The medical oncologist in Atlanta looked at my charts and gave me three months to live.
That was four months ago, however, and unless this column is being ghost-written for Halloween, I am still around to complain about a hot summer that never seems to end, no matter the month or date.
My new doctor in Atlanta tempered his death sentence with the proviso “unless you get treatment” and have a bone marrow transplant. I already had been receiving treatment – chemotherapy, blood transfusions, shots to boost white blood cells (which cannot be transfused) and lots of checkups by my family physician and my local oncologist. That regimen continues, and I have yet to answer the door to find a hooded figure holding a scythe.
Three years ago, I told you about my chemotherapy sessions for leukemia, and I heard from many of you who had been through diseases that required lifesaving, life-changing treatment.
I told you about the many good cancer patients I had met having their own experiences with chemotherapy. The community of shared experiences got me through my ordeal.
The chemo helped rid me of leukemia, but one of the three chemicals that dripped into the port in my chest had its own agenda, so I never recovered despite being cancer-free. I continued to ache, and weekends were a blur as I napped after a workweek.
My oncologist, Dr. Brent Limbaugh, conferred with a colleague on a business trip and diagnosed something I had never heard of before: myelodysplastic syndrome.
That’s MDS to you and me. It’s a cancer that contorts the shape of the newly minted blood cells in the bone marrow. The misshapen stem cells that become the three types of cells never have a chance to mature before dying. That leads to transfusions to keep me in oxygen-carrying red cells, infection-fighting white cells and clot-inducing platelets.
From a magazine in a waiting room, I found out that ABC News personality Robin Roberts threw time and doctors at her MDS and survived. Carl Sagan, the “billions and billions of stars” astronomer, had three transplants but succumbed to pneumonia. Veteran stage and film actor Pat Hingle was another victim.
Although treatment isn’t as successful at my age as in younger patients, I’m counting on baby brother Tim’s cells to pull me through. When he was born 13 years after me, our folks let me give him a middle name, and Christopher it was. To me, he is St. Christopher for flying in from New Mexico to donate to my cause.
Until then, I’m supposed to avoid crowds and handshakes, and so I have had to avoid Wesley United Methodist Church, which has supported me through my illnesses. I also have given up raw vegetables and fruit, again because of the risk of infection.
This week I won’t be showing up for the job I’ve had for 29 years, the past few of which my employers have looked the other way during my near-daily doctors’ visits. Work keeps this former farm boy happy, so that will be a tough transition.
My doctors, nurses, medical office workers, pharmacists, co-workers, friends and children have been wonderful.
My wife deserves a medal for being my caregiver, a job that will become even more intensive for her.
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine – and we have kept our sense of humor – but I know a better curative: Please keep me in your prayers.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.