Just over four-and-a-half years ago, I received a diagnosis of a leukemia called CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia).
Some people can live for two decades or more without any problems, thus the description — chronic. But my case was different because I had a more aggressive form.
A year after what the doctors call “W & W” (Watch and Wait), I entered a clinical trial at M. D. Anderson in Houston, with complete collaboration from my physician at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute. The care and concern from both have been exemplary!
The clinical trial drug worked so well (with the exception of a few bumps in the road) I basically lived in denial until the beginning of last month. It was during this time that I was removed from the trial drug because it had lost its efficacy.
Three days after stopping the medication, the leukemia struck with a vengeance.
Fortunately, my oncologist at Winship set up a new treatment protocol with a drug just recently approved by the FDA within 24 hours.
It is amazing how quickly a serious disease can change your life.
Because the disease diminishes so much of your immune system, a lot of what I had taken for granted — like hugging my children, grandchildren, family, friends, and congregants — transformed into fist bump greetings. Going to worship services, a restaurant, or a movie became possible only when my “counts” were good enough to allow such an outing.
The latest treatment has been effective so far, but I’ve developed some rather severe and painful mouth ulcers, probably as a side effect, that have recently begun to disappear.
During most of July, I could eat only very soft foods that had been pureed. My wife Barbara, who is truly an angel, turned into a puree gourmet chef.
Recently, the most ordinary act for most of us became an extraordinary deed for me — I was able to eat potato chips!
May we ever remember that living an ordinary existence is actually quite extraordinary.