Monday, July 31, 2006

Bone Marrow Biopsy #3

First, thank you for all of your prayers on my behalf.

The biopsy went o.k. Can't say that it was any better or worse than the previous ones. At the last minute they decided to use Versed, which is a type of conscious sedation, and told me I would sleep through the whole procedure and wouldn't feel or remember a thing. I was fine with that, because I very much remember the last one and didn't want to repeat the experience. Apparently Versed doesn't work for me, though, because after 6 mg I never did fall asleep, and was alert and quite aware of everything. The doctor was quick and only had to do one side, so the pain wasn't as bad as last time. As long as the results are conclusive one way or the other this should be the last one for a while at least.

My new doctor, Dr. Medlin, just popped in to see how I'm doing. He said he's very optimistic about the results, and will let me know as soon as he hears from the pathologist. It will most likely be Wednesday morning, but I will update as soon as we hear. By the way, I miss Dr. Perry, but my new team is really great. It's hard to lose your "safety net" but I'm glad to have Dr. Medlin. He's got a great bedside manner and is wonderful to explain things to me.

Thank you for all of your encouragement over the past day, especially. You are all such an incredible blessing to me!

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I thought I would try to write a quick (short) update today, but knowing me it will probably get long. The weekend has been uneventful for the most part. I did receive more platelets today, and thankfully no reaction. For some reason they didn't hold this time like they usually do. My bloodwork came back looking really odd this morning, but it turned out to be an error. Something isn't right when your iron count drops almost three points overnight! I was happy to hear it's still up over 11. I've had more energy as a result, though I have been battling my attitude this weekend. I'm scared, and I'm depressed, and I know -- oh how I know -- that I need to just trust the Lord but it has been a constant battle for me the past few days. I did finally ask for meds to help me sleep last night after one of the doctors told me it was ridiculous that I wasn't sleeping at night. I've been having horrible night sweats and we weren't sure why. My husband stayed up after I fell asleep the other night and said I started having nightmares, and woke up soaked, so apparently that has been the cause. I haven't remembered anything, just wake up exhausted everyday. I slept well last night, and I've been resting a lot during the day to try to catch up from weeks without restful sleep.

My baby took his first steps on Friday and had his 8 month birthday yesterday. Our camera stopped working the other day, or else I would have some pictures to post. I was really hoping to make it home so I could see his first steps, and it hit me really hard when I missed them. Now I just want to make it home to see him run. Sometimes I think missing out on being his mom is the hardest part of all of this. Sometimes the emotions are really, really hard. I keep telling myself over and over that I'm right where God wants me right now, even if I don't know why. I found out yesterday that one of the patients on the floor who had leukemia died recently. I never met her, but she heard Gary jabbering during one of his visits here and asked one of the nurses about him and some of my family ended up taking him in to visit her. The nurse said she wanted me to know how happy she was to see him, and how much it brightened her day. It helped to know that maybe that was just one reason I'm here, that maybe God used this to cheer one person up one day who really needed it.

I know this won't be my most upbeat post, but if nothing else I want to be real through all of this. I do have bad days, I do throw things, I do sit here and wonder just exactly when my life got so messed up, and why I have to deal with things like wondering if I'll get to be here for Christmas this year or if I should start writing letters to my son so he'll have something to read when he's older and I'm gone. But I want you to know that God is good, and He is teaching me so much, and your prayers for me bless my spirit. Please, please, don't stop praying for me. When I was so sick with the first round of chemo I would look at my mom and sob and plead with her that people were really praying, that I wasn't just some name on a list that people saw in the bulletin and then forgot about. I HAD to know that people were praying, and I know that you are. You tell me everyday. I don't know how to thank you for the outpouring of prayer and love you have shown us.

Biopsy is at 1 p.m. tomorrow -- they are going to use a type of synthetic morphine to aid in pain relief.

Friday, July 28, 2006

28 Days

It's Friday again! I decided a few days ago that you know you've been in the hospital too long when you open your second family size package of toilet paper. :-) Hopefully I'll make it out of here before the third.

This week of waiting has managed to pass rather quickly. My family has been kind to visit frequently and help keep me entertained. Wednesday we celebrated our third wedding anniversary. My husband ordered Outback to go and we actually had a really nice dinner here in my room. I had a migraine but apparently I'm in the right place for those, because they were quick to give me Darvocet and anti-nausea meds and I spent the entire day feeling quite mellow. Last week I spent an evening pouting when I realized I wouldn't get to celebrate my anniversary the way I wanted to -- I had been so determined to make this year special -- but you have all helped to give me a lot of perspective. I ended up focusing on being thankful that I'm able to celebrate this anniversary, which is a gift in and of itself, and that I have my spouse by my side. I spent the day praying for all of you whose spouses are overseas serving our country. Such a sacrifice you are asked to make everyday.

Yesterday I received platelets, and had a slight reaction to them. Thankfully nothing major, but it shook me up quite a bit and made me nervous about today's blood transfusion. It's been going for about an hour now, and so far so good. I'm thankful for yet another evidence of God's mercies. My doctor said this morning that hopefully yesterday was the last time I will need platelets. He is very optimistic, which he said is a good thing because oncology isn't a field for pessimists. I am really excited to find out my results next week. I know that there will be grace for the outcome, and God has given so much peace.

I've had three mail deliveries so far today! I'm starting to receive so many cards from those of you I have never met. How you bless my heart! I just sit here and cry with each one. Know that you encourage my family as well, and that you are giving me so many opportunities to share my testimony with the staff. One of the nurses said we're going to have to start hanging them on the ceiling.

I'll end with a song that has often been on my heart and tongue:

Thy mercy, my god is the theme of my song
The joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue
Thy free grace alone from the first to the last
Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast

Without thy sweet mercy I could not live here
Sin would reduce me to utter despair
But through thy free goodness my spirit's revived
And he that first made me still keeps me alive

- John Stocker

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I finished the second round of chemo yesterday afternoon around 1 p.m. That was a great feeling. For now we are just waiting. My next biopsy will be Monday, July 31st. I'm not sure of the exact time yet. It will take a day or two to receive the results, and there's the same possible outcomes as last time. I'm praying for an answer one way or the other. Indecisive results that mean a repeat biopsy another week out aren't really what any of us want.

