Remission is a wonderful response to leukemia

Last Monday, my oncologist walked into his examination room to give my wife and me the results of my bone marrow analysis. It had been a tense three weeks waiting for the results of the painful test, in which a corkscrew the size of an oil-well drill bored into my lower backbone and pulled out a small cross-section of marrow.

Five years earlier, I had been diagnosed with leukemia. Then a year ago I began monthly chemotherapy sessions, three days a week, with three weeks off to recover. I told you about them last year, so I wanted to update you now.

The chemo went on for six months. Cancer-killing poisons dripped from IV bags into my blood through a port implanted in my chest. The nurses, technicians and office staffers were all wonderful, friendly professionals who actually made the visits pleasant.

The chemo caused few deleterious effects to my body at the time. My doctor and nurses counteracted them with new medications. Chemotherapy definitely is one answer to cancer.

Months later, the chemo – most likely one especially nasty liquid that came in a big bag – began to take unexpected tolls on my body. My immunity was compromised, and my digestive system went out of whack for more than a month. I developed influenza and pneumonia at the same time and was hospitalized for eight days, with a civil war still being waged in my stomach and gut.

University Hospital, like my doctor’s office, was good to me. I recovered at home.

My reduced defense against diseases wasn’t over, though. A couple of months ago, I developed symptoms that an urgent-care clinic misdiagnosed as sinusitis. At my oncologist’s office, Dr. Brent Limbaugh took one glance and said, “You’ve got shingles.”

Shingles is a particularly cruel disease that causes burning blisters on one side of the body or the other, but not both. Limbaugh saw that the left side of my face and head were affected. Other sores were in my ear and the side of my mouth and tongue. He sent me to a dermatologist, who prescribed soothing lotion and pills.

For a month or so, I couldn’t shave because of the pain when touching my face. I looked like a teenager with zits and a bad beard. Today, I’m shaving once a week and there is still burning, but it’s not as severe.

A week ago, Limbaugh strode into the exam room, smiling and giving us a thumbs-up. He said my marrow no longer is producing cancer cells. Though some of my blood cell counts are still low, I am in remission. There’s no cure for me, but “remission” is a pretty wonderful word, too.

I’m thankful to my doctors and the chemo clinic, of course, but also to my church and all of you who have prayed for me. (It works.) I am especially grateful for my wife, who has been my protector. She welcomed the good news in her own way:

“Now I don’t have to cook for you every day.”

Reach Glynn Moore at glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.

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