Up until now I haven’t written much, but I wanted to take this opportunity to share of Amy’s Journey through my eyes. (This is somewhat rough and scattered, but hopefully still readable and understandable.) My wife is a lot tougher than I ever imagined. Each and every day since she was diagnosed, and even before the diagnosis, at home, she has dealt with the side effects of her disease before we even knew about it. This last year has not been easy for her, for us.
As Amy has written before, she had a physically demanding birth experience with Gary that showed me how strong she was. With the help and care of a great midwife Amy made it through and we were blessed with the sweetest and most beautiful little boy. A little boy that is growing up very quickly. We are nearing his 1st birthday and he has grown so much from that little guy who relied on us for everything. He has become so much more independent, walking everywhere, hiding and stockpiling food for his later consumption (animal crackers in the trunk of a push-along/ride-along car he has), to pointing at things and asking “Buh-Dis?” (What’s This?). He also loves to read and can often be found sitting next to our bookshelf with a pile of his books next to him going through each of them page by page. We are looking forward to his birthday and making a big deal out of it for him. We’re going to celebrate it a couple of weeks early since Amy will be in the hospital at Barnes for his real birthday.
We are actually at Barnes as I type this. Not sure how long we will be here. We came up Friday for a regularly scheduled appointment and she had been running a fever since Thursday night, so the doctor admitted her to be on the safe side. We were not prepared at all. We didn’t have enough food or diapers for Gary for an overnight trip, and neither one of us had extra clothes or even toothbrushes along… I did bring the laptop though to test out their wireless service, so that worked out nicely. In some ways, it has been nice to get a trial run of sorts here at Barnes so we know what to expect when she is admitted on the 7th for her transplant.
Overall, things are progressing as has been par for the course for Amy. The results of her last biopsy came back and she is still leukemic – 38% leukemic, which means she is worse off now than when they started this last round of triple chemo back in September. This means that all that horrible five-week stay did for her disease was maybe slow down its progress a tad. This also is more evidence that she has a very aggressive form of leukemia. She’s had some very powerful chemo drugs (four different chemo drugs, one given twice in two different dosages) that would normally do the trick, but have barely done anything other than slow her disease down, and with the help of transfusion, kept her alive to this point.
The statistics are overwhelmingly against Amy at this point and the transplant is a necessity. Though in some ways its kind of like she’ll die without a transplant, so we might as well try one because if she was in remission the odds are bad enough to make you really consider whether a transplant is worth it -- and having AML and not being in remission a transplant isn’t nearly as effective as if she were in remission.
Like all of you, I’ve been constantly amazed by Amy’s strength and faith as she has battled through each of these challenges her disease brings forward, and the side effects of all of these terrible chemo drugs and antibiotics. I know I wouldn’t have made it through some of the hardships she has and my heart aches knowing that she still has more to go through.
Unlike all of you, I get to see Amy everyday and see all of the little things, and the emotions that never make it to the blog. Not that Amy hasn’t been honest in her blog, she has, but she doesn’t usually type anything up on her bad days and when she does type its when she’s feeling better and looking back on those days now that she has survived the rough patch, and not through the eyes of one going through the rough patch. Though, we get to see some of that through her overall war with her leukemia, its the small battles that only I get to see her fight, and then she shares the results with everyone.
This battle has been difficult in so many ways for all of us. There is the physical side for Amy – she’s lost her hair and so much weight; she’s constantly battling fatigue; the nausea, headaches and weird side effects from the drugs and disease (Red Man’s, Hives, Sweets, etc); the pain from the biopsies and surgeries. We both have the emotional side of the very high chance that she will die from this disease, the chance of which increased after each round of chemo that didn’t knock her into remission. The transplant is her last chance – without it she will surely die, with it she may very well still die (from either her disease or the side effects of the transplant), best case, she only has to deal with the physical side effects such as dry eyes, permanent diarrhea, or even face a liver transplant.
We’ve both had to deal with the emotions of knowing that if she makes it through this that Gary will be our only child (yes, we both know that God can perform miracles and allows us to still have children, but we can’t count on miracles, we can pray for them, but we can’t expect them), and she will likely be reliant on drugs to get through each day.
Amy is not afraid of dying – there is hope in death. She’s afraid of leaving Gary & I alone, she’s afraid of living with a low quality of life from the transplant side effects, she’s afraid that all of this will be for naught and that we would have been better served enjoying our remaining time here on earth with each other.
In the last week, her platelets have dropped back down to 12,000, her hemoglobin has dropped down to the 7’s, the only good news is that her white count is above 7,000 (but how much of that is inflated from the neupogen shots I’ve been giving her every day?). While she was here at Barnes she received a blood transfusion that brought her hemoglobin back up above 9.5, but they have yet to give her platelets (inpatient they have to be at 10,000 or below, if they were releasing her they would). To make things worse, she’s been dealing with excruciating pain for the last two days as a vomiting spell Saturday morning threw a rib out and the pain medication they’ve been giving her for it just hasn’t been cutting it, while we wait for her regular doctor to come back on the clock Monday and see what he wants to do to alleviate her pain.
I am not afraid of what’s come to come. I’m more than willing and ready to serve Amy in whatever way she needs served if this leaves her with a low quality of life and on drugs and side effects that need constant attention. I’m ready to deal with the possibility that she may leave Gary & I – as a friend reminded me this week when I called him crying – there’s hope in death, I’ll see Amy again – and will do my best to raise Gary as Amy and I have already discussed and planned. I’m also ready to welcome her back home after winning this war with open arms and no lack of joy or excitement, and the honest desire to make every day we spend together incredibly specially memorable.
I constantly pray for the latter. I love my wife. I need my wife. I miss my wife. I will always be there for her no matter what this brings. But, oh, how I pray that God will bring her home to me.
After the transplant we hope to take her to Arizona to undergo some treatments to help rebuild her immune system, as on its own she would be severely immunosuppresed for the rest of her life (many of the same risks and symptoms as an AIDS patient). These treatments have a very good chance of allowing her to have a normal life, and we hope to maybe turn the trip into a relaxing vacation at the same time while we visit family and friends (and swim in the views of the beautiful mountains and blue skies).