What word stops you right in your track, and puts your life on hold? Yes…cancer. Cancer no longer equates a death sentence necessarily, but it’s definitely a long battle affecting the entire family. In honor of my father who fought prostate cancer eight years and a great friend, Teresa, who ministered to my heart while fighting ovarian cancer for four years, and many more, I want to share an equally inspiring story.
Let me introduce you to an overcomer, and a cancer survivor, Shannon. We’re proud to be called her pastors as well. Please enjoy her story.
“Am I going to lose my baby?” ran through my mind as I sat caressing my belly on the exam table while waiting for the Dr. It was March 17,, 2010 (St. Patrick’s Day) and I had been called in because of something they found in my blood test.
Before my imagination ran away, my doctor entered, looking so serious. Her dark eyes looked directly into mine, and her soft, but firm voice uttered these unforgettable words, “Your bloodwork shows you have acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as cancer of the blood.”
My first thought was, “There’s no way this could be happening to me. Other than feeling seven months pregnant, I feel good. Besides, I’m just 22.”
There wasn’t time to process. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia progresses at a rapid rate, making immediate treatment necessary. Requiring special care being pregnant, they found a place for me. Within two days, I landed at K.U. Medical Center in Kansas City, KS.
First, I had a bone-marrow biopsy to determine the severity. My blast, a measurement for leukemia, was 98%, instead of 0%. Before I had time to react, they also informed me I had something called Philadelphia Chromosome positive, a condition affecting 15% of leukemia patients, causing chemo to often be ineffective.
A team of doctors entered my room to deliver my treatment plan. The tall, balding Dr. spoke, “Your chances aren’t good without a bone marrow transplant. Even then, your odds of survival are about 25%.” Placing his hand on my shoulder, he continued, “First we’ll be giving you chemotherapy through an I.V., shots, and two spinal taps a week.”
Wondering what the spinal taps were for, the Dr. interrupted my thoughts. “Your cancer is everywhere except your spine and your brain. To prevent the cancer from spreading there, we will remove spinal fluid and replace it with chemo.”
A high risk OB doctor quickly chimed in with her soft, reassuring voice,
“When we start the chemo, multiple complications can come up with your unborn son, including being stillborn, however we’ll have a team of physicians beside you, ready for the unknown. We’re going to do our best to save your son and you.”
Afraid, I didn’t cry. No time. My first round of chemo started only four days after my arrival, with at least ten doctors surrounding me. It was then I realized, we sometimes have no choice, but to face our trials head-on. The only way out is through.
Every day I read a devotion out of a devotional book for strength. I kept praying and trusting God for my health and my son’s health. With a few complications in the birthing process, Kyler, finally entered this world, 100% healthy on April 20, 2010.
My miracle boy gave me a reason to survive, and still does.
While still searching for a donor for a bone-marrow transplant, they gave me five more heavy rounds of chemo trying to get me in remission. The Philadelphia Chromosome Positive made it hard. I was only down to 13% blast when they found a donor.
“You need to be at 4%, Shannon, to be in remission by the time of the transplant, or there’s a high chance it won’t be successful.,” the doctor explained.
It didn’t end up mattering anyway. My donor backed out the day before my transplant date. I didn’t understand how someone could do this to me. Without a donor, they had to hit me with the heaviest dose of chemo they had. This was my last option to survive, and it was my first time to break down and cry.
Wiping my tears, I cried out, ‘Mom, I don’t want to die!’
Mom hugged me tight, then pulled back. Face-to-face with noses almost touching, she boldly stated, “Shannon, you’re NOT going to die! God has a plan for you!”
My mother was my rock during my entire cancer journey. During this heaviest round of chemo yet, my kidneys and liver shut down. The doctors had to stop treatment 92% of the way through. It worked though. Remission had arrived!
During this time I learned God has His own way of doing things. You see, while my kidneys and liver were shutting down, they found a donor. This time, she was a 100% match!
The road leading up to transplant was exhausting. Every morning came an intense chemo treatment followed by full-body radiation. This repeated in the afternoon…for three days. This, honestly, was the weakest point of my life. It did its job, though. They were able to get my white blood cell count down to 0.01 by August 24, 2010. My physical body got its second chance…thanks to a selfless bone-marrow donor.
Recovery has been a much longer ordeal, and a battle of different sorts. My leukemia treatments left me addicted to narcotics, and left me facing similar odds.
I went into rehab the following year. Since, I have relapsed multiple times, got two DUI’s, and suffered from domestic violence. I even lost my house. It wasn’t until I really let God help me that I have stayed clean, miraculously with no cravings.
For almost seven years now, I have been in remission from leukemia. This December, I should be graduating with a degree in Social Work. I’ve been working out to strengthen my physical body, and attend church and Bible-study to strengthen my spiritual being. It is important to me to be completely whole again.
It’s Jena again. Now, you understand why I’m so proud of this young lady. In April, she will be giving back by hosting a bone-marrow drive. I sure would appreciate it, if you’d check into participating, or tell others about it. You can find the details here.
Please let Shannon know how her story inspired you in the comments below. Encourage your friends by sharing this post also. Thanks for stopping in and reading. It’s greatly appreciated!