In the spring of 2014, at the age of 43, I began to notice a total lack of energy, an ongoing cold/flu and larger than normal lymph nodes. With the encouragement of my wife Annabel, I went to see my doctor. On June 9th, after a variety of blood tests, the specialist I had been sent to for further tests very bluntly told me that I had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Just having to hear the word leukemia again was very hard, as a great friend of mine passed away from it while I was holding his hand. This was not a word that I wanted to be associated with again.
I have 2 children – Maya & Zach. My biggest fear was that I might not see them growing up. There was also the fear of the upcoming future, having known and watched someone close to me already fight this battle. Some hope was found in my diagnosis - I have a slow moving form of leukemia, one that normally older men in their 70’s and 80’s get. I had a one in 600,000 chance of getting it, and I got it. I was put on a watch and wait program. Telling friends and family wasn’t easy. I tried to contact as many close friends and family as I could to tell them personally.
After much contemplation I wrote a lengthy Facebook post. Lots of tears, and an overwhelming show of love and support, both in person and online. Light The Night 2014 was the first LLSC event that my family attended after I was diagnosed. We had felt a little alone in our journey at that point, so to see the amount of people who showed up to support people like myself was a huge boost of inspiration. After just over a year of “watch & wait” with no medication at all, the doctors decided it was time to start chemo with six 3-day cycles.
The 2015 Light The Night celebration was one week before my first chemo started. The amount of people who came out to support me was overwhelming, and a huge boost of positive energy leading up to my chemotherapy treatments, knowing that I wasn’t fighting alone. Family, friends from all areas of my life, co-workers and a surprise appearance from my brother and father was very inspiring. My wife and I were very glad to have been introduced to the power of this event the year before when 5 of us attended (with my kids and our friend Janice). In 2015, I had about 80 people show up on my team, and we raised well over $8,000 and in 2016, this team raised over $13,000! It was extremely scary when chemo first started - not knowing how my body would react, all the unknowns, the side effects, the pain levels. Crazy.
It wasn’t easy, but near the end of the cycle, the worries decreased quite a bit, as I still have my hair, am roughly the same weight and the swollen lymph nodes are gone (the graph showing them looked like a stock market crash). There was four days of hospitalization to remove a kidney stone just before Christmas which was extremely painful and unexpected. I met some amazing people while getting treatments. There’s some tough warriors out there. I was lucky enough to be able to “ring the bell” after my 18th dose of chemo. I was proud to be a member of the bell ringers, but it was hard knowing how many people never got the chance to ring it.