Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Pointless thoughts ..... no surprise its the only kind I seem to have lately

Pointless thoughts, reflections, aimless mental ramblings………………

When I was in junior high, many (MANY) moons ago, I asked Steve Vaughan to be my lab partner for the highly anticipated and much dreaded annual Frog Dissection Experiment. (Please, no vocal PETA signatures in our guestbook) Steve was one of the smartest boys in 8th grade so I offered to write the report if he would do all the dissecting. Brilliant plan, no? Unfortunately, Steve showed up on the morning of the lab, made one cut on the poor amphibian, threw up all over the lab table and spent the rest of the class laying supine on the floor. Guess who got to dissect the whole frog by herself? Yes, yours truly. I learned way more about Kermit’s extended family than I ever needed to know.

Once again, I find myself thrown head first into a biology subject about which I had no desire to learn. This time, however, under the (perhaps misguided) thought that knowledge is power, I’m learning everything I can about leukemia. I have purchased numerous books on childhood cancer, and specifically, childhood leukemia. The amount of money I’ve spent at this past month is rivaled only by the amount we’ve spent at Pizza Hut.

Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of reading material, I’ve been plowing through the books (hey, you gotta do something at 2am besides surf Caring Bridge websites!) and have occasionally run across statements or statistics that are interesting or touching. I thought I would share a few of the more interesting ones here. The three below are from a book entitled “Childhood Leukemia; the facts” by John S. Lilleyman. It’s a second edition, published in 2000, so I assume most of the statistics are still pretty close to true. And the “oh wow, I never thought of it like that” comments are timeless.

** (some symptoms that children can commonly experience before a leukemia diagnosis are aches and pains, particularly in the legs, paleness, fatigue, and fever) “Childhood leukemia is a rare disease, and often starts with vague and non-specific symptoms that could be due to a huge number of trivial disorders. If one could imagine 25,000 children filling a football stadium, during any one year hundreds or even thousands will look pale, complain of aches and pains, or run a fever. Only one will develop leukemia.”

I find it ironic that even when the chances of winning the lottery are a bazillion to one, people line up in droves to buy a ticket. Yet one in 25,000 and we all think, “Well, it will never happen to my family.”

** No one knows what causes cancer, or what could be done to prevent it, especially in the case of a cancer like leukemia. What they basically know is that a corruption in the DNA of a single, solitary cell that occurs during cell division can cause that cell to spin out of control and wreck havoc. Who knows what corrupts the cell, and who knows if anything can be done to stop it? But, to put it in perspective, (forgive the crude biology lesson) the human body contains around 70,000 BILLION cells which differ in function and appearance depending on where in the body they are. Cells are almost entirely produced in the bone marrow. To maintain the healthy status quo of blood by replacing those cells naturally lost through attrition, some 5 MILLION cells are produced EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY for the entire life span of the human being. And if one single cell has a defect, the end result could be leukemia. It’s obviously more complicated than that, but isn’t it amazing to realize the miracle that so many children have cell production that is perfect?

** ”Although collectively the leukemias are the commonest childhood cancer, making up some 30-35 percent of the total, they are still very rare diseases. Each year, only one child in 25,000 will develop leukemia. That translates to just 400 new cases from every 10 million children each 12 months.” Now how the hell did WE get to be so special?????

Less on the technical side, there have been a few comments made recently on my online support group that have touched me because I have felt or thought the exact same things. I won’t mention names in the hope if anyone objects to me using their “quote” then at least I didn’t say their name out loud.

“I miss my blissful ignorance” Mom, discussing family life before her son’s ALL diagnosis

I’m 35 years old. Before diagnosis, I felt 30. Now, I feel 40.” Dad of daughter with ALL.

“If our bodies had as many toxins being pumped into them as our poor kids do we probably would have bad days too. Frankly I'm so surprised the majority of our kids do as well as they do. My hats are off to them. They are much stronger than I am.” Mom of son with ALL.

“You know, the day after Kendrie was diagnosed we were sitting in her hospital room talking to the social worker about some of the programs available out there, (I was still in my initial state of shock, thinking it was all a mistake) and when she said, "oh, by the way, Kendrie is eligible now for Make A Wish" .......... I thought it was only terminal children and that was how I was finding out my daughter was dying. Literally, I burst into tears. I had no idea all children diagnosed got a wish. I think the social worker felt bad. I know *I* did!” --- One of my personal recent online comments, during a Make A Wish discussion.

And my favorite quote, from the parent of a child diagnosed with leukemia, from the book “Having Leukemia Isn’t So Bad. Of Course It Wouldn’t Be My First Choice” by Cynthia Krumme:

“How do I feel? Don’t ask! …. Aside from nervousness, irritability, exhaustion, faintness, dizziness, tremors, cold sweats, depression, insomnia, muscle pains, mental confusion, internal trembling, numbness, indecisiveness, crying spells, unsocial, asocial and anti-social behavior …. I feel fine …. Thank you.”

I inadvertently discovered the worth of a true friend today when I made plans to donate blood with my friends Kelly E. and Maureen I. on the military base. We met at the visitors center to get our passes (why the Red Cross held the blood drive in a classified area is beyond me) and I was feeling very good about donating. I donated regularly when I was younger and after being on the receiving end of the donations during Kendrie’s week in the hospital, felt it was important to give back. Unfortunately, while waiting for my pass, Kendrie said, “mom, I don’t feel so good” and then threw up all over the floor. Apparently giving a child cough medicine on an empty stomach isn’t such a smart thing to do (I can feel that Parent of the Year Award just slipping through my fingers!) And Kelly, bless her heart, who prior to today I would have considered a “casual friend” totally vaulted herself into “true friend” status by cleaning up my daughter’s barf off the floor. I should probably hand-knit her a Christmas sweater as a thank you. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to knit. So my very public THANK YOU will have to suffice!

Now, if you have time, please visit the site for a boy named Marcus on our list. He relapsed last month and the doctors are not being very optimistic with his mother. I’m sure they could use prayers and good thoughts from anyone so inclined.

Also, one last thing, please say a prayer for Blaine as we await the biopsy results from a “suspicious” spot on his MRI. The doctors suspect it is nothing more than scar tissue from his previous surgery, but it will still be nice to have the official “all-clear”. And let’s be honest, if our family has to deal with cancer one more time this year, I think my head might explode.
love to all, Kristie

WORST THING ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Having a mom who is so stupid she would give me cough medicine on an empty stomach.

BEST THING ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: The look on mom's face when I ralphed all over the floor!

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