I think a lot of people hear “cancer and immediately think the worst. The thing is, not all cancers are the same. I feel that the only cancer that really gets any awareness is Breast Cancer. I do believe other cancers need just as much awareness as Breast Cancer gets.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Diagnosis
My journey started in October 2006. I was working at a family-run convenience store and was working long hours to help out. I started having throbbing Pain in my arms, along with painful headaches to the point where I would not be able to move. I decided it was time to go to a doctor and see if they could figure out what was going on. I went in and got checked out, and they took some routine Blood Tests. The doctor said that I had a carpal tunnel from working long hours and chronic migraines. Three days later, I got a phone call stating that something was off in my blood tests, and I needed to consult a hematologist. I knew in my mind right there that I had cancer.
I consulted the hematologist two days later. More blood was drawn, and my mother and I sat in a cold room awaiting results. The doctor came in, looked at me and my mom and said, “You have Leukemia. You have Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML, and there is no cure. He then walked out of the room and left my mother and me with this news. My mother immediately started crying, and I just sat there in shock. The doctor came back in and explained that he needed to do a bone marrow Biopsy to see how advancedthe cancer was.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment
The next day I was back at the office and sat in a room. He explained what would happen with the Biopsy and started giving me the medicines to relax me so that I wouldn’tfeel anything. He started the procedure; the needle they use is abouta foot long with a crank on the end. I was screaming and screaming in pain, and the doctor got mad and said that he’s going to send me to a different hospital and thank god he did. I got sent to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. There I met with the doctor who would save my life. I was taken in for more bloodtests, and after an hour, was told that I was very lucky to be alive. All my counts were sky high, and my Platelets were so high I was about to have a stroke. That’s why I had the bad headaches. I was told there was no stage, but my cancer wasn’t too advanced yet.
I was started on a drug called Gleevec. Gleevec is an oral chemo that Chronic Myeloid Leukemia patients have been taking for quite some time. My doctor told me I was not dying anytime soon and sent me back home. From the next morning, I started taking Gleevec, and everything was fine for a few weeks. Then, all of a sudden, my feet started swelling to the point where I couldn’tput shoes on. I went back to the doctor, and he concluded that it was because of Gleevec and said we would have to try another medicine. Spycelwas next on the list, and that’sthe medicine I took for the next year. Checkups, blood tests, blood transfusions, and more bone marrow biopsies are what my life consisted of.
Fast forward to late 2008, Sprycel made my blood counts dip too low, and they wouldn’trecover. The latest Biopsy showed that my chronic myeloid Leukemia was taking a turn for the worst and was on its way to become acute Leukemia. At this point, it was decided that I needed a bone marrow transplant. They checked the registry, and no one matched me. We did a bone marrow drive with no luck. Time was running out, so my doctor got the transplant doctor on board, and they decided that I was going to get an umbilicalblood cord blood transplant.
In September 2009, I was admitted to the hospital to prepare for chemo before the transplant. On September 20th, I got the transplant. Now it was justa wait to see to see if it worked. I had the love of my life by my side and knew that I was going to beat this. I prayed multiple times a day. A week later, my counts started to recover, and my bodystarted making healthy cells again. I was a long way from being healthy enough to go home, though. I was in the hospitalfor four long months. Some days were easierthan others, but one thing I was clear was that I was not giving up. I was finally released on many stipulations. Every day I had to go to the doctor’s office to make sure I was okay, and my blood counts were still good.
After a year, I finally heard those words, “You are cancer-free. I threw a party and just rejoiced that I had my life back, that I had a life at all. I now live my life to the fullest. I now only have to go back once a year to be checked. I have been cancer-free for over ten years. Life after cancer has been eventful and full of miracles. My doctors had told me that there was no chance of having kids because of the chemotherapies. Heartbroken, I accepted it and moved on. Three years later, I was blessed with my first miracle. Three years after that, another little miracle. I got my tubes tied after that, haha!
To be honest, I didn’t know about any support groups and didn’t know if I would have joined one back then. I feel that what groups like ZenOnco.io are doing is excellent. People need so much support during these hard times, especially right now with COVID-19.
If I could sum up my journey in one sentence? Don’t let cancer win. NEVER EVER give up! Keep fighting until your last breath. I hope this helps someone. My journey has been long, but I’m here, I’m alive, and I have the doctors to thank for that.