You never think you'll hear the words "You have cancer." That's what I told my wife a couple of days after I heard those exact words to me come from the mouth of an Emergency Room doctor. You've probably heard someone telling you a story from their life where they used the word "surreal" - which dictionary.com says is "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic:" I think that's a great definition that describes the way I felt on Saturday, November 24, 2018, at the Emergency Room in Springfield, MO.
I had gone to the hospital on a Saturday because I had allowed a sore side and backache go too far. On Friday morning I actually felt something snap at the upper, left side of my back. I would have never said that it felt like I fractured a bone especially because I had only raised my left hand above my head, but that is actually why I was feeling the pain I felt. At least according to the Doctor after taking an x-ray of my chest and side. They then said, "We see some fluid in the lower left lung. We need to find out why it's there. We need a C.T. Scan."
Then came the blood draws, the scans and the waiting. It wasn't until about 10:00 PM when a Doctor we had never met before entered our room and sat down. She clearly had a look of remorse. A look that said, "Why do I have to be the one to tell this poor man he has cancer." But she got right to the point. She said that between the scans and the blood tests my body telling a clear tale of Multiple Myeloma. "Multiple what?" Multiple Myeloma. "It's a form of blood cancer that attacks your bones. That's why you easily fractured one of your ribs."
"Oh. I see", I said.
"It's incurable, but it's treatable,” she said.
What does that even mean? Incurable disease, but treatable.
It means I can go into remission and it's even possible to stay there for a very long time with what they call “maintenance” drugs.
So I have been on this journey now for just about three months and I’m still learning something new every week about this type of cancer. My wife, Alesha, has been by my side every step of the way and I don’t know where I would be without her love, support, and care. Our church family has been incredible as well. I currently serve full time as a Senior Pastor and not only have the members of our church been supportive but so has our leadership team. I’m amazed at their gracious spirit through all of this.
So what’s next for us?
I am currently in my fourth cycle of treatment to help get me into remission. Once in remission, I am scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant. The transplant consists of three stages - stem cells are first harvested from my blood, then I am “chemo bombed” to kill my bone marrow and cancer inside my blood, and then I receive my stem cells back. This formula has been working well for individuals with my type of cancer.
You might be asking yourself, “If Dow can get into remission without the transplant, then why the transplant?” That’s a good question and one I had as well. Here’s the layman’s answer: the current treatment plan I’m on does have the potential to get a patient into remission (no active cancer cells) but only for a short period of time. The statistics say something like 2 to 4 years, sometimes less, of remission and then back on treatment. And the more you have to return to treatment, well, the harder on your body. So the lifespan is shortened. With the Transplant treatment patients are seeing many more years of remission. So we’ve chosen to go this path.
So It’s almost time for a transplant.
We’ll be doing this at KU Medical Center right on the Kansas/Missouri border near Kansas City. We’ve already met with my Transplant Team and we are very pleased with them. We feel very blessed that the Lord has brought them to us. If everything goes according to the schedule we’re looking at several weeks of travel from Shell Knob, MO to KU (3.5-hour drive) in March for biopsies, blood tests, and education with a 30-day stay beginning about March 21st. March 21st is when we begin the stem cell harvest and subsequent chemo bomb and transplant. This is all done “Outpatient” and we’ll be staying at a local “Hope Lodge” that is provided by the American Cancer Society. I will need 24/7 care from Alesha for my first 30 days. She will be driving me from the lodge to the hospital every day for my appointments with my bone marrow transplant team, who will ensure I am receiving my stem cells properly and avoiding infection.
Speaking of infection…
Infection is the number one reason patients like me end up in the ICU after transplant. Once I am chemo bombed I will have no immune system. I will literally be worse prepared for the world than a newborn infant. It will take some time for my body to rebuild its immune system. So Alesha will have to work tirelessly to ensure I am not infected by any germs. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Well, it can be an overwhelming feeling knowing that you are responsible for your husbands care in this state. To say the least, Alesha will covet everyone’s prayers for her during this time as she cares for me.
If you would like to stay updated on how I am doing you can subscribe to the updates here through Caring Bridge. Alesha will be posting updates here and then sharing them on Facebook. We felt it would be easier for her to communicate with all of our loved ones through this platform. It will make it easier for her so she doesn’t have to continually repeat the stories. You’ll also be able to leave notes for her and me on the Caring Bridge website. We’d love to hear from you!
We appreciate everyone that has reached out to us during our journey so far. We really love all of you very much and are so grateful you are in our lives. Please know that we keep all of you in our prayers, and we feel your prayers for us.
Thank you and God Bless you!
Dow & Alesha
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