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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. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where you are, or what day on the calendar it is, love should be celebrated daily in your relationship. The demands and seasons of our lives make it tough to always follow through with that appreciation, but a thoughtful and caring nature goes a long way. I’m lucky that I get to see this every day with Katie, who is thoughtful, caring, selfless, etc. (among so many other things). I try to learn what this looks like in a relationship so that I can reciprocate and give her what she deserves, but I’m working with a much larger deficit, the male brain.

We’ve been together for four weeks straight now. For literally a month, we have been together all day, every day. We haven’t been in the comfort of our homes for very long, 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 up the wall. But it really hasn’t been that way. We’ve only gotten into one stupid argument, and it was because she had just gotten out of the shower and the one dry, clean towel we had was wrapped around her head to dry her hair (I was going to shower next). I got a little frustrated, but we talked about it and an hour later things were back to normal. It takes a special person to endure all of these medical trials as a caregiver, to be thrown about wildly by the harsh waves in the sea of emotions, and to continue to go 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.

Tuesday

If I were on The Biggest Loser, it would be my time to weigh in. Since the clinical trial is on hold, I spent the day following up with tests and transplant consultations. A week off of the trial drug hasn’t shown any significant effects yet. All of my blood counts are still normal. In fact, my white blood cell count has dropped from 14K to 6K, which is still in the normal range. All of that is boring and doesn’t really matter to the average reader, but it’s good news knowing that a week without medication hasn’t allowed my leukemia to start breakdancing and throwing keg parties.

Secondly, I had an appointment with dental oncology at MDA to get clearance for a transplant. Getting dental clearance sounds weird, right? It is until you consider that I won’t have any disease fighting cells in my body on transplant day. If hidden bacterial infections were to pop up, it would make the process a lot more complicated than it has to be. So they screen beforehand. With four wisdom teeth, my mouth is a gold mine for any dentist looking to make a little money. Luckily, they didn’t seem too concerned.

Finally, my favorite part of the day occurred when I received a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. They could really work on the procedure name because neither one sounds appealing. The procedure itself isn’t bad. In fact, It is way easier to endure than a bone marrow biopsy/aspiration. In fact, if you’ve had a baby, it’s much like an epidural. During the test, they put a needle in my spine to extract and measure the pressure of my spinal fluid, which 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 being exacerbated by something else.

One of the things that I learned yesterday was that Leukemia can get into the spinal cavity and travel up to the brain. This isn’t very common with Chronic forms of Leukemia so they weren’t too concerned that this was the case with me, but they wanted to check anyway. As a preemptive measure, they went ahead and injected a prophylactic dose of chemo into my spinal cavity. I hope this 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:: And 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 that you’re always cognitively aware of, but never really appreciate until you go through it. I remember when I was young and would have to tell my mom that I was finished with dinner. Sometimes I’d leave the vegetables or something that I didn’t like and she’d say, “Ok, but you’re throwing away good food when there are people who are starving.” I don’t know how I was really supposed to understand that context, because I had never, truly seen anyone starve. Maybe if I had, I would have been more cognizant of my own bad habits. I had to grow my appreciation. Now that I’ve lived and seen the hope of good news, it would be hard to imagine how I’ll ever lose that perspective. That’s why I always suggest to someone who is going through something rough to volunteer or do something good for somebody else who is struggling even more. It will change both of your lives.

I was extremely tired all day from only being able to sleep for a few hours the night before, which eventually resulted in a very early bedtime (8:30pm), but I tried to make the most of Valentine’s Day for Katie. We took a lot of pictures, but one or two of them turned out. My eyes didn’t care much for the corporate holiday (eyes = keeping it real). After we left MDA, however, Katie and I went to eat dinner (thank you Mr. and Mrs. Narvarte), and spent some time walking that off in a nearby store. It wasn’t the most eventful Valentine’s Day ever, but it was one that we could both certainly appreciate.

 

  • Becky Rios

    You are very blessed to have found such a wonderful young lady,but you are special too.we are still praying for you guys.

  • Carla Moran

    I'm so happy you found her Justin!
    She sounds wonderful!
    PS You are in my prayers.