Jeanel

Jeanel

Diagnosis

I started feeling tired in May of 2014. My dog, Dexter, began spending all his time with me and lying on my belly, which I thought was cute. In June, my boyfriend Kent and I went on vacation with our neighbors. It was at that time that I noticed I was extremely bruised and was experiencing shortness of breath since I was using double the normal amount of air while scuba diving. I was also losing weight, but had an enlarged belly and lump on my side. My first thoughts were that this was unusual, but chose to ignore it to continue the vacation and planned on seeing my doctor a few days after I returned.

At the doctor’s office, they ran a full battery of tests, including a CT scan of my abdomen, and sent me home. By this time I was vomiting every day and felt extremely fatigued. I called my mom who came in from out of town to help take care of me.

The CT scan revealed enlarged kidneys, so I made an appointment to see a nephrologist while we were awaiting the blood results. The nephrologist immediately sent me to a hematologist where I got a blood test and bone marrow biopsy. I knew something was terribly wrong, but didn’t exactly know what.

I had a consult on June 24th regarding the results which revealed Leukemia, type ALL. I was immediately sent to Northside Hospital Cancer Treatment Center, Bone Marrow Transplant Division in Dunwoody, GA. Kent and my Mother had the unfair task of spreading the news to family and friends. I was completely in shock.

Treatment

Once admitted into the hospital, I knew I was in good hands. Within 24 hours of being admitted, my vomiting had stopped and I was feeling so much better thanks to the medicine. My kidneys were at 25% capacity and were shutting down. Luckily, they starting healing and within a week, I was able to begin Chemotherapy for the Leukemia.

The initial treatment was Hyper CVAD which consisted of 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 8 lumbar punctures with chemo and some testing with bone marrow biopsies and blood work. I had been released to go home after the second treatment, but had to remain in a sterile environment. My neighbors had gotten together and intensely cleaned my house before my arrival. I was overwhelmed by this act of generosity and knew that I had some very special friends.

At the end of initial treatment, we had a meeting with the doctor and reviewed 2 different continuing treatment plans. We choose a stem cell transplant since my younger brother was a perfect match. To prepare for a transplant, I received 4 days of total body irradiation. A few days after the last dose I became extremely fatigued. I remember being discharged from the hospital even though I was very weak. Kent thought, “No, I can’t take her home! She is a mess!”, but I was stable enough and very home sick.

In the hospital and in the after-care clinic, the staff was amazing. They were kind and thorough. They were attentive and busy, but patient at the same time. They answered all my questions and offered support and encouragement every step of the way. Everyone was so positive and uplifting.

Recovery

It took many months, but the transplant was successful. There was no sign of cancer at my last testing appointment. I am feeling 100% normal again and have gone back to work, working part time. The most rewarding part is regarding my dog, Dexter. He has gone back to his normal routine and I think he knows that I am healthy again.

Looking Ahead

We are back to a normal life and once again, fostering rescued dogs from the Sheltie Rescue of GA. I think I am most excited to be able to travel again, and have planned a “do-over” vacation to scuba dive this Fall! With thanks to my support team and the amazing medical team, I never felt alone in the treatment process. I am a stronger, more grateful person because of the experience.

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