The doctor seemed really positive this morning. I asked a few questions about what various results could mean. They aren't able to tell me a whole lot yet. If I'm in remission, I'll be able to go home once my counts are up and begin consolidation treatments (outpatient). I don't know how long that will take, though, and they told me it varies by person. My counts are still looking o.k. today so no transfusions until Thursday or so. That's a huge praise. I'm still being told that I'm receiving way less transfusions than normal. They are going to continue my antibiotics for now. I am so thankful for the health I've had thus far. I've actually managed to put on 8 pounds over the past week -- while on chemo! God be praised. My nursing care has been excellent, too. Everyone is taking wonderful care of me.

Yesterday was eventful in that I took the plunge and had my head shaved. I was starting to look rather patchy with about a 1" part. It has taken some getting used to for sure. I still don't recognize my reflection and I am getting used to a very sensitive scalp, but overall God has been gracious and it hasn't been as difficult as I expected.

Thank you once again for all your cards and comments. I didn't sleep well last night and started in with some achiness last night, so when the mail arrived at 8:30 this morning (a very unusual occurence) I felt so loved and encouraged. God sure knows what I need and when.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Couple of Photos

Not the most recent picture, as I've now received over 120 cards and feel very blessed. The nurses comment on how much they love to visit this room and say that some of the other patient's don't even get a single card.

Round Two -- Day Five

I began my final 24 hour dose of chemo today. I'll finish up sometime early tomorrow afternoon. The doctors told me the next biopsy will be done 14 days out from the beginning of this round, so I'm estimating that to be right around August 1st. This is the big one -- remission or Plan B being the two possible outcomes. I will be losing Dr. Perry at the end of July. Someone explained why a few weeks ago but I honestly don't remember. I think it has something to do with rotations. I am amazed at the dedication of the doctors here. Today is day 23 in the hospital for me and I have had the same doctors around my bedside every morning for daily rounds with the exception of one or two days. I wonder how they manage to have a family life and realize the dedication they have to serve their patients. I told them yesterday that I hoped they would be able to spend some time with their families this weekend, because it seems that they live here.

I have been tired today, and ran a low fever for a while this afternoon. It seems to have broken. My infectious disease doctors are recommending that I remain on the antibiotics for now. One of the nurses commented yesterday that she doesn't know how I am handling them so well. I'm on Vancomycin and Cefepime (Maxipime). I take this as another sign of God's mercies. So far they haven't managed to destroy my kidneys.

I was able to get some rest last night. Nurses are in my room at midnight, one, two-thirty, four, four-thirty, six, seven and then breakfast at seven-thirty. So much for sleeping in! The constant interrupting is difficult, as I mentioned before, but it's a gift the nights I'm able to fall back asleep quickly. I'm trying to relax, realize it's not rude to just ask people if they washed up prior to touching me, and not try to wake up so completely to be able to just observe rather than asking a simple question.

We had a little bit of excitement last night when my IV started leaking chemo drugs. I felt damp on my side and hopped up to realize it was leaking. The reaction of the staff was quite intense, and after some scurrying about one of them assured me that it wasn't the "toxic flesh eating kind." That always makes you feel so much better. They got my sheets cleaned, mopped the floor, and I took a shower. I was wondering for a moment if they were going to bring in some kind of team in hazmat gear. Thankfully the water was warm, and I found the shower quite refreshing, although messy. My hair is falling out like nobody's business, and I kind of felt like I was fighting cobwebs as I tried to wash up. The hair has been going for several days, but for those who know me, I have had so much hair to lose that I'm still not completely bald. I probably still have as much hair as a lot of people. I told the doctor this morning as I brushed out the daily bird's nest that it hasn't been as traumatic as I thought. I'm actually kind of looking forward to the end of the shedding (it really gets messy). I have some beautiful scarves, a wig on the way, and some adorable hats -- gifts from friends, some handmade with love. And through it all a husband who tells me every chance he gets how beautiful I am to him, and I see the honesty in his eyes.

This next week may prove challenging. It's still the continuous waiting game. My white cell count is still holding steady around 300. I dread the fevers, and have been so grateful for each day of health. I wrote going into this that I didn't feel strong enough to face another round, but truly, God has not given me more than I can bear, and His mercies have been exceedingly abundant. My prayer for this week would be for continued health, patience as we anticipate the next biopsy, and a peace that passeth all understanding as we battle with the unknown upcoming diagnosis.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


I've probably commented before about the hospital being different on weekends. Some aspects of less staff can be nice (less interruptions overall) but some can prove to be a trial. I had a rough night last night, and didn't get much sleep. I told Dr. Ogden (the floor resident) this morning that I feel like I must have been entered into some kind of sleep deprivation clinical trial without my knowledge. I went to bed at 10 p.m. -- early for me, and my blood transfusion set the alarm off on my IV machine around 11:30. Response times were slow, and by the time they showed up I had ripped the IV out of the machine and thrown the entire thing on the floor and managed to turn the machine off. They don't really like it when I do that. I have noticed it usually improves response times for the rest of the day. I have been so blessed to feel better through this round of chemo, but that has brought a new set of challenges as I have felt good enough to really want to go home. I talked to Dr. Perry this morning about my frustration with never getting more than 2-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and the pressure of being mentally alert 24 hours a day to ensure things like hand washing and proper care of my Hickman are observed by the occasional sloppy nurse. I am mentally exhausted, and emotionally worn out -- I don't feel safe taking Ativan and not being aware of my surroundings. I decided that I'd check my e-mail before morning rounds and found several encouraging e-mails that improved my mood and calmed my spirit. In the middle of the night I wonder if I will make it through all of this without going insane. Those are the dark hours, and I try to remember to praise Him even when my heart doesn't feel like it.

I was blessed this morning with a visit from two dear friends, which again proved to build me up. God knows so well what I need each day! Healthwise I am doing well, as I mentioned above and owe it all to God's mercies and your prayers. The infectious disease doctor commented today that I ran a slight fever during my transfusions yesterday (I received two units of blood and one unit of platelets). Oh, for those who have asked, my blood type is AB+. I was told yesterday that it's actually a rare blood type, so I often receive AB- or A+, or something like that. I don't pretend to understand all the complexities, but I know there is more to matching blood than just the type. The antibodies are constantly changing and my "blood band" or "sticker bracelet" as I've affectionately named it expires every 72 hours. I was able to go a week between transfusions which I think is a really good thing, and once again no allergic reactions, which is of particular importance since I'm not being pretreated with the standard dose of Benadryl.

Thank you once again for building me up daily with your prayers, comments, love gifts, and ways I may never even know. Heaven has become dearer to me through all of this, but even more so as I have the realization that I may never meet so many of you on earth but anticipate the day we are united with Christ. Please, please, if you do not have the certainty of security in Christ this day, don't let it pass by without seeking Him. That you may know Him and the power of His resurrection!

