It’s DAY +264 post bone marrow transplant and it’s a very special milestone. It’s Kevin’s 2 year cancerversary!
Two years ago today, life changed drastically when Kevin was diagnosed with a complex blood and bone marrow cancer, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. I can still remember the entire ordeal like it was yesterday.
Time of diagnosis: 2:05am, November 17, 2013. At that very moment, cancer forced us change almost every single aspect of our existence. We had to change our priorities, plans, goals and direction in life. For the last two years, our family has had to make many sacrifices and overcome a lot of adversity. We have struggled emotionally, mentally and financially. We have had to learn to live each day, for the day. We have had to accept that waiting and worrying and living on the edge would be our new way of life, possibly forever. We have even had to swallow our pride and reach out to people for support.
I won’t argue that cancer is an awful disease. It really sucks – physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. However, how you deal with the fact that cancer is a part of your life IS a matter of perspective. You basically have two choices. You can let cancer get the best of you and eventually destroy you OR you can make the best of cancer and let it strengthen you.
I think Stuart Scott said it best: “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Even if you eventually succumb to the disease, what matters is how you lived, while you lived.
Despite the harsh realities of cancer, there is good and bad in everything. It’s easy to focus on the bad and the overwhelming hardship. What’s not easy is making the best of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Over the last two years, we have helped support many other blood cancer and bone marrow transplant patients and caregivers by sharing our story. We have also educated people about blood cancer, bone marrow transplant and GvHD and raised much-needed awareness about the importance of blood and stem cell donation.
The best advice that I can give to anyone battling cancer, or any life threatening illness for that matter, is to always hang onto hope. No matter what happens, you can’t live your life in fear. Until you take your last breath, there is ALWAYS hope. You must always try to focus on the positive, recognize your blessing and find the humor when possible. Even when it’s hard. That’s why it’s also important to have a good support system. You need to surround yourself with people who are genuine, bring out the best in you, encourage you and can help you manage your symptoms, side effects and medical care. If you are negative and miserable, you just make it really difficult for other people to support you. I realize that sometimes it’s really hard to be happy and positive when you have cancer or a life-threatening illness. But it is absolutely possible to do and I have proof.
Kevin has suffered and struggled to survive every day of his life for the last two years. He never responded to treatment, so basically he never had any relief from leukemia symptoms and chemo side effects. He has been to the brink of death and back not once, but twice. Once when he was diagnosed, and again when his bone marrow was completely wiped out. Now he suffers and struggles daily from chronic post bone marrow transplant complications. Physically and mentally. Despite all of these things, he chooses hang on to hope and not let it any of it get the best of him. He’s awesome, kind, he fights for his life and most importantly, he still laughs… every single day.
I often see people on social media posting stuff about how people shouldn’t look back. YOU MUST LOOK BACK. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t look back, you can’t see how far you’ve come. When you have cancer, it’s important to focus on how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. See, perspective. 😉
So we are still waiting to exhale over here, but realize that might not happen any time soon. Kevin continues to battle Graft vs. Host Disease of the skin, the liver and the GI system. So his donor cells are still attacking these organs and the GvHD is now considered to be chronic. Because he’s still immunocompromised, he can’t really get out of the house much…especially at this time of the year. He is still taking 13 different prescriptions and he is also diabetic again. Every day we need to “watch and wait”, but what matters most is Kevin is alive! He’s been through so much, but he’s doing awesome and we are all very proud of him! He’s also super proud of himself! 😉
We are also very blessed to have the most amazing Grandman who has brought so much joy to our family’s lives!! Here’s a sneak peek of our joy: