Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The fight begins 

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A on left, E on right



A few days went by with no word from my parents. I was in a state of panic. I had no way of contacting them. I had no idea what was going on. I was furious at my mother for not calling me back right away.

Finally, mom called. A was in the hospital. Apparently, he had been getting sicker and sicker, and finally went to the nurse on campus, who immediately checked him into the hospital. He was severely dehydrated, and after doing some tests, the doctors found that his kidneys were failing.

What? I remembered the tears running down my cheeks. Kidneys? Will he need a transplant? Can he have mine? But the doctors needed to run more tests to find out what was happening. Could he come home? Not to slam the hospital in Savannah, but Pittsburgh has the much better medical system. Plus he could be home. But no, he was hooked up to dialysis machines through a connection in his...groin. Ouch. He couldn't sit up, let alone walk. They would have to wait until he was stronger before they would move the connector thingy to a location that would allow travel. So he and my parents were stuck in Georgia.

For some reason, A's immune system was attacking his kidneys. He had a barrage of tests. Even, my mom told me in a hushed voice, an HIV test. I almost laughed. A had been dating C since he was a sophomore. They were ridiculously in love. No way did he have HIV. (he didn'T, of course). More disturbingly were the results of the bone marrow. They only found dead cells. From that they concluded he had suffered an "insult" to his bone marrow. What did that mean? We didn't have any idea. But to prevent his immune system from doing any more damange to his kidneys, they pumped him full of steroids, and slowly, he got better. After almost two weeks, they were able to move his dialysis port to another part of his body. He and my parents flew back to pittsburgh, and immediately checked him into a hospital near my parents' house.

More tests, more steriods. No explanation for what happened. But after a few days, his kidneys were back online and he could go off dialysis. He sounded better on the phone. He asked me to come home for the weekend. He wanted us all to go out for a big dinner at his favorite restaurant: Chili's. Of COURSE!!!!

When I saw my brother that weekend, I gave him a huge bear hug! What a scare!!! But he was better now, and it was all over. We could laugh about it. It felt good to laugh about it.

A had missed over three weeks of school, which was too much to make up, especially for a new student. No problem, he could start again the next semester in January. Everything went back to normal.

For two weeks.

Second week of november, A started to feel sick again. He needed to have more tests done, at a hospital in Oakland. I had to come home for the weekend to take the GRE test, which was being offered at the Pitt, conveniently also in Oakland. Mom took me to take the test, and then went to meet with my father and brother, who were at the doctors, getting the test results, including another bone marrow test.

After the GRE was over, I remember feeling drained, and worried. I didn't think I did very well. Mom came to get me, then suggusted we walk to a nearby deli to get lunch, before walking to the hospital. We only made it a few blocks before mom turned to me and said:

A has leukemia.

I stood in shock in the middle of the busy sidewalk. NO!!!! My eyes watered up, and I threw my arms around my mother and cried. She cried. In the middle of the sidewalk, with people walking around us, ignorant, annoyed at the stop in flow of traffic. We slowly made our way to the deli. She explained that they didn't know what kind he had yet. There was a bad kind and a good kind. The good kind was easier to treat. We quickly ate lunch and made our way to the hospital, where dad and A were waiting. E showed up, and we went in to meet with the oncologist. She was super nice. I remember she asked us to call her Elizabeth.

The test results showed that A had the easier to treat form, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. I remember she said "if you had to get leukemia, this is the kind you want to have." and we laughed. Who wants leukemia of any kind??? She went over several treatment options, and told us that A had a great chance of beating this. We decided on the path of 3 rounds of chemotherapy, given over several months. In the meantime, E and I would have our bone marrow tested to see if we were a match for A. If the chemotherapy didn't look like it was helping, A could have a bone marrow transplant.

The five of us stood around with the oncologist, and talked optimistically about A's treatment. We joked around, told A we'd give him a new nickname: baldy. We had the oncologist cracking up. It's how we dealt with what we had learned. And if we could laugh at the cancer, then it could be beaten. And we laughed ALOT. Fuck you, cancer.