As always, I love you all.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Round Two of Chemo

I thought I would write today while I have the strength. So far the chemo side effects haven't reared their ugly heads. I have taken advantage of my anti-nausea meds a few times. I think this round will be easier in that regard since we found the one thing that works after several days of vomiting with the first round. My appetite is starting to go, but I've still been eating and drinking Boost with every meal. The doctors emphasized to me how important it is to eat as much as I can on the good days.

They will be here soon to start my pre-chemo drugs for the day. I start a 24 hour drip of chemo drugs every afternoon, and they begin each one with a cocktail of anti-nausea drugs and Ativan. (I learned how to spell it, go me!) The Ativan makes me sleepy, so I have learned to look forward to my afternoon nap. I was blessed with an excellent nurse last night and managed to get a decent night of sleep. Still not as many hours as I used to get, but an improvement. My white count is at 200 today, the lowest it has been thus far. As a result I'm keeping Gary away today, but he is in good hands. We'll see what tomorrow brings. We go through a lot of hand sanitizer around here and I have a box of masks to use. I think they are more mentally effective than anything. The doctors have said that they've found good hand washing to be the most effective thing, and of course I'm still supposed to limit visitors to as few as possible, and absolutely no one who is the slightest bit ill, or has been exposed to anything, immunized recently, etc. We decided to delay Gary's immunizations until he was a little older, and I'm so glad now because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see him at all through any of this.

The doctor seemed most concerned today with mental aspects of my health. I think he is worried that I am never upset when he visits. He told me it is o.k. to be angry and to say it's not fair, because it isn't. They just want to be sure I have someone to vent to other than my family or nurses, because neither of them are equipped to handle that in his opinion. He wants to make sure I still have a marriage once all of this is over, things like that. I feel like I could have been a better witness while he was here, but it was early and I was weary. I didn't say much. Just as I didn't really react when he told me yesterday that I'd need another round of chemo. I just don't make eye contact because then I will lose it, and losing it doesn't make it any easier for the doctor or the daily dozen it seems who follow him around. (It is, after all, a university hospital, so I see a lot of students.) When they initially told me I had leukemia I think a few of the studends broke down more than I did. Part of that is just the numbness factor. How exactly do you wrap your head around information like that? It takes a while to hit. I have my bad days. Brandon has been there for me (I could write an entire post on the incredible husband God has given me), and my mom, but my Savior most of all. I don't really have a desire to talk to a floor chaplain or a psychiatrist. Perhaps I am still in denial, I don't really think so because I've always been a realist about everything -- I've had my funeral planned for years. But I think mostly it is just the knowledge that God's grace is sufficient for me. I have come to know Him in such a way that I am utterly certain He is near. I also know He allows anger ("be angry and sin not") and allows our cries of "Why?". He understands our weaknesses, He created us after all. He knows my heart better than I do. I hold to the verse, and I apologize for not giving any references -- I am hurrying to write this before the nurse comes to knock me out, but anyway, "I know the plans I have for you...plans to give you a future and a hope." Whether that hope is raising my son and spending many more years with my wonderful husband or spending eternity in heaven with my Lord, I don't know, but I am comforted to know that He does.

I have been receiving so many comments and e-mails from perfect strangers recently. I marvel at the fact that you take time to write someone you will never meet, this side of Heaven anyway, but oh the encouragement you give me! For those of you who have suffered a similar road, or a road so much more difficult I can not even imagine, your testimonies and continued praise to God have ministered greatly to my spirit. I hope to eventually write each of you personally, but know in the meantime that I am reading what you write, and thanking God for each of you. I think the only thing that makes all of this worthwhile is our testimony. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. I feel so humbled that God is possibly using me to bring glory to Himself in an even greater way than most people may have. He truly uses the weakest. I have such a deeper understanding of what those before me have gone through, whether it be modern day giants of faith, or David, Job, Moses, Abraham...the list goes on.

I think I have a million people praying for me, and the hundred or so cards on my wall and multitude of daily e-mails convince me of the fact. Thank you all for interceding on my behalf!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Results

It seems that God has seen fit to prolong my journey. Dr. Perry just came in and said my biopsy still showed leukemic cells, so I will be starting a five day continuous round of chemo this afternoon, followed by a seven day rest and then another biopsy. I am thankful for an answer, even though I will admit it's not the one I wanted. He did say that originally my cells were almost 100% leukemic, and now they are down to 5%. (Less than that would qualify as remission.) I find hope in this, that the second round of chemo will take care of things and I won't ultimately need a bone marrow transplant.

I feel tired and weak to enter into this again, but in some ways I am healthier now than I was with the first round. My immune system is still non-existent, but it was compromised to begin with, so things should just be like last time. I will get sick again, and we will pray that the antibiotics will take care of things like they did with my high fever previously. With leukemia, that's how you die. You end up without any good cells to fight off common viruses, etc, and ultimately die of something like pneumonia.

Pray for me, that I will have the physical strength to make it through another round of chemo, that the Lord would sustain me in every way, and for my family as they serve me through what will be at least another 3 weeks in the hospital.

To God be the glory!


I have never been a patient person. Hospitals are teaching me a lot. My doctor came by around 6 p.m. last night to let me know my test results were in but the pathologist hadn't signed off on the report yet, so he wasn't free to tell me anything. So I am sitting here this morning waiting for rounds to start. They are usually here around 9:15 a.m. and I am hoping they will have an answer for me. I was told yesterday that the results could come back inconclusive, which would mean repeating the bone marrow biopsy again in a few days. I'm really praying for a conclusive answer today as I'm not anxious to repeat that experience anytime soon. Logic tells me Monday wasn't the last time -- I told mom (who had nine children) that I may not go through birth nine times but I just might match her with nine biopsies by the time this is all over.

All in all I had a wonderful day yesterday. Gary spent the day in my room, and we were able to have some much needed time to become mommy and baby again. I have missed my darling, and it brought so much joy to my heart to be able to spend so much time with him. I'm still neutropenic, and began the day with a mask which eventually I removed. Gary seems to be completely healthy, for which I am very grateful.

My hair is starting to fall out. Someone recently sent me an e-mail with the lyrics to a song we sang at Sovereign Grace Church in Arizona.

