Melanie Balzer

First post: 10/7/2016 Latest post: 7/24/2017
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Well, what a wacky world this is!  One minute, your photo is in the September  26th Chicago Tribune showing you the night before at the last regular season home game of the 2016 Chicago Cubs.  The next thing you know, you're sitting in a 14th story penthouse with a world class view of the Chicago skyline.  Just how on earth did I fall into this wonderful situation?  Well, let me tell you...


On Saturday, September 24th, beginning in the late afternoon after a dog transport of the two cutest 10-week old English Setter puppies you ever did see---Harry Potter & Hermione---I began experiencing strong stomach cramps & diarrhea.  The latter finally ended later on Sunday morning, but the former continued.  I wasn't about to miss the Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals game, so carried on.


The uncomfortable stomach pains (I thought it was gas) persisted & I decided to go ahead & make a doctor appointment to get it checked out.  I had an appointment scheduled at Immediate Care for late Wednesday, but was unable to make that for unrelated reasons.  I WAS able to make an appointment & keep it on Thursday, September 29th.  


After blood results showed I had "MULTIPLE issues", the doctor was aggressive in ordering 4 CT scans.  One showed what turned out to be a "chronic" blood clot in my lung, meaning it had been there for quite a while & appeared to be stable.  Another showed I have a brain, so I now have proof of THAT.  There is nothing else wrong with my brain.  They feel I have developed diverticulitis in my large intestine, something that had originally showed up to be a second blood clot.  Whew!  The downside to that is that I may be forced to give up popcorn, a lifelong favorite food, being a well-bred Iowa girl.  Beyond bummed about THAT, but I'm still disputing that diet restriction.


Because my blood results also showed a very low white blood cell count & "irregularly shaped" white blood cells, it was determined that I needed to be checked into a hospital that night.  I chose Edward Hospital in Naperville & received excellent care while there.  Friday afternoon, a hematologist came into the room, introduced himself, and kindly told John & me I have acute leukemia & that I needed to be transferred that evening to Rush University Medical Center, which sits along the Eisenhower Expressway.  The world passes before me---cars, commuter trains, traffic helicopters, medivac helicopters, jets---with, surprisingly, very little outside noise.  I couldn't BELIEVE my view when I checked into the new tower & looked out at the sparkling Chicago skyline, all lit up just for me.  I dearly love this city for so many reasons & this helps to confirm why.


I had a bone marrow biopsy & a bone biopsy on Monday afternoon to confirm the initial diagnosis.  Full results may not be in before next week, but I'm hoping for preliminary results today.  I'd like to kickstart the chemo as soon as possible.  Putting it off won't make it any more pleasant, so let's get this show on the road!  I had a blood ejection rate test (a MUGA test) done on my heart on Monday morning & they hope for results anywhere from 55 - 65% blood ejection with each heartbeat.  Well, Mom always said I was unique---mine is 70%, considered to be "hyper-dynamic".  You go, girl!  This higher ejection rate means they can go after my cancer in a more aggressive manner. 


Sometime soon---within the next few days, I presume---they will be installing a 'Hickman line' for my chemo, blood draws, etc.  This is versus a port, though they perform a similar function.  Rush's hematology unit prefers Hickman lines merely because of placement & personal preference.


By the way, should any of you ever need a bone marrow biopsy & bone biopsy, fear not.  Personally, I felt it was a piece of cake & the worst part was the 6 lidocaine injections around the procedure site.  The first was quite uncomfortable, but the rest were more pressure & burning than anything else.  I've already told them here that if there is someone new coming in needing the same test, send them to me & I'll help allay their fears.


I am on blood thinning shots prophylactically so that no new blood clots form.  There is nothing that will get rid of the existing lung clot & it sounds to me like they feel it has found a happy home & plans on staying there.


Gretchen has been in town since last Saturday, will be leaving tomorrow, & has already begun knitting me cute hats in colors of my choosing---teal, turquoise, aqua, royal blue, lime green...I will look AWESOME in my hats that color-coordinate with most of my wardrobe!!!  I have told John & Gretchen that I plan on wearing my baldness with pride; but she has informed me that chemo makes you cold all the time, so I have bought into the whole hat thing for the times when I DO take a chill.  That will be something new for me, to be sure.


Erica flies up on Saturday morning, October 8th, for 11 days & it will be a treat to have her with us longer than normal.  I strongly encouraged John & Gretchen to get tickets for the 3 of them for Saturday night's 2nd Cubby playoff game & I'm happy to say, they will have their tickets in hand by 10:30 this morning!  I can't wait to watch for them on TV that night.  I've put in a very special request of Gretchen's husband, Mike---to please make another awesome sign for the girls to hold up at the game as he did for last week's game.  He is THE best artist around & I love his creativity!!!


In the meantime, I shall be posting updates at this site only.  John, Gretchen & Erica may also be contributing if I'm not up to it.  You do NOT have to donate to this site to use it.  I have been told that this is a good way to communicate with those I care about & feel no pressure or stress about returning messages.  I want NO flowers and NO cards.  I want to focus on my treatment & I feel they would be a distraction for me.  I know myself well.


Acute leukemia is one of the most curable and/or treatable blood cancers.  How lucky can a gal get??  My message at this point shall remain the same; so once through it, & you're good to go! You can go straight to updates.  I love you all.

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