I looked down at my upper left arm this morning, as I got out of the shower, and I could still see the faint bruise that my old roommate Derrik tattooed me with back in Fall of 2007. We were just horsing around, wrestling or some damn thing…I think I sprayed Windex or something in his hair. Well, he didn’t like that too much, so he slugged me in the arm. Within a couple of days that bruise had grown to the size of a softball and was a very dark shade of a purplish blue. It remained there for months and can still be seen if you look close enough. So what does this have anything to do with my relapse about a year ago…well, that bruise was the first sign that got me thinking that this could all be happening again. When I looked at my arm this morning, it brought back all of the memories.
I graduated from UW-Whitewater on December 16th, 2007, and started packing a moving truck that weekend with my current roommates. While we were packing the truck, I was feeling extremely tired and weak. Shortly after that, my nose began gushing blood. I’ve never seen a nose bleed like that before. I have a history of getting dry skin every winter and getting minor nosebleeds because of it, so initially, I didn’t think too much of it. Well, after I had been pinching my nose shut for over an hour or so and still having it bleed like a faucet, I began to think that maybe something else was going on. I can remember my roommate, Ivan, asking me if he could take me to the university clinic to get checked out, and I also vividly remember telling him that I would be fine. Of course, my ignorant dumb self pushed another pretty obvious symptom under the rug and finished packing the truck and hauling my stuff to Milwaukee.
Also at about this time last year, every time that I would brush my teeth, my mouth would fill with blood, and I’d spit pure red into the sink…not like a watered down red, but a very rich color. I guess that had to mean that I was bleeding heavily every time that I brushed my teeth. I still remember mentioning this to my parents and siblings without them hardly worrying at all. After all, we were all pretty much under the assumption that I was in the clear! I was in denial…and maybe they were a bit too. It wasn’t until that I went home to Two Rivers for Christmas that one morning I brushed my teeth and actually showed my mother the sink afterwards that she really started to worry. I had a pretty high fever combined with nasty lung and sinus infections. Knowing my mom, I had already anticipated some heavy babying. She had my bed ready with a heating blanket and also had a humidifier running in my room. Oh yeah, and Vick’s vapor rub. Lucky to have a mom like her!
We had family over and all of that good stuff. I felt like shit, but I didn’t care. I was with the people that I love the most and I had an endless amount of delicious food to eat. What more could anyone ask for? Well, it was Christmas Eve. That morning, my mom finally convinced me to go to the hospital to get some blood and stuff taken just to put our minds at ease, so we could stop thinking about the possibility that my AML had returned. So we went. I told them to fax the results to Froedtert down here in Milwaukee, and I would go home and wait for someone to call me telling me that everything was fine. I don’t really remember why, but everyone was off doing their own thing that early afternoon on December 24th, 2007. It was just me and my father at home in Two Rivers, sitting on the couch, watching football or something. Well, as previously stated, I was feeling like garbage, so I decided to take a shower to hopefully make myself feel better.
*ring ring….ring ring….ring ring* Shit! I’m in the shower soaking wet and my phone is ringing! Quick! Dry off and answer that damn thing! It’s gotta be the hospital! …here is basically the conversation that ensues…
Eric: “Hi…this is Eric.”
Dr. Hari: “Hi Eric, this is Dr. Hari at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.” (I haven’t met or heard of Dr. Hari at this point so I don’t know what to expect here)
Eric: “Hi Dr. Hari…so what’s up?”
Dr. Hari: “Well there really is no easy way to say this…but it appears as if your leukemia has relapsed.”
*insert locomotive hitting me in the chest right about…NOW* …long pause on the phone. I am obviously completely speechless at this point and have no clue what to feel, think, or say. I’m also struggling to stay balanced on two feet and nearly collapse right there in the shower. I remember all of this like it was yesterday.
Dr. Hari: “Hello, Eric? Eric…are you there?”
Dr. Hari: “We need you to come to Milwaukee right now.”
Struggling to find the chance that this could be a false positive, I ask him a question or two.
Eric: “How sure are you?”
Dr. Hari: “You need to come down here right away, Eric. It doesn’t look good.”
*more pause…sitting on the side of the tub now, dripping wet and cold*
Eric: “…okay. I will be there as soon as I can. Bye.”
Dr. Hari: “Bye.”
I sat there for probably another 20-30 minutes thinking, crying, etc…it was one of the most overwhelming and emotional points of my life. I somehow managed to get myself together enough to go to my room and put on some clothes. I already know what’s about to happen to me in about 2-3 hours from now, so I put on one of my old white t-shirts, still with the slit cut on the upper chest area for access to my central line so that I would be ready for it when they put on there later that afternoon…yeah I kept those shirts for whatever reason, and a pair a sweatpants. I slowly walk into the living room where my dad is sitting watching tv…
(even writing this right now is really difficult for me, it’s really bringing up some shit now…ugh.)
…and he just knows. He sees the look in my face and the water in my eyes. I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. But he asks me anyways just to be sure.
Dad: “What did the doctor say?”
I fall on the couch and embrace my dad…I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t answer his question. I didn’t need to. After a short period of time, we manage to collect ourselves. I go to my room and begin packing up my things. My dad proceeds to call my mother and siblings informing them what’s going down. We warm up the truck and head to Milwaukee.
So…where does this leave me for the rest of my entry for this week? I was going to try to somehow segway the end of this entry into some sort of an introduction into my next journal entry so that the next one isn’t so surprising and shocking. So here it goes…my next journal entry, which will be written on December 24th, 2008 will be my final one. I’ve already began writing some of it. I will also be including the Question & Answer section. About that, I was kind of upset at the amount of responses that I got with the Q&A. I suspect that most of you figured everyone else would submit a question, so you maybe felt like you didn’t need to? Or perhaps you were too shy or something I don’t know. Whatever the case is, I’ll make do with the questions that I did receive and try to put together a blog that you won’t forget. I suspect that I will be summarizing my entire journey over the past year while going into as much detail as possible about certain things. It wasn’t easy for me to come to this decision, but I think that this is probably the right time to do this. I’m not sure what I will do after my final one. I’ll think about it a lot more over the next week or two.
Take care…God bless…and I will talk to you all once again on 12/24/08,