My Savior's sacrifice paid for all my sins
So in my suffering I look to the cross again
No need, no want, no trial nor pain
Can compare to this
The wrath of God once meant for me
Was all spent on Him

Before the cross, I humbly bow
I place my trust in the Savior
Your finished work captures my gaze
You bore the wrath, I know the grace

Before the Cross - 2003 PDI Worship (ASCAP)

With that on my mind I've been trying to focus on the Cross instead of wallowing in self-pity. And believe me, I have my moments. I've been struggling especially with my nursing staff lately. I talked to the doctor about it yesterday morning and just about threw something when once again I was assigned the troublesome nurse that night. For the third night in a row. So I fought self again last night, got in the shower, and found out my hair is definitely falling out. So I cried. Again. And felt sorry for myself, again. And then I made myself start to sing praises. I told Brandon sometimes when I start singing I don't feel like it at all. But somewhere along the way my worship becomes genuine, and God draws near, or feels near, I know He is always near regardless of my emotions. I started thinking about the Cross, and how much my Savior suffered for me. And how He has gone before me in even what I view to be my most ultimate suffering. I had pain from a bone marrow biopsy, He had nails driven into His hands and feet. I am losing my hair -- painlessly, yet His was torn from his head by those who mocked Him. How can I complain about these momentary trials, when He has suffered so for me? I fell asleep pondering these things.

I hope to write again shortly with an update. Thank you all, once again, for your notes of encouragement. You will never know how much you lift my spirit, and encourage my heart. I love you all.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday - Biopsy Day

This morning began with my white count holding steady at 600 and a platelet count of 22,000. (Platelets have the shortest lifespan of your blood, so that's the reason my platelet count fluctuates so widely. I hadn't had any since Friday, which was good.) Platelets are key in things like clotting, so they gave me more today mainly because I had the bone marrow biopsy.

They came in to do it at 11:30 a.m. even though I had been told 1 p.m. One of the doctors commented on how many cards I had on my wall and I replied that I have a lot of people praying for me -- although not until 1 p.m. :-) They prepped me with Adavan (which I am probably spelling incorrectly, but it's basically an anti-depressant and relaxes the entire body.) As they started the procedure they gave me morphine. With the first biopsy I complained of feeling bad when they gave it to me. This time, I began coughing as they began pushing it, like a really bad tickle in my throat that I couldn't get rid of. The doctor told them to stop pushing it immediately because he thought I was having an allergic reaction. We're very thankful that's all the reaction I had. Once I was able to stop coughing they got started. By this time the morphine had pretty much worn off since I'd only been administered a slight amount. They had already begun the local numbing and were ready to head down to the bone. I was only supposed to have the biopsy done on one side, but due to an inability to locate bone marrow on the first side (which we don't know why, or whether or not that's a good thing) they had to do it again on the second side. There was a lot more pain this time since we weren't able to use the morphine. They just kept pushing Adavan, so it hurt, and I reacted by crying in pain, but honestly overall I didn't really care that much. That kept it from being otherwise quite traumatic. We won't know the results until tomorrow or Wednesday, but I will let you know as soon as I know.

Mondays mean a visit from two sweet volunteers who always pray with me. They made their stay brief, because the morphine had me quite nauseous (and a rather alarming shade of color) and I was staring at a sandwich willing myself to get it down somehow. They prayed with us, and I managed to eat the entire sandwich as the antinausea meds kicked in. I have found one that works, and it's a friend indeed.

I'm really sore this evening, and a little off feeling overall, since they gave me such a large amount of the Adavan. I keep falling asleep, and when I'm awake everything just moves rather slowly. Regarding the soreness, the biopsy is done in my lower back. There are two little dimples on your lower back on either side of your spine. That's where they do it. So mine are covered with layers of guaze and rather swollen and sore at the moment. Thankfully the bleeding was minor and easily controlled. It was about 1/2" off of each of the spots from two weeks ago, so I was already a little tender.

Thank you again for your prayers. I know they were quite effective regardless of when my biopsy was done. I spent the procedure quoting Psalm 23 to myself, and noticed shortly afterward an e-mail from a friend containing just that prayer.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Must Read

I just remembered John Piper was diagnosed with cancer recently, and I'd heard he wrote a great article about it. It's called "Don't Waste Your Cancer" and you can read it here:

I remember thinking when I first heard about it that I didn't see a point in reading it since I didn't have cancer. It's encouraging one way or the other, though, and if God can bring about the same results in your life without using cancer to get your attention, praise Him.


Last night I spent a lot of time on the American Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's website reading stories of other AML patients. It was both encouraging and discouraging. A lot of people die. I learned a lot more about the disease as well, and though knowledge is a good thing it's also hard. Things like 20% survival rates can weigh heavy on the soul, even though I know that I'm not going anywhere until God is finished with me. Part of the reason AML has such a low survival rate is that it normally strikes adults over 60, so age alone increases my chances as far as statistics go. There were several stories of women who were diagnosed during or immediately after pregnancy, and I heard my story over and over again.

I cried myself to sleep. My mom was here to comfort me and pray with me. Some times I fight the demons in my head crying "Curse God and die" and screaming "It's not fair." Our life hasn't been easy in my opinion. It was just starting to get better. We were finally out of debt, our stress level had decreased and our fighting with it, we had our baby, Brandon had a good job, I loved our house, and now this. I was angry that the last night I had before being diagnosed was spent alone because my husband had to go on a business trip. I wondered why God would be so mean to do that to me, to not even give me one last night, and why I had to be here in this stupid hospital having every aspect of my life scrutinized when everyone else is home in their beds sleeping peacefully. I fought and fought last night and in my soul I still knew that God is GOOD. That He's doing this for a reason, that it's going to glorify Him, and that I can't be angry, I have to praise Him. One of my friends sent me a CD the other day and the song played over and over in my head:

I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

(Praise You In This Storm -- Casting Crowns)

Thank you for praying for me. I am so grateful that God's grace is stronger than my faith, that He understands when my heart is weak, and lifts me when I fall.

I can't remember if I've mentioned that my room, which is on the 5th floor, overlooks the hospital's helicopter pad. The nurses have commented on how much I must dislike it, because of the noise, but I actually love my room. I have a view across Stadium Drive rather than a view of the hospital's roof. Plus, the helicopters distract me, and everytime they come in (which has been every few minutes today) I remember that somebody out there just got their life slammed, and I try to always pray for them. Sometimes I see the news later that evening and find out someone died after being flown here. It's a strange connection. It is nice to be able to see people coming and going -- the other day Brandon drove by in a golf cart while on a computer delivery and I got to watch him tootle by. It made me laugh.

