I know it’s pretty normal to stop and reflect from time to time on the things we are thankful for in this life. You know: things like our families and friends, jobs, health, etc. While I am extremely thankful for these things, I have reason to pause of late and really reflect on the things I am most thankful for. Things I am truly grateful for and would never want to live without. The last several weeks have been very trying for me personally, and this is a rather personal post.
The focus of this post, however, is not me and my woes, and believe me, I could write a rather LENGTHY post outlining all of the things that have made the last several weeks tough for me. I am, instead, going to write about something that is weighing heavy on my heart right now.
We found out in early October that my sister-in-law Tammie had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a very aggressive form of leukemia. She is in her mid-forties and has a husband and three beautiful children who depend on her. She underwent months of treatment in Kansas City at KU Med Center’s Cancer Center. Tammie’s body fought hard though she was tired, but she DID NOT give up. After completing her chemo, monitoring her counts closely, and having “clean” bone marrow scrapes, she was officially in remission.
Tammie went home and resumed her life. She began a much healthier life style and joined an exercise group in her community to help her stay connected to people, stay active, and have the extra support she needed. Tammie was doing well.
And then she wasn’t.
Her counts started falling and Tammie found out two days ago that her AML is back and she must have a bone marrow transplant.
The other shoe we hoped would never drop, dropped with a thud that shattered that hope in a single instant.
Fortunately, when Tammie was first diagnosed with AML, her siblings were tested to determine if any of them might be a match should she need a transplant in the future: three of them were matches. We couldn’t believe it. From what we understand, it’s lucky for one sibling to be a match, but to have three matches is pretty remarkable, and now one sister and two brothers are her lifelines.
My husband is one of the matches. He went to Kansas City the evening we found out Tammie’s AML was back along with two
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of his sisters, one of whom is also a match, so other tests could be performed to determine which of the three siblings is the best match for Tammie’s transplant.
My husband himself is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in early January 2003. He had surgery to remove the cancer and underwent months of chemo. In late July of 2003, he was officially in remission and continues to be cancer-free nine years later. We were incredibly lucky, and I am so thankful our children still have their father and I have my husband.
Thinking about this, and trying to process the sheer gravity of it all, is pretty overwhelming. While it’s a no-brainer that whichever one of them is the best match will donate the necessary bone marrow without question, and his or her part of the procedure is clearly the easier of the two physically, the emotional toll involved will still be great.
It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility to bear when you think about it—this bone marrow donation is potentially the difference between life and death in the most literal sense possible. I pray one of them will be able to help Tammie open an old-fashioned can of Whoop-Ass and kick this leukemia right out of her body and stand next to her in victory shouting “AND DON’T COME BACK…EVER!!”
Yesterday we found out that my husband’s brother was the best match and he would be the donor. Today, we found out he has a heart condition that will prevent him from donating. The heart condition is not life-threatening, but it is enough to eliminate him. My husband and his other sister must go back to Kansas City early next week to undergo a battery of tests to see which one of them will be the donor.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them or anyone else who has been there. Or those who will inexplicably find themselves in the same situation someday. I don’t know how Tammie stays so positive, although I’m sure she has moments when it all seems like the worst possible nightmare. And it is.
One thing I know for sure is this dramatic turn of events definitely makes me more grateful for my family, my health and that of my family, and unconditional love. And great big cans of whoop-ass.