Acute Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Bone marrow transplant, Self improvement, Personal Growth, Daily Inspiration, ph all, philadelphia chromosome,Acute Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Bone marrow transplant, Self improvement, Personal Growth, Daily Inspiration, ph all, philadelphia chromosome
Today is officially day 28 of my induction therapy, and therefore my first leg of the journey will be ending tonight at 10pm when I take my final dose of steroids. Since today is my final day of induction therapy, I wanted to begin reflecting on the journey so far.
As I have gone through this journey many people seem to surprised (happily of course :) ) at how I have maintained such a positive and strong attitude throughout. There have been many ups and downs throughout this journey and I had a four major lessons that I had to learn to help maintain this attitude:
1.) Lean on your support network - this was a lesson I learnt in the first two days. When I was first diagnosed with Acute Leukemia the emotions were overwhelming, thankfully Amy was with me every step of the way to help. On the day of diagnosis, I could only muster the strength to make one phone call, and that was to my mom. From there, I had Amy and my mom begin to let everyone know. It was a quick lesson: in times of trouble you need your closest networks there to help you get through. As the journey progressed and the news spread my support network has grown exponentially. All of your prayers and support really have kept my strength up even in my darkest hours. I wanted to thank each and every one of you for that.
2.) Take each day only one at a time - This was a lesson I learnt from the staff at Princess Margaret. For those that know me, know I am extremely detailed oriented. I love to understand every facet of something, and my leukemia wasn't any different. After I was diagnosed I searched the internet for two days reading up on it. Since there were two types and I didn't know which one I had yet, I learnt about both. I wanted to know literally everything. I was warned at trillium that when I received my full diagnosis from PMH I would only retain about 5-10% of the information told to me. So I should bring note takers, and yet again my support network was thrust into action!
Unbeknownst to me, this meeting was the last time anything outside of the next 6 weeks would be discussed. Once I was admitted to PMH things changed drastically, anytime I wanted to look look past induction therapy to what was next , I was stopped in my tracks. The staff had one rule - GET THROUGH TODAY AND WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW, TOMORROW. This was probably the toughest thing I had to learn, as it required a major paradigm shift in my thinking, but it was worth it! It has become one of the best life lessons I have learnt in my entire 27 years of existence.
3.) Celebrate all the small victories - This seems like a simple enough lesson, but I think as we move through our lives we begin to forget this important lesson. I know I did. Before my diagnosis I really only ever focused on achieving major milestones. By applying this attitude it was easy to lose track of progress and fall off pace when trying to achieve these milestones. Even worse, I missed out on so many of the important little pleasures, as you achieve the small victories along the way.
This journey has given me a brand new appreciation to take things in much smaller chunks and to enjoy the small victories as they come. From the first day at PMH they put your blood work on a whiteboard. This becomes the source of your victories throughout the entire chemotherapy process. When you are going through the chemotherapy treatments your daily victories comes from watching your blood counts drop.
Then there is a lull when your counts are bottomed out. This is when the taking each day at a time rule is required the most. During this time you have to find other victories to enjoy, I used food. Amy was an angel and brought me anything I was craving as long as it followed the strict diet.
Finally the recovery begins, and you gain a renewed sense of spirit each morning as you see your counts rebounding. These small victories of seeing the blood counts move became such an important part of my day that even after I had my second Hickman removed and my counts were fine, I still had them take blood the old fashioned way with needles, just so I could keep seeing my counts move. And this is from the guy who was deathly afraid of needles 2 months ago!
4.) Have faith that valleys are temporary - Going through this journey I have been extremely fortunate and didn't experience many major valleys. I can only think of two major valleys I went through. Of course going through the days after my main chemo treatments I was exhausted and developed the mouth sores, but the first three lessons got me through that pretty unscathed.
My first major valley occurred the day of my diagnosis. Those first couple days were a tough time for me but I leaned heavily on those closest to me to get through it. In addition, I did quite a bit of reading and found inspiration in learning about others journey and beginning to delve into self reflection.
The second and probably toughest valley came the morning of day 20. On the Wednesday (day 19) the doctor informed me that my body had responded so well to rebuilding itself he was going to discharge me on the Friday or Saturday (an entire week ahead of schedule! ) Needless to say I was quite excited to leave the hospital, as I had been admitted for over 5 weeks at that point. On the morning of day 20 everything changed. As I was being taught to change the dressing of my Hickman line, the nurse noticed a discharge in my dressing. She took a swab and went to get the doctor. He pushed on the entrance site of the Hickman and puss came out. I was told I had an infection in my chest and wouldn't be leaving the hospital anymore. Within 30 minutes my line was pulled out of my chest (thankfully you don't feel a thing :) ). Within the hour I had an IV back in my arm and I was attached back to the IV machine.
I was devastated. I had been so looking forward to getting out of the hospital, going home and seeing Dora again, and now it felt like being back at the beginning of the journey at Trillium. It took me a couple hours to see the good in all of it, imagine I got home and the infection had not been found, I would have been back in emergency with probably a fever and been way worse off.
My support network really came through for me that morning in helping me see the good. From that point I began looking for the small victories to raise my spirits. The doctor told me, because my counts were so good I only needed to be monitored on M/W/F of the following week but that first day I had the nurses order the blood work to be taken the needle route! In the end this was a perfect end to my journey of inpatient treatment. It taught me a valuable lesson that I am sure is going to come up again while I am going through the rest of this journey from home - when you are in a valley lean on your support network for help and start looking for the small victories to get you out. Valleys are always temporary.
I think these lessons are something that can be employed in all our lives. Unfortunately, it has taken something serious and drastic to draw them out for me. But as with this journey, these are the victories we have to celebrate to continue living strong. I would love to hear all your thoughts on these lessons and any stories from your own lives where you have learnt these or similar lessons. You are all part of my support network and I would love to learn from your life lessons too :)