Thursday, December 17, 2009

"I believe in the faith that can save me."

Again, Bruce's words come to mind.

Today I went for a bone marrow biopsy - my 4th - and a check up with Dr. Forte. I'm so glad that my friend Cathie came with me to share what turned out to be a pretty amazing day. Last week when I asked if I was in remission, Dr. Forte dodged the question, saying that the word "remission" is only as accurate at the tests that are available at the time. I resigned myself to having to wait till the end of the consolidation phase (4-6 months from now) before we would know if we could use the R word.

There are two stages to "remission" in the context of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The goal of induction therapy - the 6 1/2 weeks of hell that I went through in the blue room - is to achieve a "complete morphological remission" by reducing the amount of leukemic cells to an undetectable level under a microscope; the goal of consolidation therapy is to eliminate any remaining undetectable leukemic cells at the molecular level, so that the flipped out gene on chromosome #16 is no longer found. That's called a "complete molecular remission." It's kind of like qualifying for the Olympics, which is a huge victory in and of itself, and then winning the Gold. Today, I learned that I qualified for the Olympics! The induction treatment that made me so sick for so long worked. I'm in a "complete morphological remission" and I'm not stopping till I win the Gold!

When Dr. Forte told us the good news, there were hugs, tears, sighs of relief, disbelief. I forgot about the pain in my hip from the biopsy. Two of the other oncologists in Dr. Forte's practice who treated me during induction came in to congratulate me. I was again humbled by the realization that so many people are fighting this with me, for me -- my doctors, friends, family, co-workers, people at my church, strangers who read this blog. I'm not used to that. It's a very special feeling.

These last two weeks of freedom have been a gift. Sadie and I have been playing non-stop. I'm getting better. I'm feeling stronger. My recovery symptoms are improving. My days are getting busier and busier as I focus on my health and prepare for what's yet to come. I will begin consolidation treatment on January 4th, 2010. I'll be in the hospital for at least 5 days, I'll come home, and about a week or so later, my immune system will crash again. And so it will go each month. But I have the holidays to rest and heal and remind myself not to take anything for granted. Your belief "in the faith that can save me" is my greatest gift this holiday season.

I wish you and your families love, joy and peace as we celebrate our blessings and honor our connections to one another.

Happy Holidays!


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