You have NO idea how long I have been wanting to update each and every one of you on the absolute CHAOS that has been the last few days! However, between all of the crazy procedures/tests I had to have from the moment I was admitted to the hospital and starting chemo recently, it's been hard to find time when I feel well enough to text, call, respond on facebook, etc.! One of my wonderful friends who was diagnosed with cancer last year started a blog to keep all of us posted on how she was doing. It's a great way that you guys can all have the latest updates on how I'm doing and share with whomever you wish! I'll post as often as I can or ask my wonderful parents to post sometimes.
I wanna start with explaining how I was diagnosed and why this was so sudden. When I was back at school last week, I came down with a horrible virus that included my throat swelling so much that I had trouble even drinking water. I had had strep the first week of school treated with antibiotics, and got sick just a couple of days after finishing the antibiotics. My amazing roommate took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with strep throat again, given more antibiotics and painkillers, and sent back to my apartment. However, the next day nothing was improving, and once I starting throwing up all of the pills, my roommate once again took me back to the ER, where they did bloodwork to see if I had mono. My doctor told me that my blood counts were unusual so I should be admitted to the hospital immediately. After calling my mom, I decided that it would be better to come home so that my Mom and Dad could take care of me, and instead of being admitted in Saint Louis, I went to see my primary doctor back at home. He ordered more bloodwork, told me it could be a variety of things making my bloodcounts weird, and I was sent home for the night. The next morning, the hematologist (blood doctor basically) called me and told me on the phone "You have leukemia." I absolutely could not believe it. I broke down right then and there, shaking, crying, and hugging my Mom. The hematologist told me that she had already contacted Loyola hospital in Chicago and that there would be a room ready that afternoon so that I could start chemotherapy treatments immediately. I literally went from thinking I had mono or strep to being told that I had cancer and would have to have chemo right away. My entire world suddenly turned upside-down. Many times with leukemia, there aren't warning signs until it's pretty far advanced, so that's why it was such a shock that I had it since I didn't show any symptoms besides a low immune system because of my white blood cell counts being low and the presence of cells called blasts in my blood. Now that I look at it, I feel absolutely blessed that I was in the ER that night; otherwise, I really don't know when this would have been caught. God works in crazy ways!
I was admitted to the pediatric (kids :)) floor in Loyola hospital in Chicago, and I absolutely LOVE being on a peds floor! the nurses are really great, and if you know me at all, the very BEST part is the HUGE closet of DISNEY MOVIES! I mean any disney movie you can possibly imagine. :) Going back to being admitted though, the first couple of days were full of blood tests, a bone marrow extraction and spinal tap (ouch!), and getting a port placed in me so I can receive my IV meds better. After making it through the bone marrow biopsy, I can literally say I can make it through anything now!! Your marrow is the inside part of your bone, so they have to make a little hole in the bone and suck some of the fluid out. I squeezed my Mommy's hand during that and my Daddy's hand during the spinal tap, and after those procedures I feel like an incredibly strong woman. After all the craziness of those procedures, now they have started my chemotherapy, which I'm responding well to! They have lots of great anti-nausea meds that they keep me on 'round the clock so while I do have times when I feel a little sick in my tummy, I'm not throwing up and I'm eating great! I have been feeling really weak; trips to the bathroom and back leave me a little short of breath and tired. However, that's actually a good sign because it means the chemo is working to kill all these nasty cancer cells...and, once I'm done with chemo, I'll be able to regain my strength!!
As far as the leukemia itself goes, leukemia is cancer of the blood. Basically, my bone marrow, kind of like a cell factory, isn't making adult cells like it needs to; many of the cells, especially white blood cells that I need to fight infections, are coming out of the factory as baby cells that can't do what my body needs them to. Those baby cells are called "blasts." The type of leukemia I have is called AML, and there are two possible treatments I could need depending on whether I am high or low risk. To explain, while most cancers are labeled with stages depending on how far the cancer has spread, since leukemia is in my blood and already goes all around my body, it's diagnosed as high or low risk. I won't know which I am until the lab results from my bone marrow come back next week, but here's the scoop: if I am LOW risk (praying!), I simply have to have 4 cycles of chemo (about 4 months), and that should put me into remission...which means, CANCER FREE! If I am HIGH risk, it means I will have 3 cycles of chemo and then I will definitely need a bone marrow transplant. Although it sounds scary, I have been reassured by my doctor that I have a good chance with finding a donor, especially with so many siblings. A note to all my KD sistas and SLU friends: if you signed up to be a bone marrow donor (when they had you swab your cheek), you're now in the database to be a donor for me if I end up being high risk!! Pretty cool, huh? :) Overall, my doctor is EXTREMELY confident that I will be in remission soon! The plan of care he is using for me has put every single one of his patients he has treated with AML into remission, so I have no doubt whatsoever that I will be cancer free soon and back to nursing school at SLU!!!
Lastly, as everyone is asking...how am I doing with all of this? Surprisingly, I feel SO hopeful. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and while I don't know why God has me here, I know that he will make good out of this situation somehow. Yes, I have cancer. And yes, it is going to be a long journey that is not going to be easy. However, I am STRONG, I am TOUGH, and I know without a doubt that I will beat this!!! I know that God has some amazing plans for my life, so I know that this stupid leukemia is just a roadblock I have to get through.
A HUGE HUGE HUUUUUGE THANK YOU for the beautiful messages, texts, comments, and support! I smile and cry reading each and every one. I know that I haven't been able to reply to everyone individually because of all I've been through in the past few days, but every message gives me strength to keep fighting.
I love you all and will keep you posted on how I'm doing! Just remember that cancer can't make me crumble; I am one tough cookie :)