One year ago today, my nephew was diagnosed with leukemia. He'd been sick, and on the 23rd he went to urgent care, where blood was drawn. The technician at the lab called him and said get to the ER, something's terribly wrong. The ER doctor suspected it was leukemia, and the oncologist confirmed it the next day.
I still have the text my nephew sent me that Sunday morning, March 24, 2013. Leukemia is a scary word.
I told him in his hospital room that day, the people who survive cancer are the people who decide to survive cancer. I didn't know what to say to this 20-year-old kid who had already had a difficult enough life, who had just started to build a future for himself, only to have it all fall to rubble with one terrible word and its accompanying reality.
One year later, I am emotional when I think of all we've been through. I watched him fight for his life, cocooned in a cylindrical bed when he got pneumonia. I watched him endure the indignities of chemo side effects, countless blood and platelet transfusions, and so many other miseries cancer causes.
And I saw him do it with strength, with stamina, with courage reminiscent of his grandfather's.
Today, one whole year after that terrifying diagnosis, he is recovering from the bone marrow transplant that will give him back his life. He is not done just yet, but from what we can tell, he is through the worst of it.
Remembering those dark days, the diagnosis, the long nights as he lay in ICU sedated and medically paralyzed to help him heal, I don't know the words to clearly express how grateful I am to my nephew for fighting so hard and so strong and to the many people who fought with him, fought for him to live.
I know not everyone beats leukemia. I know how lucky we are that DJ did.