For some odd reason I haven't been bored out of my mind during the days. Probably because I haven't felt good enough to be bored yet. Today has been a good day again, but Brandon has been here to spend it with me, and it's gone impossibly fast. I spent quite a while this morning looking at hats and wigs. I'm not sure about the whole wig thing yet, but I found one that has potential. Unfortunately it also has a 35% restocking fee if I don't like it, so I'm giving it a lot of thought. I also discovered some people do things like henna tattoos on their heads when they lose their hair. That was one option I hadn't thought about yet. Not sure I have the pizazz to pull that one off, plus my doctors hate anything natural or organic so I don't think it would fly with them. (I can't have fresh anything...I'm beginning to crave an Outback salad like nobody's business.)

The highlight of my day today was probably my shower. I have to be unhooked from my IV and cover up my Hickman so it's a big ordeal that I don't do every day. The main reason I've been avoiding the shower, though, is that every one I've had so far in here has been cold. The water doesn't heat up and I HATE cold showers -- I reacted to my last one like an indignant cat, and cried through the whole thing because I was just so miserable. (I had a fever at the time, too, to justify myself a little more.) Today the water got hot. I praised God. And took a really long shower. :-)

Another funny occurance happened when a nurse came in with an insulin kit (?) and asked if she could prick my finger. I issued a very alarmed "WHY?!" and she said, "Haven't they been doing this everyday?" "No, they sure haven't, and I'd rather not start if that's o.k. with you." She took off -- I'm sure the doctors would have loved that one since I don't exactly clot right now. They won't even let me shave lest I knick myself.

I got to see Gary last night and he's supposed to come by again tonight. I always feel guilty about visits with him because they're risky. I'm going to wear a mask tonight, so I'll feel better about that. My white blood count is 600 today, which means I still don't have an immune system. I guess anything under 1000 is not so hot. Anyway, after realizing today that I lost a day of my life when I had the pushing 105 fever for 18 hours, and how close I was to death, I'm trying to err on the side of caution. Brandon is feeling better but he's still wearing a mask for safety reasons. I was going to go for a walk in the hall to make an attempt at rebuilding some muscle but I haven't done that yet. They say it is safe if I wear a mask, but I'm just a little germophobe these days.

Hope you all don't mind my wordy posts. I can still type at about 100 wpm, so it doesn't take long to really add up.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I love Fridays. They've always been my favorite day because I get a whole weekend to enjoy with those I love. If only my dearest would lose his cold! Oh well, I wanted to update again today because I have dial-up working at the moment and I have cool stuff to say.

My doctor came in this morning and said my blood work today looked really good (they draw blood every morning around 4 a.m. -- I'm getting to where I can sleep through it). My platelets were above 50,000 which he said is unheard of, and he has no idea why they would be so high. I told him lots of people are praying for me. My iron was back up due to the transfusions and my white count is back up to 500, a 25% increase from yesterday. That's basically unheard of and "absolutely incredible." He also said that in the 35+ years he's been practicing he has never had a patient need so few transfusions at this point. Thank you for your prayers, God hears them!

My genetic testing came back. They didn't say exactly which subtype I have. The test showed that I don't have any of the faulty chromosomes that are high risk, so my prognosis is excellent and I have hope to see my 30th birthday.

I have to tell you about one of my nurses, Nancy. She's actually my night nurse tonight, and she's been coming in to check on me even when she's not assigned to me. She is THE go-to person and always makes me laugh. So far she's been able to get me a fan, which has aided in the hot fever moments. My IV machine required unplugging from the other side of the room everytime I had to go to the bathroom so she found a power-strip/extension for me. That was a lifesaver, especially once the chemo side effects reared their ugly head. She found us bottles and formula for Gary one day when his were left at home by accident, and last night she came in to say hi and noticed the bulletin board in my room was covered with cards. We've been taping them to the walls, but the tape isn't holding well, and it's been a constant re-taping session. So she decided I needed another bulletin board, and what do you know, within about 1/2 hour I had a maintainance man in here hanging a bulletin board. I told her she's the best! My doctor was on top of things and got the busted light cover fixed in my room. I've discovered he's a perfectionist. The other day he came in and there was a string hanging on my blanket (I have my 20 year old "teddy bear blanket" here with me). He stopped mid-sentence, pulled out scissors, cut it off, said, "There, that's better" and picked up where he left off. Humor is such a gift.

Overall today has been a good day. Lunch was rough -- the best option on the menu was chicken fried steak. I think I need to have a talk with the nutrition staff here. They have stuff on the menu like battered shrimp and creole gumbo. I don't know about you, but first of all I'd never order either of those from a cafeteria and second of all, MOST people in the hospital are sick and probably not craving sea food. There's always chicken noodle soup, but I've had about enough of that. Chemo makes your taste buds work really well, and the normally salt-craving me now finds it rather repulsive. I never thought the day would come when I wouldn't want to eat french fries! My appetite is still seriously lacking, so that's still an area of prayer.

Oh, I found out if my results come back clean on Monday (actually I won't have the results until Tuesday or Wednesday) I can go home as long as my white blood count is above 1000 (I'm halfway there) and my platelets are above 50,000 (I'm already there!). And no fevers. :-) I'll still have a weakened immune system, but if I promise not to go to the mall I guess they're o.k. with letting me walk out of here. I haven't been outside of my room for over 10 days so I'm looking forward to it. And I can't wait to see my's been a few days now. I miss the little guy.

Love you all!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Journey Continues

The laptop we were keeping here at the hospital broke [Side note from Brandon: To quote a co-worker, "[I'm] probably the only person on the planet who could give a Mac boot errors."], so I haven't had internet for the past two days and won't for a few more. Brandon has been printing everyone's comments and e-mails for me. They are all so encouraging to me. I received ever so many cards today -- my nurse commented that he hardly ever delivers mail to any of the patients and I had two large stacks. I feel so blessed -- I can't thank you all enough.

