Tiffany Johnston

First post: 10/26/2013 Latest post: 12/12/2016
The week started out the same as any other I had before; Early mornings of class, studying, work, late night studying and repeat in search of the weekend. Monday (Oct. 14th) I went to crack my back and noticed I may have gone a bit too far with it, Tuesday afternoon was just pure back pain and even caused me to miss an exam and work. Following this came a fever of nearly 104.0 and vomiting. Still thinking it is my back at this point I saw a Chiropractor with no relief and the fever and vomiting persisted on into Wednesday where I missed yet another exam and day of work.
After much reluctancy, Wednesday night I did head to the emergency room. I figured on a few drugs and looks from the doctors that maybe I was being a baby, then be sent home to recover. Opposite happened, they instantly ran test after test finding one negative result after another, all the results ended up being related to the end diagnosis.
On Thursday they told me I had anemia, very low white blood cell count, and Pneumonia. They also said they would need to continue tests including a biopsy of my bone marrow and would be sending me via ambulance to St. Luke's in Milwaukee. At this point I still figured I was going home, and really just confused-how I could not know or have signs of all that was happening?

On Friday, October 18th after many more tests the Doctor came to my room with his team and gave his diagnosis, he had found nearly 90% of my bone marrow was filled with Leukemia (Acute Lymphoblastic/Lymphocyctic Leukemia) and that treatment needed to start right away.

Truthfully, I had never done any research or known anyone with Leukemia so I didn't know what to expect. After reading up a bit, I now understand it is a Cancer of the blood and marrow that strikes fast and for no particular reason,growing rapidly. I couldn't have had it more than a month or so. Although I am producing white blood cells ( infection fighters) they are useless and take up space being they are infected. The main concern is that my body cannot fight anything off, as much as a simple runny nose can really mess me up at this point.

My Doctor (Dr. Taylor) is said to be the best in the state and I am very confident in his knowledge and expertise, and he is also confident in me being able to push through this difficult diagnosis. Unfortunately with the treatment of Chemo I will lose my hair and be very sick for awhile but he is confident the Chemo is the best available option for my illness. I will be in the hospital for an extended period of time (months), and then in and out for over a year while I try to get to remission. The difficulty is that even when I am out I will need daily treatment, will be ill, and prone to lots of illnesses.

Mostly I am frustrated, this unknown entity came in to my life so suddenly and took everything from me, I had a plan for my life and a path I was following that had specific goals like school, career, and a research trip to Africa in January. It took it all from me, yes maybe only temporary (for you optimists), but it was mine and I want it back now. What it left me is a big mess filled with a ton of anger and emotions that I am currently sorting through with a lot of unanswered questions.

If I must be optimistic, and I must, the blessings have been strengthening my relationships with all of you. I cannot describe or put into words how much support and love I have felt already, it feels strange to embrace it because I want to be so strong on my own, but some days just knowing it is there is enough to keep going.

I will make it through this as I know I can, with a strong mind anything is possible. The journey will be long, and likely difficult so I hope to keep you all updated on here being texting with these fat little fingers can get tedious! I want to again thank you all for your kindness and love, a special thank you to my mom who has been here everyday dealing with the really hard stuff and to Adam, my rock, my center, every day I need to be thankful for you.

A million thanks,
Love you all.


Tiff

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