work, with wheelchairs zooming by, patients sitting in the lobby awaiting procedures, Linda's loud, humorous laughter; roaring from afar, fire alarms going off, doctors rushing by in their white collared coats and many hearts of strangers. 

The end of the day had approached when a man arrived at my desk inquiring about where he could pay his bill. 

"Sure, I can show you. Follow me this way," I advised him.

We walked the short distance to see Jennie; however, when we arrived I noticed she was already speaking with another patient.

"Well it appears she is assisting another patient at the moment. If you'd like, feel free to have a seat on her couch and I'll let her know you're waiting," I kindly told him.

I walked back to my desk and sent Jennie an instant message informing her someone was waiting in her lobby. I then began focusing on an overdue work assignment. About 45 minutes passed and the lobby was dead, when I heard someone interject with ahem. I unglued my eyes from the computer screen to see the gentleman whom I had helped earlier.

He leaned in toward me inconspicuously and what happened next; I suppose you will need to be the judge of that.

"I want you to know that you are a beautiful person, with a beautiful smile and a beautiful soul. This is for you," he spoke, as he handed me a beautiful necklace."

He then said something which nearly shocked me to death.

"Your father is proud of you,” he muttered.

My eyes welled up as I struggled to thank him while choking over my tears. A meltdown had begun to emerge. He turned and slowly began to walk away.

I attempted to hide my face in the process of hurrying to the back to 'lose it', but stopped for a couple of seconds to turn to take one final glance at him, but he had vanished.

Where could he have gone in a matter of a few seconds, as he was heading in the same direction that he had originally entered through, which is a bit of a walk?

I am uncertain at this point for a probable cause, but I will add that through this experience, I have finally discovered my thesis for my final exam essay, "Might divine intervention truly exist?"

I am sure that you will agree that this is a sign that Kelly is not only honoring her father, but she is honoring each and every one of us that is either fighting our battle with cancer, or know someone that is fighting or has lost their battle to this disease.

Thank you Kelly for sharing your time, your heart and your story. The gentlman in your story is correct, "Your father is proud of you.”  And I am proud to call you "friend."

Thank you, Kelly; you are our Angel!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Six Year Cancer-versary!

Today marks six years since I heard the words, "Michele, I do not know how to tell you this; but you have leukemia." Needless to say, I was shocked beyond belief and scared, almost to death!

I admit that it has been a roller coaster of a ride, with many ups and downs, but I am happy to report, that I am still here; enjoying life, family and friends.

Looking back on my journey I realize how far I have come, and am so grateful for the medical advances that have kept me alive.

I find it ironic that I am in Palm Springs, as I now live in Boise, Idaho, on the day, in the same town that I was diagnosed. It is bittersweet. Joe and I are staying at the same resort that we came to, on Valentine's Day, when I was released from the hospital.

As far as, how I am "doing" now, I can tell you that last year was my very best year since diagnosis. All of my PCR's were below the magical .0 number and my side effects were minimal. I still deal with the typical nerve and bone pain, fatigue, headaches and nausea, but they were more of a nuisance this year, than debilitating.

I also still deal with pleural effusion from the Sprycel, but have found that a thorocentesis does wonders!

So how did I spend my day? Having a head CT. As far as I know, I have no rocks, or holes in my head! It was precautionary due to the headaches I have; likely a side effect from my medication.
Living life with cancer is definitely an inconvenience; we spend much of our "vacation" time traveling to see my oncologist, having blood drawn and scans taken, but I just accept that this is part of the deal, in keeping me alive.

There is a small amount of stress, every three months, waiting for test results, but that is a small price to pay for the privilege of being around to enjoy my life.

Tonight I will spend with my youngest son and tomorrow morning we will travel to see my middle son, and his family. The joy that my grandchildren bring to my heart is like no other and I feel blessed to still be alive!

This year, with any luck, will be filled with travel to places I have never been, so if you are just beginning this journey of living with CML, try not to despair. Take each day, one day at a time and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Reach out to others for support and be kind to yourself; accept your new normal and learn to roll with the punches.

And remember, that someday, there may actually be a cure for chronic mylogenous leukemia! I intend to be here when it happens!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fighting for Fighter Shirts!

It was another great year for the Boise, Idaho Light the Night walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Along with my friends and family, Dancing My Way Through Leukemia raised $2250, and our little city of Boise is close to $275,000 to donate to blood cancers research and support!!

The night was a huge success and I could not be prouder of the Boise Chapter, of the LLS. They work long and hard for those of us fighting blood cancers, and go above and beyond the call of duty.
Several years ago, I wrote a post about feeling uncomfortable and unsure about the representation of the shirts that we are all given to commemorate the Light the Night Walk. There were three choices, In Memory, Supporter or Survivor; I felt that there should be another category; Fighter.

I found in wearing a "Survivor" shirt, that I was approached by many other survivors; they wanted to know when I finished treatment, and what type of blood cancer I had. I became weary having to explain that I had a chronic type of leukemia, and that I would be undergoing treatment for the rest of my life.

So, I got to thinking; I figured that I was not the only person still fighting the good fight. There were many patients that were still undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and in the throes of bone marrow transplants. Yes, we are all technically "surviving", however, we are still fighting, every single moment, of every single day.

I felt that those of us that have yet to ring the "Cancer Free" bell, would be better served with a shirt that said "Fighter" on the back; in hopes to some day be cancer free and graduate to the "Survivor" status.

I know that many people undergoing treatment may consider themselves "survivors" and I do feel as though I AM a survivor, per se, but in this arena, I feel that the differentiation between "Fighter" and "Survivor" is valid and important.

Differentiating between "Survivors" and "Fighters" is a visual aid that shows all of the people participating in the Light the Night walk, clearly how many people are currently in treatment, and how many survivors, their efforts have saved.

It allows those of us, who are undergoing treatment, to commiserate with one other, and clearly shows who we can congratulate on their success in beating blood cancer. It stops those of us, still in treatment,  from having to explain that we don't have an "end"date...yet, and gives us a boost in the belief department, that we are warriors.

Fortunately for me, our Boise LLS office stepped up to the plate and printed Survivor/Fighter shirts; which is not exactly what I want, although if they had Survivor/Fighter shirts AND shirts with just Survivor, I think that would be AWESOME!!

That was last year; fast forward one year.....

I was told that the "head office" of the LLS gave the Boise office a little bit of grief over adding "Fighter" to our shirts. But in grand Boise fashion, our office stood up for the Fighters of Blood Cancer and did not back down; they had Survivor/Fighter shirts printed. The National LLS office feels as though  all of the shirts should be the same, and that there should be unity across the board.
SO, the Boise Chapter of the LLS is standing by me, and all of the blood cancer patients, still in treatment, and we are going to push to make "Fighter" shirts available for ALL chapters, in all cities and states, that hold a Light the Night Walk!

How awesome is that??

We are doing our part, and I would love the help from all of you. If there is enough interest and enough comments, I will put together a petition that we can submit to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to push for next years Light the Night Walk, shirts; Fighter AND Survivor!

Bricks for the Brave!!