I won't lie -- the past few days have been really hard. My white blood count has plummeted, making me vulnerable to anything and everything. Gary has a cold so I haven't been able to see him in a few days, and Brandon is now also sick, so his visits are brief. He has to wear a surgical mask and can't touch me. I've been running a fever off and on all week. At one point it was over 104, and earned me a crowd of infectious disease doctors asking hundreds of questions trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Antibiotics didn't seem to make a difference, and Tylenol wasn't always effective in breaking it. When I say antibiotics I mean some SERIOUS antibiotics. One of them causes what they call "red man syndrome" and mom said it turned me beet red. They had to weigh me to determine the appropriate dosage. I haven't had a fever all day today. God is gracious! I feel really yucky when I do, and just beyond tired. I still don't have an appetite -- eating has become my biggest challenge I think. I dread mealtimes, but know I need to eat. I've dropped down to 101 pounds and lost most of my muscle tone. I'm still throwing up more often than I'd like, but all in all the new anti-nausea medicine they are giving me seems to be o.k. They thought I had thrush for a while so they started giving me Nystatin (?). I'm still using that, and still have a sore throat, but they are now saying it's just sores, typical of chemo. I have had incredible stomach pain the past few days, rivaling labor, but pain medication seems to help, and I've quit trying to be such a tuffy. Overall today has been a much better day. Yesterday Dr. Perry said my platelet count was up (which is good) even though he had absolutely no idea why. (It's a God thing, I'm sure!) Today it was down again, and my iron dropped a full point overnight, so I received another unit of platelets and two units of blood. I think that puts me at 6 units of blood and four units of platelets since I was admitted. (Which if I remember correctly means I've had about half of my blood replaced in the last 13 days.) I have a new appreciation for donors -- I've never been able to donate due to weight restrictions. For those of you who have, I thank you. The blood refreshes me, and transfusion days are usually good ones. It's not much fun. Each unit comes with the risk of rejection and serious allergic reactions, but so far everything has been fine.

I am so thankful for my God and for the peace He has given me for this trial. I think if I were reading this that I'd have a hard time believing the person. I never thought I'd be able to stand anything like this. But I can't, it's God, and it's not about how much faith I have, it's about HOW MUCH GRACE He has. I pray that you may all know Him as I do. I am so grateful that He loves me enough to put me through this, to grant me the privilege of a deeper knowledge of Him than I ever would have had otherwise. He is SO good to me.

I don't know yet what will happen if my bone marrow biopsy comes back clean next week. (It is scheduled for next Monday, the 17th, at 1 p.m.) Statistics are against me that only one round of chemo will put me in remission, so I am resigned to trust my God with the results. The thought of chemo again is very overwhelming, but His mercies are new every morning. I will ask the doctor tomorrow if I can go home if it's clean, so we'll see what he says. I really, really, really don't want to go through another biopsy because they really, really, really hurt, plus just seem really, really, really freaky! It's like the worst shot EVER. But like dad says, I don't really have any options. Kind of like the other day when I realized the Hickman stint in my chest has to actually be surgically removed. Some things you just don't want to go through more than once.

I still have my hair. Doesn't seem to be thinning unusually yet. Part of me thinks maybe it won't fall out, but I know that's silly. I don't fully understand how chemo works, or how the whole hair falling out process happens. One of the nurses said a lot of people just shave their heads at the beginning rather than waiting, but I don't really want to do that. If I start looking too much like a scraggly mutt I'll do something about it then. Originally Dr. Perry said I would lose it all within 3 weeks, so I've got less than 2 weeks to go. I think I'll look really weird without hair, but I'm looking forward to finding some cool scarves. Mostly I'm afraid of drawing my eyebrows on. I hope I'm better with that than I am with eyeliner, or else I'm just doomed.

Pray that my family will feel better soon, and for their endurance as they serve me. I haven't spent a moment alone in the 13 days I've been here so far. Amy means "Beloved" -- my parents named me well.

I love you all!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Last Day of Chemo

Today is my last day of chemo, for this round at least. I'll be off for a week and then another bone marrow biopsy will show if I need another 5-day run of chemo. I am praying this is it, the road has been hard and I am weary. I have new understanding of "my flesh and my body consume me." (paraphrase)

The past few days have been especially hard and I am so grateful to all of you for your prayers. Your comments, emails, cards -- all serve to lift my weary soul, and encourage me at just the right moment. God is so good to go before and provide the little things I need to show me how much I am loved. While one friend was praying on Friday that the Lord would sing to me songs of peace, a visitor did just that, and I was blessed with her song. I awoke in tears Saturday morning to a nurse who asked if she could pray with me before her shift ended. I find Him in all the little things. I am thankful also for a little white pill that has eased my nausea. After five days it has come as some makes the other side effects a little easier to bear. I still don't have much of an appetite, but it is a different feeling than the nausea.

The week ahead will be hard as my white blood count continues to drop, basically eliminating my immune system. As the doctor put it, my body will become my worst enemy, as all the natural bacteria, etc, can feast. I have enjoyed a visit with my baby tonight as it may be the last for a while. My counts are at 1,200 today, and once they reach 500 everyone entering my room will need to wear scrubs and masks. Unfortunately that's not an option with Gary. I'm so grateful my doctor realizes the needs of a mother's heart, though, and has allowed me some limited contact with him.

The nights are long. I know God is in the nights, but for some reason they are slower and darker. I remember His promise, "He gives to his beloved even in their sleep." (paraphrase, again)

I love you all. Thank you so much for all the ways you are blessing us.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The First Week

Well, I guess I'm really behind with this. In order to find out exactly what type of leukemia I have, the doctor had to do a bone marrow biopsy. I was worried about this, because I had heard it was very painful. The doctors assured me that they had pain medication to assist, so around 1 p.m. on Monday they all came trouping in. They were able to do it in my room; I just had to lay on my stomach. The doctor explained that they would numb the skin down to the bone with lidocaine, but they couldn't numb the bone or marrow, and that it would feel like someone was kicking me in the back really hard, then a lot of pain. I asked, "So, you don't give a spinal or epidural for this or anything?!" Nope...but they did have morphine. The morphine made me feel really funny, and actually proved a halfway decent distraction. It reminded me most of back labor. They promised me the meds would make me forget, but I remember it all very well and I’m not looking forward to repeating the experience after this round of chemo is up. But if it shows all is well, it will be more than worth it. The biopsy was able to narrow down the type of chemo, but we won’t know full results until genetic testing is back from California sometime within the next few weeks. Brandon stayed with me throughout the procedure even though the doctor strongly recommended that he leave. I appreciate his sacrifice because I know how much he hates needles. After we were finished he asked if I was o.k., and then said, “If you’ll excuse me for a minute now, I need to go throw up.” That’s the “in sickness and in health” sort of thing.

After the biopsy, I was scheduled to have a Hickman stint placed in my chest. It’s kind of like an extension cord with lots of plug-ins for chemo meds, blood draws, syringes, etc. Much better than getting stuck in the arm every time they need something, and a lot more comfortable than the IV. The 3-4 p.m. surgery ended up being around 9 p.m. They used conscious sedation, which basically means I was awake enough to follow commands but don’t remember a thing. The anesthesiologist said I was a talker, but not to worry, I didn’t say anything embarrassing. The twinkle in his eye gave him away, though. I didn’t feel well after surgery, nausea was a bear. They finally gave me something that helped with that and I slept o.k.

