Monday, July 12, 2010


July hasn't been the best month for me over the past six years. Here's a quick summary of why, with the rest of my cancer timeline:

July 6 2004 - diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

July 7 - admitted to the hospital. Port placed.

July 8 - first day of weeklong 7+3 induction chemo

July 15 - last day of chemo. 20th birthday. Party in the hospital, complete with balloons.

Rest of July - inpatient. One central line infection, antibiotics, collapsed veins, fun times. Remission.

September through January - weeklong inpatient chemo sessions each month, followed by two clinic visits plus blood and platelet transfusions a week

January 2005 through early July - back to school for second semester junior year

July 15th 2005 - 21st birthday. Had the appropriate amount of 21st birthday fun :D

July 18th 2005 - prompted by no concrete symptoms but just a general feeling of something being wrong I schedule a clinic visit. Decide to stick around for my blood draw results despite the fact that everyone told me I was fine. Platelets came back abnormally low. Had a bone marrow biopsy. I know I've relapsed (platelets don't drop that low for no reason) but I don't get the official results until...

July 22nd - results come back showing an early relapse.

I enter the hospital for another month in August to get salvage chemo. Have to get a transplant this time. Brother and sister don't match. In October I recieve the good news that they've found a match for me. Another relapse, but early enough that we decide to proceed with transplant. Move to Boston with my mom for transplant.

November 4th - transplant day, second birthday. Goes very well even though it was very hard. Return home to Michigan in March.

July 2006 - Live in dread the whole month that something terrible is going to happen. Paranoid searching of entire body every day for bruises, petechiae, anything. Miraculously nothing happens and I make it through the month.

Go back to finish up school in January 2007, graduate in May a year behind schedule. Thanks AP test scores, you gave me a semester's worth of credit and enabled graduation only a year late. Best $300 I ever spent!

July 2007 - my transplant buddy Tali passes away from severe GHVD. I'm fat and crazy from steroids.

September 2007 through July 2009 - move to France to teach English

And then you know the rest of the story - relapse in October, transplant in December, recovery since then, blah blah blah.

Nothing really terrible happened in July of 2008 or 2009, but I feel like I got away with something.

I have dreaded the arrival of July since my first relapse. It's a little more than just an unlucky coincidence to get cancer in the same month two times, and only a year apart! Plus my friend Tali passing away during July. That's three years out of four where really bad stuff happened during the month of July. So every year when July rolls around, I get pretty nervous. I worry about relapsing, I worry about my friends relapsing, I worry about anything else bad that might happen. I don't even want to celebrate my birthday because I'm afraid of attracting the evil eye. Don't get me wrong, I'm always very, very happy to pass another birthday, but Jews are a very superstitious people, so I was raised believing in the evil eye and the ability to attract bad luck to yourself, and it seemed better to quietly mark the day with myself rather than making a big deal of it. You know, let it pass under the radar.

July just makes me nervous.

This year my attitude is a little bit different. I feel like I should celebrate my birthday. I'm turning 26! That's amazing. Who knows how many birthdays I will have left to celebrate, first of all, and second of all, I've been beating off this very aggressive leukemia all year, I think it's a good time to celebrate life and living. I would like to do something nice for my birthday, but again, nothing too elaborate, just something enjoyable. I'm not totally sure what I'll do yet. My mom always makes a special birthday dinner and cake, and maybe we'll go to the zoo together during the day. I like the zoo.

But I still have this sinking feeling because it's July, and because I have PET and CT scans and a bone marrow biopsy coming up at the end of the month. I wish I had thought earlier to ask my doctor if I could schedule them a week later. I would be nervous about my upcoming tests no matter what, but because it's the dreaded month of July I'm more nervous than I would be otherwise. I have no reason to think there is anything wrong. My blood work looks good, I'm feeling good, I don't have any symptoms..... but I didn't before, either. The first time I relapsed everyone thought I was being paranoid, and when I relapsed in October everyone was shocked.

So, I don't know, when I think about the scans I get upset, when I think about celebrating my birthday the little voice in my head says "are you sure that's a good idea?" but when I think about not doing anything I feel like that's wrong because I should celebrate getting older. Man am I going to be happy to get gray hair and wrinkles!

I try to not think about any of this as much as possible. Nothing like avoidance and denial to improve your mental state! The scans are going to happen no matter what, so there's no point in worrying about them until I'm getting the results from my doctor the next day. Easier said than done!

Now to find a way to turn off my brain because once I start thinking about being nervous I can't stop thinking about it!


Leesa said...

Hey Mir...

July does have a terrible track record with you.. You've had to endure so much...

If you DO decide to celebrate your b-day 26, Have some ice cream and think of good times/better days..

Take care my dear friend!


Monique said...

Are you superstitious?!?! I certainly am not :) So I'm just going to look at this is a bad string of months. Now you're ready for a good string of months (years, decades, really!).

And you can start by celebrating your birthday with a trip to the zoo :) If you don't, I'll do it for you!!! Maybe I'll send you some banana bread :) (If you even like it haha)

getyourselfconnected said...

You should always get excited about your birthday! Do the best you can on keeping non-nervous (is that a word?). Can I offer the first song for Friday night to be your pick as a present?

au soleil levant said...

Leesa - you're right, ice cream always makes things better! Maybe this would be a good time for an ice cream filled cupcake?

Monique - I hope you're right! I actually don't like banana bread, but your pictures of it are really beautiful so it looks good!

GYSC - thanks, I will try. I'll take the first Friday request! Hmmm, I'm going to have to pick a really good one because it's my birthday. One of my favorite songs ever is a very little known song by Dido called Closer. It's just such a nice, simple song, and it always makes me feel calm and happy when I listen to it. Hope you like it too!

Andromeda said...

I never liked my birthday much, I always ended up crying, plus it's Christmas day, and I never really liked to share . . . Until I came to France and discovered buches de Noel, and things started looking up. So I fully approve of the ice cream idea, food for me has been an excellent way to start getting excited about what was once a not-so-fun day.

As for the rest of July, maybe start using the Jewish calendar, so it's not "july" anymore? Spread over two or three months would make it seem less like a pattern.

Animesh said...

Happy birthday Mira! And celebrate away, for you certainly have the reason to :).

Fight on!

au soleil levant said...

Andromeda - you can't cry on your birthday! That's so sad! But you're right, buches de noel do make things a lot better, like ice cream does! I definitely lol-ed at your comment about using Jewish months. I was actually born in a super cool sounding month, Tammuz. Neat name, right?

Animesh - thank you!

Zhu said...

Some months just suck and I can totally understand why July hasn't been your favorite so far. But who knows, something great may happen in the future and you may like it again!