The Leukemia Diaries, Part 1
That was me about a week ago, covered in tubes and sensors, with oxygen being forced into me. Within 24 hours of being admitted into the hospital, I was sent right to the Intensive Care Unit. I was not a pretty sight.
In the weeks leading to my hospitalization, I knew there was something wrong with me. I don’t like landing in the hospital, but I knew something was wrong enough with me and I was begging to be thrown in one. We had to wait for some test results to come out before we could actually go to the hospital though, because we still didn’t know what exactly was wrong with me. I spent nearly two weeks being unable to eat, with insane stabbing headaches that jolted me out of what little sleep I could manage to get while in pain. I stayed near my mom so she could take care of me, but even she couldn’t take my agonized screaming at odd hours. I’m pretty sure my neighbors thought a tortured soul was trapped in the walls of my home at that point.
When my blood test results finally came out, my mom rushed me to the hospital that my uncle – one of many doctors in the family - recommended. I was offered no explanation of my condition at this point, but I was satisfied with finally being brought to the hospital.
So much medical jargon was thrown around and it all flew right over my aching head. My hours in the ER were a whirlwind of people stabbing me with needles and giving me medicines that my shrunken veins couldn’t handle. I could tell my parents were worried and doing their best to stay level-headed in this situation, and there was nothing I could do to help.
We finally got a room in the hospital, but I didn’t stay there very long. Within 24 hours of admission, I underwent minor surgery to have a catheter inserted in my jugular to facilitate all my meds and transfusions, then I got carted off to ICU. I remember kicking and screaming as the nurses were trying to strap a tight oxygen mask on me. I wasn’t breathing sufficiently anymore and they had to pretty much force all the oxygen in me to make sure I wouldn’t die, but it felt like I was drowning under the mask. I eventually submitted, kudos to the ICU nurse who took the no bullshit approach and told me I would die if I didn’t strap on the mask.
My days in the ICU were insane. I had separation anxiety, and I couldn’t sleep properly. I did what I could to resist calling my nurses for company all the time, and I knew I had to fight. Being stuck in a hospital bed is maddening, I tell you. At this point, I still didn’t know what my real condition was.
My parents told me I had pneumonia, and that I’d have to spend some time in the ICU. I accepted this, even though I felt trapped in my own body. Completely bedridden for nearly a week, too weak to even prop myself up a bit. I took comfort in knowing I was in the best hands possible, and that my nurses were doing everything to make me as comfortable as they could, given the situation.
My dad’s Facebook status asking for blood donations went viral. People I didn’t even know were giving and were praying for me. It was overwhelming to hear that so many of my dad’s and mom’s friends were calling in reinforcements even though some of them had never met me. Friends I’d thought I’d lost along the way came by, people I’d met only once were coming to support me, people I’d never met IRL were showing up to visit. It has been nothing short of heartwarming, and I swear, all of you who have prayed for me, came by, attempted to donate and got rejected, those who were able to donate, you all helped me through this. I don’t think there are enough words for how grateful I am for all of the support, and you all kept me holding on.
I was moved out of the ICU after I stabilized, and my parents finally broke the news to me. I have been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, which is cancer of the blood and bone marrow. They expected that I might cry or freak out, so they waited til I was at least back in my room before telling me. I… was strangely calm about it.
I’ve been undergoing chemotherapy this whole time, and we’re getting the desired results so far. I’m really thankful for the catheter stuck in my neck, because my IV goes through that instead of tangling up both my hands. My arms are covered in wounds from all the blood extractions they had to do when I first came in, and I can just barely stretch out one of my arms because it still feels really bruised from the very first major blood extraction.
People have sent me well wishes and encouraging words, and they have also told me that I don’t have to put up a brave front for all of this. I’d like to clear something up, guys: I am genuinely at peace with my condition. This is not a brave front. I’m just happy to be alive, and see no point in being sad and worrying about it. Of course, I get stressed when the doctors tell me they’re running low on B+ blood and platelets, but beyond that, I shake everything else off. I’m not saying I take my condition lightly, I just believe that being positive will help me loads more than crying over it ever will.
My sleep cycle has been messed up because of nurses bustling in at odd hours, so I mostly stay awake at night and conk out frequently during the day. My meds leave me easily exhausted, and so many of the things we take for granted are already major victories for me. Finishing a meal, being able to stand on my own after being bedridden for a week, sitting up by myself, these have all been major stepping stones toward my recovery. My doctors were surprised to catch me standing and doing a little dance the other day instead of my usual lying-in-bed-looking-completely-sick look. Right now I’m under orders to take it easy because my immune system has gone down more at this point in treatment, but I continue to exercise a little bit to make sure my muscles don’t completely forget how to function.
In all this, what I’ve found most heartwarming are all the prayers. I don’t normally ask people to pray for me, but I do accept when they offer to. My parents know this, so they freaked out when I was in the ICU and I asked them to pray for me. I believe there is a divine plan, and if this is part of it, so be it. I – and many others – will continue to pray for a miracle. My condition is curable, but we will still consider it a blessing and a miracle when I am cured. Some people don’t make it this far, and I’m thankful I have.