Tuesday they started chemo. They are using two drugs, seven days of one and three of another, but they’re lapped, so it’s just seven days total. Then I get about a week off before the biopsy. My white blood counts have dropped. Yesterday, (Thursday) they were in the mid 20s, today it was 4.2. The first day of chemo they gave me the typical pre-chemo drugs, which kind of relax you and help ward of nausea. We discovered I can’t handle Benadryl; it totally trips me out. They didn’t give it to me on Wednesday, but the stop order didn’t get in my chart and I got it again on Thursday, so Thursday was a really rough day. Wednesday was a hard day, too, with lots of nausea, but they are narrowing down the drugs that help me with it, and it’s manageable now. Apparently chemo patients develop and acute sense of smell, so that has made it a little harder to appreciate things like hospital food. I didn’t eat on Thursday, but I got some mashed potatoes and chicken soup down today (Friday) along with lots of juice.

I began running a fever Thursday evening, so they drew blood from my Hickman and from my arm to see where the infection is. They won’t know for a few days because the have to grow the cultures. They also took a chest x-ray last night, but that looked good. I feel really bad when I have a fever, and that is when I rest the most on my Savior, and find comfort knowing others are praying for me. I sang hymns this morning for a while and quoted Scripture through the bad stuff.

I had some guests today. They’re limited now, and will become more so. Elisabeth, Janessa and Josh came, and Janessa blessed me by singing “Blessed Assurance” and “And Can it Be.” I should have hit the record button on my laptop, but I wasn’t with it enough. Gary came by this evening with his grandma and aunt. I was too out of it yesterday to enjoy his visit, so tonight was extra special. It seems he has grown overnight. All I want is to be back home with my little one, but it is good to know he is being taken care of, and I remember that there is grace for him as well through this trial. I have pictures of him all over my room, plus video clips on the laptop. He brings so much joy to his mother’s heart. We have been told that I will most likely be unable to have children, so I am even more grateful for the Lord’s gift of a child. So much of my life has been changed in so few days, at times it is overwhelming and I just cry mercy. I know my God is there, and I know He is strong – I am weak.

I’m thankful for the weekend. My mom and sister headed home to celebrate my youngest brother’s birthday, and to get some rest. Brandon will be staying with me for the weekend, and I will relish every minute with him. We still don’t know the exact type of leukemia I have, or why I have it. Sometimes lightning strikes. Sometimes mountains move. God is sovereign.

My nurses and doctors have been excellent, and I haven’t lost my sense of humor. I actually get a kick out of smarting off to the doctors every now and then just to get a reaction. I am currently receiving two more units of blood and the doctor came in to have me sign a consent form, assuring me that all the side effects of receiving blood are very rare, “Yes, like my leukemia, right?”

The side effects of having to wean a baby cold turkey are slowly subsiding. It may take the emotions longer to heal, but Gary has taken to a bottle quite well. He’s a little piggy. He seems chubbier already.

The next few days will consist mainly of my chemo treatments. Pray for strength, for the fever to stay away, and for the nausea and upset stomach to be controlled.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Journey Begins

I wholly believe my journey through leukemia began from the foundations of the earth. The Lord has had this fully written in His plan for my life. Though we will never know the exact moment a single cell of my DNA acquired a problem, the doctors feel my body has been under attack for months. As I look back, I see the many ways God has been preparing us for this -- He has truly gone before, and for that I must be grateful. Our darling baby boy, Gary Lee, was born November 29, 2005. All babies are a miracle, but I have since been told that our baby is a special miracle. He shouldn't be here, and had he made it into this world, I shouldn't have survived birth. I am so thankful for him! His smile and bright blue eyes have become one of the greatest blessings in my life. Following his birth, I had the typical run-down feeling for several weeks. My white blood count had been up at the time, and I also had a low iron count, but we blamed the white blood count on the trauma from birth (for those who don't know, we had a home birth and my labor progressed very slowly.) My oncologist said that it was quite appropriate at the time for us to think that was all the white blood count indicated. My iron count was back up in normal ranges by February, as I followed the steps my midwife had laid out for me when I was anemic during pregnancy. I am exceedingly grateful for the prenatal care I received from my midwife. I was able to develop so many healthy eating habits and learn more about my body. After about 6 weeks following his birth, I began to feel like I had some strength again. My husband had been feeling led for several months to put our house in Phoenix on the market to take advantage of the investment opportunities the booming housing market was providing. We took steps to sell the house and with the help of an excellent realtor, had an offer the day our home listed. We prayed about our next step, and both felt the Lord leading us back home (for me) to Missouri, as we would be able to eventually reinvest in real estate in Missouri rather than renting for an unknown length of time in Arizona. (The downside of the booming market there.) We loaded up our rental truck with the help of family and friends, and began the long drive late February 27th. My Grandpa graciously opened up his home to us to provide us a place to stay rent-free while we searched for a job & housing in Columbia, the city we had felt called to ever since we began considering relocation to Missouri. Since that time, the Lord provided the perfect job for my husband as an outside sales rep for TigerTech within the UM system. We located a house we both love outside of Columbia a few miles and decided on a one-year lease while we search for the place we want to spend the next several years, even possibly build.

