Lisy’s Battle with Leukemia – Five Years Later

Five years ago today my life came to a sudden halt.

As most of you may know I spend a lot of time from January to May working with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, a 24-hour event to raise money and awareness about the fight against cancer.

And as most of you are aware I do this because five years ago today, on April 7, 2005, my wife was diagnosed with leukemia.

For those that aren’t aware I thought I would share her story by reposting my journal entries for the month that she stayed in Hotel Providence inN. Everett.

I started this journal after she was diagnosed, a way for me to vent my emotions and feelings without her seeing me struggle with what she’s going through. Then these blog things became huge and a month later I began posting our story using MSN Spaces. It was featured twice on MSN including a brochure MSN used to promote its MSN Spaces. Currently it’s gotten over 230,000 hits – only 229,000 are from me. I kid, I kid.

Here is my first entry from that journal:

Like a Ton of Bricks – April 9, 2005

Where do I begin? One day things are going fine, the next your world is turned completely upside down, almost stopped in shock. Today is Saturday, April 9, 2005 and two days ago my wife and I found out that she had cancer – leukemia to be exact. How this happened we don’t know.

A few weeks ago Lis noticed that her body was bruising easily. She didn’t do anything to cause the bruises she just bruised. She put off going to the doctor. Last week we noticed red dots on Lis’ legs and finally on Wednesday (April 8) we made an appointment to see the doctor.

We went in on Thursday, April 7 at 8:30am. The doctor ran some blood tests and shortly thereafter he called Lis at home and asked her to go straight to the emergency room atProvidenceHospitalinEverett. Lis immediately called me at work – crying. I left work and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to focus on my driving my mom drove us straight to the hospital.

Confused we waited until we were admitted into a room on the 7th floor. Ah yes, the spiritual number seven will come into play a lot. Lis’ favorite number, the day that we found out, the floor she is on and finally 707 the room number she will be staying in for awhile.

But let’s not jump ahead. We eventually got into the room, they took some tests and finally a doctor came in to speak with us. Thoughts raced through my mind. Dr. Munoz had told Lis over the phone that it – whatever it is – might be cancerous. I thought maybe it was something in her diet, maybe it was nothing, maybe it was something, I didn’t know what to think. Unfortunately, it was something.

The doctor informed us that she had a serious condition called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). If untreated she would pass away in three to six months. The bricks began to hit us across the head. She would need to go through chemotherapy. If she went into remission (a good thing) then months down the road we could get a bone marrow transplant that more than likely would have to come from her sisters. We began to sob. The first thing we could think about was Lukas.

Lukas is just 5½ months old. He doesn’t know what’s going on and he needs his mother more than anyone. What if she wasn’t there to care for him? How is this going to affect him? As I write on Day 3 I am starting to believe that our little man is going to be the key to her beating this cancer. He should make her positive. His smiling, cute, little face should be her inspiration on keeping positive and not letting this thing beat her.

How am I feeling? I don’t know. I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m scared. I’m every emotion that you could possible think of that is negative. I can only hope for the best and take care of Lukas in the meantime. I have to be there for her, I have to keep her positive.

It just seems unreal and most of the time I’m real positive. I’ve never met a stronger person than her. Lis is extremely strong, dedicated, hard working, wonderful. If anyone could beat something like this it would be her. I mean the friggin’ girl was in labor for 12 hours and fooled the nurses into believing that she was overreacting. She showed no pain. She got a c-section and was out of the hospital in less time than some people stay for a regular birth. So she’s going to keep positive, she’s going to tell this friggin’ cancer that she can’t be beat.

She has too much to live for – I mean she’s 27 for God’s sake – she has a son that needs her, a husband that needs her, a huge family that loves her, friends that love her. She’s unbeatable.

I do get scared sometimes. I get scared because there is an 80% chance of remission and if that doesn’t happen, if the chemo doesn’t beat the cancer than they have to try something else and then the percentage drops to 30-percent. And if that happens we’re in trouble.

