Valentine’s Day at MD Anderson

I didn’t think that our first Valentine’s Day together would be spent at MD Anderson, but Katie and I are thankful, nevertheless. It doesn’t matter where you are or what day is on the calendar, love should be celebrated daily in your relationship. The demands and seasons of our lives make it tough to always deliberately follow through with that appreciation, but a thoughtful and caring approach to your partner goes a long way.

I’m lucky that, with Katie, I get to see this every day. She is thoughtful, caring and selfless (among so many other things). I’m also lucky to learn what those traits look like when applied to a relationship.

We’ve been together for four weeks straight now. For literally a month, we have been together all day, every day. We’ve had little privacy and we only brought one car to Houston, so we’re pretty interdependent on one another. It’s the perfect recipe to drive each other crazy. But that hasn’t been the case.

We’ve only gotten into one petty argument, and it was because the one clean, dry towel we had was wrapped around her head. She had just gotten out of the shower and I was next. I got a little frustrated that I’d have to dry off with a damp towel. I was wet forever. 😛

It takes a special person to endure all of these medical trials as a caregiver. She’s been thrown into a harsh wave of emotions and she continues to go with me to MD Anderson day after day with a positive attitude. So before I write about where we are in my journey, I first wanted to say thank you to Katherine. Among other things, I am also a reflection of you.


Since the clinical trial is on hold, my day was spent doing follow up tests and transplant consultations. A week off of the trial drug hasn’t shown any significant negative effects yet. All of my blood counts are still normal. My white blood cell count has dropped from 14K to 6K (which is still in the normal range.) It’s good knowing that a week without medication hasn’t prompted my leukemia to throwing keg parties.

Part of the transplant process includes meeting with a dental oncologist at MDA. Getting dental clearance sounds weird, right? It is, until you consider that a transplant means you won’t have any disease fighting cells in your body for some period of time. If hidden bacterial infections were to pop up in the mouth, it would make the BMT process a lot more complicated than it has to be, so they screen beforehand. With four wisdom teeth, my mouth is a dental gold mine. Luckily, they didn’t seem too concerned.

My favorite part of the day included a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. They could really work on the procedure names because neither sounds appealing. The procedure itself isn’t bad. In fact, It’s way easier than a bone marrow biopsy/aspiration. In fact, if you’ve had a baby, it’s much like an epidural (from what I can tell).

During the test, they put a needle in my spine to extract and measure the pressure of my spinal fluid. That allows them to measure the pressure inside of my genius brain (I try to use science terms). Because there was so much pressure and inflammation in my eyes, they had to make sure the vision problem wasn’t exacerbated by something else.

Yesterday I learned that leukemia can get into the spinal cavity and travel up to the brain. This isn’t very common with chronic leukemias so they weren’t too concerned that this was the case with me, but they wanted to check anyway. As a preemptive measure, they injected a prophylactic dose of chemo into my spinal cavity. I hope it doesn’t turn me into a gremlin.

All in all it was a good day. The spinal fluid pressure ended up being within normal limits! ::Celebration!:: I was cleared by the dentist for the transplant. It really puts into perspective what I used to consider a good day and what I now consider a good day. So many people have it so much worse. That’s one of those things I’m always cognitively aware of.

I was extremely tired from only a few hours sleep the night before but I tried to make the most of Valentine’s Day for Katie. After we left MDA, however, Katie and I went to eat dinner (thank you Mr. and Mrs. Narvarte), spent some time walking that off in a nearby store and took a lot of pictures. It wasn’t the most eventful Valentine’s Day ever, but it was one that we both appreciated.

Justin Ozuna

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