With all changes comes the struggle of discouragement, I suppose. There have been many times over the last few months that we have greatly missed our friends, family and church in Arizona. Plus the more insignificant little things, such as mountain views, beautiful spring evenings, and the great malls! My discouragement grew when I discovered the cute little house we had leased for a year had a serious insect infestation, and consequently, a spider bit me sometime around my birthday (June 1st). I first noticed a red spot on my leg on the 4th, and it became apparent that it was most likely a brown recluse bite so I visited the local Urgent Care on the 6th. They sent me home with an antibiotic that I finished within the appointed 10 days, and the bite slowly, yet painfully, began the healing process. As days went by I became more and more discouraged, feeling unable to cope, fearful of things I used to enjoy, such as getting together with friends or even going out to church. Even a trip to Wal-Mart became a massive undertaking that almost seemed too much to bear, and if possible, I would just ask Brandon to take care of errands on his way home from work. I began feeling sick to my stomach all of the time, and my appetite was off. Ever since our move I had struggled with things like hair loss, canker sores in my mouth that took weeks to heal, viruses that we shared (consequences of moving to a new area) that my husband would be over in a day and I'd be fighting for a week. I always had something to blame it on, though, mostly hormones, since that's what everything is blamed on after you have baby and while you're still nursing. A few weeks ago I noticed Gary began waking up through the night to eat every 3-4 hours, something he had never done, and I felt that my milk supply was dropping and wondered if I may need to wean him or at least supplement with formula. I tried to eat and drink as much as possible, but I just felt like I couldn't keep up. I lost weight. My 5'9" lightweight frame has never been much above 112 pounds, but I soon found that I was down to 105, a significant weight loss for me. My size 2 clothing began to hang off of me, and I just thought I needed to start eating more and fought again with my lack of appetite. After I finished the antibiotic for my spider bite, I began to notice a lot of bruising, mostly on my legs. At first I thought I was just being clumsy. I love playing with Gary and often crawl around on the floor with him, and through the moving in, cleaning and unpacking process, figured I'd just banged myself up a little more than normal. I joked with Brandon that I must be the clumsiest person alive or have cancer or something. During the last week of June we were blessed with overnight guests for an evening, and I was unusually tired during their visit. A few days before I had finally opened up to my mom about how I had been feeling, and that I felt I may have post-partum depression, though I had the "inability to cope" feeling far more than depression. I told her I was planning to visit the doctor sometime soon, but due to Brandon's job and lack of sick leave currently, decided to put it off until July 17th, his next flex day (he works a lot of weekends currently). Mom offered to come up in the meantime and help me with Gary so I could go earlier, and I said I might. I don't like going to the doctor, and was beginning to just feel like some kind of hypochondriac and worried that they would all just think I was crazy and give me a pill to fix my problems. My husband had been asking me to schedule an appointment for sometime at this point. The bruising continued to worsen. I decided our new countertop stools were the most uncomfortable things in the world, not realizing that the pressure of sitting on them had left giant bruises on the back of my legs. I'm not sure when I first noticed the petechiae. It sort of looks like a rash, or tiny little broken capillaries. I noted on my blog that I had noticed them when I was first bitten, around the bite location, which I thought was totally normal. By June 30th, I had them on my upper arms, chest, legs, tops of my feet, pretty much a little everywhere. I called a friend of mine that day and opened up to her about how I'd been feeling, and she said I needed to go see a doctor about a possible thyroid problem. That seemed a more legitimate reason to see one than just for "I don't feel good and I'm scared to leave the house" so I decided I'd have my mom come up the next week and help me with a doctor visit. In the meantime, my husband was on a two-day business trip, and I called him complaining of more bruises and the petechiae rash, which was quickly worsening. I'd looked it up on WebMD and discovered a link between the petechiae and brown recluse bites, and it said in rare occasions it could cause hemolytic anemia. Anemia! There, that's it, I thought. I'd been anemic during pregnancy, and I remembered the wiped out feeling and even a tendency to bruise easily. Brandon told me to get into the ER that night, but I didn't want to call my mom and ruin her already busy weekend, so I said I'd just go to the doctor as early in the week as possibly. He reluctantly said o.k. When he got home from Kansas City the following day (July 1st), he took one look at me and said he was taking me in. I argued with him, and asked if he would just call the nurse line through the local doctor's office. My experience at Urgent Care for the initial bite was lacking in my opinion, and I didn't want to spend another copay being told it's just the bite and here, take this for ten more days. I'd rather just see a regular doctor the following week, someone I could also talk to about my thyroid.

The nurse line ended up transferring me to the head nurse in some department at the hospital. She said my symptoms didn't sound like an ER visit, but that I needed to go to Urgent Care that night, because something wasn't right, and it could be a delayed reaction to the medicine I took after the bite. So we headed there immediately, and I saw a doctor around 6:30. He seemed mildly concerned, said he would draw blood to check my levels and also my thyroid, since I went ahead and mentioned it. Since it was so close to closing time he said they probably wouldn't call me with the results until Sunday morning, possibly Monday, but that he would follow-up with me Monday morning himself. The visit went much better -- he said the spider bite actually looked like it was healing quite nicely, and even sent me home with a prescription for Flonase to help with my allergies. We drove home, pulled out some leftovers to eat, just sat down to relax and the phone rang. Not only was it Urgent Care, it was the doctor himself, telling me the preliminary blood work came back and it did not look good at all. He said it could just be a reaction to the meds like the nurse had said earlier, but that I needed to go to ER immediately, was not to wait in the waiting room for any length of time. When I asked if I should take my toothbrush and plan to stay overnight he said, "'ll be there for a while." Little did I know.

After a thorough exam in ER, the doctor said I would need to have a blood transfusion and receive extra platelets. (For those who may be interested, initially my white blood cell count was pushing 40, my iron (hemoglobin) was 8.2, lower than it ever was during pregnancy/post labor, and platelet count was 24.) They weren't sure at the time what the problem was, but I could tell people were acting concerned. They admitted me and took me to a room on the 4th floor, which I believe is where all the general sickies are. My ER doctor spent some time with me and said he had called in a hematologist to look at my results. There hadn't been one in, but he made sure of it because he wanted to check all the bases. Sometime around 2 in the morning I saw the hematologist, and heard the word leukemia for the first time. He said it could possibly be a problem related to the bite/medication, but that he wanted me to be aware it could be something much worse, so I wouldn't be shocked if they came back with that diagnosis in the morning. A few hours later, the hematologist returned and said the ER doctor had placed me in his care, and they would be moving me to the 5th floor, which I later found out was the Ellis Fischel Oncology ward. Sunday morning four doctors, two medical students and two nurses filed into my room, and I knew. They were led by the head oncologist, Dr. Perry. He told me they had reviewed my blood smears and at the time they knew I had acute leukemia, but would not be sure of the type until they performed a bone marrow biopsy. Due to the holiday weekend, they would be unable to perform the biopsy until Monday afternoon, and I most likely would not know the preliminary results until Wednesday. I don't think there is a way to put in writing how such a diagnosis hits you, I was silent except for a few questions and tears while they were in the room, afterwards I broke down in my husband's arms and we both sobbed. Somewhere in the midst of all of the emotions I had an overwhelming sense of peace. Ever since the Urgent Care doctor had called, the song "Blessed be Your Name" had been running through my head. "Blessed be Your name, when the path's marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name." I told Brandon, "The Lord gives, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." In the midst of everything known and yet unknown, all I could know is that He had me. I wasn't anywhere I wasn't supposed to be, this was the path I had been called to, and He wouldn't give me more than I could bear.