The support has been great. My parents and Randy were there the first day and got caught up in the emotion. All they could say was “Why, why, why?” and “I don’t understand, she’s so healthy.” They were there to cry with me and have been totally supportive. On Friday, Erik came to visit. He left crying just able to say “poor girl”. That evening our friends Cory and Hillary came. They sent prayer requests to their church and to Hillary’s mom’s church inCalifornia. The ladies at work have been great. Bev has called every day to check on her and will probably visit tomorrow.

Today Lis had a bunch of guests. Her former co-workers: Tony, Tien and Mike. My grandparents, Josh, and Ian Barnes also visited. Everyone has been so supportive and so confused.

I don’t know if I should cry or yell out in frustration. I try to let her see me happy. I try not to think negative but darn if I’m not a half-empty kinda guy. I think God has a plan for us. I think He’s going to get her through this. We’ve always had our obstacles. I think God told us to finally go to the doctor after we went to church for the first time on Sunday and I decided to let Him back in my life. Four days later, I need God more than ever.

It’s nice that everyone is praying, like I said Cory and Hillary sent prayer requests. Grandma sent prayer requests. Aunt June sent prayer requests. I have talked to Pastor Jeff and have put in prayer requests at church. The support has been great and hopefully will only get greater as things progress.

This week will be interesting. Lis will be going through a lot of changes and it will be interesting to see how she handles it and how I will handle it.

Five Years Later:

I remember this day vividly. The early morning doctor appointment, going to work a little late and then having Lis call me minutes later crying on the phone (first and only time she’s done this) saying it may be “cancerous.” My first “What?!” phone call ever. The drive to the hospital playing a guessing game of what is going on and unfortunately not getting close to what it actually was. Arriving at the hospital in the morning, hanging out in the ER and then on the 7th floor totally confused. Lis refusing to change into her hospital robe and refusing to sit on the bed not knowing that the drive to the hospital would be the last time she would taste daylight for 30 days. Eventually meeting Dr. Congdon, her oncologist and the man we’ve grown to respect and love after helping save Lis’s life, and then have him excuse my Dad and Randy before telling us (and part of this is a blur, I apologize), “You have blah blah leukemia blah blah cancer blah blah not treated you’d have 3 to 6 months to live blah blah low on blood you’ll get a transfusion because you have no blood and then start chemotherapy on Saturday to kill that blood blah blah seven straight days, 24 hours a day, non-stop treatment blah blah hair falling out blah blah no more kids.” Before eventually making the decision to leave Lis and drive home with our 5-month old son and asking him – an infant – to help me through the next month.

It always makes me a little teary-eyed when I read the part about Lukas. We had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen. You hear the words “cancer” and you automatically think the worse. In retrospect this entire journey ended up being one of the best things to ever happen to us. You really realize the power that your family, friends and faith have in your life.

As I mentioned briefly, Lis and I had not gone to church since Easter of 2002. Three years later we returned and four days later we were in the hospital needing God more than ever. I know some of you are not religious people, and before this day I wasn’t a big believer in the power of prayer, but after seeing all the prayer requests and having her come out of this thing better than anyone expected I have no other reason to NOT believe. For instance, after Lis was told, on that firs that she would lose her hair – a sarcastic big deal – we were told we’d more than likely not be able to have kids again. In November 2007 the Doc said Lis had done so well that we could do try. Two months later I knocked up my wife and nine months later our beautiful daughter was born – naturally!

I still wear the LiveStrong bracelet I bought for us that weekend. It’s a reminder of what we went through and how I shouldn’t let little things get to me. That life is short and you never know when it will come to an end. I continue to sweat small stuff but when I start to get flustered (or after I get flustered) I think back about April 7, 2005 when our future was unclear and we really did live life day-to-day.

If you would like to donate to my ACS Relay for Life then please click the following link: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/mylisy

I hope to share more of our story in the upcoming days. If you would like to jump ahead check out my journal by clicking here: Lisy’s Battle with Leukemia

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