Cancer survivor tells his story of struggle and triumph

Published 11:23 am Saturday, April 3, 2010

I survived acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, a form of leukemia, and here is my story.

It was toward the end of May 2009, during the last week of my senior year of high school, that I started noticing bruises on my body. I had no idea where they had come from. That was the first sign that something was not right.

I started feeling tired all the time, and my heart rate was very elevated, even with little activity. On June 8, I went to Patient First in Chesapeake and was told to go to the emergency room immediately, that I could possibly start spontaneous bleeding. I was so terrified at this point.

I discovered that my hemoglobin was 5.5 and my platelets were about 24,000; normal hemoglobin is around 15 and platelets are at least 150,000. I was very sick.

I went to Norfolk General Hospital and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. The doctor on the floor came in on Tuesday, June 9, at 7:30 a.m. and told me I had AML. The next day, I was taken to surgery, and a port was placed into my chest. This is how I received my chemotherapy. With this type of leukemia, treatment needs to start as soon as possible.

The first of five rounds of chemo started June 11. The hospital staff was excellent. During this treatment, I was given multiple blood and platelet transfusions.

Since my blood platelets were so low, I ran into some complications with my head. I had bleeding inside my skull, and it needed to be fixed. Near the end of June, I had terrible headaches that would not go away. In early July, I had to have surgery on my head to fix the problem.

The doctors did not know exactly when the bleeding occurred, but they thought that draining it may help with the headaches. For about 10 days I had a hard time lifting my head, and I wanted the room dark. The surgeons had to drill two holes in my head to drain the blood off my brain.

Three days later, he removed the line from my head while I was awake, and that felt terrible. Through all of this, my family and I knew that God was in control. We had a lot of support and prayers from family, church and friends.

A few days after the head surgery, I was allowed to go home for a week. The doctor came in and said that I could go home. I said, “Great, hopefully by Wednesday.” She meant that day! I also found out that my leukemia was at 0 percent after only one round of treatment. God is good!

By this time most of my hair was gone. In late July, I began the second round of chemo. This round was not as bad. I still got sick and was tired but not nearly as bad as the first time. The second round of chemo lasted until early August. I went home mid-August. I had to wait about a week for my numbers to recover.

The waiting was very hard to do. I returned to the hospital at the end of August. During this round chemo, I got really sick and ran a really high fever of 106.7 degrees. I was really out of my right mind. I was talking about snow in August and September and really didn’t know where I was.

During these days, my family and friends were really praying, and within 24 hours my fever broke. I was able to leave the hospital the first full week of September. In mid- September I was admitted for the fourth round of chemo. I was in the hospital this time for about 43 days. I went home on Oct. 30.

I started my last treatment at the end of November. This round was not bad, but I was ready for the treatments to end. Even though my numbers were still low, I was allowed to go home for Christmas. Two days after Christmas, I went back to the hospital with a fever. My fever reached 105.6 degrees, and boy was I sick. I had that fever for 24 hours and then it broke.

My platelets were struggling again to recover, but I was allowed to finally go home on Jan. 1. I left my trouble and disease in 2009.

On Jan. 11, I entered the hospital again to have the port removed from my chest. After the surgery, I returned home for good, and my fight with cancer was over. Because of Jesus, I survived cancer!

This short description of what I went through does not tell of all my struggles, but it does highlight the most significant ones. I went through so much, and it really changed my life forever. I will never be able to forget to horrors of this life-altering ordeal.

I owe my healing to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There were so many people praying, and that is what helped me beat this horrible and terrifying cancer. I owe a lot to my family for sticking by me through all my treatments. Thank you, Dad, for sticking closer than a brother through this whole ordeal. I could not have made it without you.

This is just a short story about the hardest parts of my treatment, and I hope it helps people get a better understanding of what people with AML go through.

God loves everyone and so do I. Life is a precious gift.