Here is the last back story email written Sunday, December 11th:
It is a gray beautiful morning here in Kent with the clouds rising up among the jagged points of the dark evergreen trees on the hill…
I’ll keep this brief for now as Solveig and I are about to head out for church. About 5pm yesterday Sten and I were told that Allistaire has Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. I just now had to google AML to see what the “M” stands for – so this should tell you how much I know about her diagnosis. There will be time for that. What we do know is that we have 5 months of hard chemotherapy ahead and the real possibility of a bone marrow transplant as well. The treatment for AML versus the more common ALL form of leukemia, is much harder but much shorter. There will be four rounds of chemotherapy, each consisting of 5-7 days. Some days Allistaire will have chemotherapy more than once that same day. This will immensely lower all of her blood counts. It takes about 3 weeks for them to come back up to a point where they can do the next round. The first round and the following three weeks we will have to be in the hospital the whole time. This means about 4-5 weeks solid at the hospital right off. After the second round of chemo we will be able to go home with office visits every few days to check her blood. The doctors said that we would also typically have to go back a few times to stay in the hospital during that 3 week span because of things that come up as part of your immune system being so repressed. Before each new round of chemotherapy, Allistaire will have her bone marrow checked again in order to look for cancer cells. If any show up after the first round we will know that she will also need a bone marrow transplant because the chemotherapy is not sufficiently effective. The transplant would take place after the 2nd or 3rd round in order to suppress/kill the cancer cells as much as possible. In the event that she were to have a transplant, they would, as part of the transplant process, give her a special round of chemotherapy that would actually completely wipe out her existing bone marrow prior to them giving her new donor marrow. Depending on the genetic changes that have taken place within the cancer cells DNA, the chemotherapy will either be more effective, less effective or about in the middle at destroying the cancer cells. This therefore, will be a big determining factor in whether or not she will end up needing a transplant. They will be doing genetic testing which I think we will get results back from within a few weeks. They said that getting a matching donor for a transplant is usually not hard -which amazes me. Apparently Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center pioneered bone marrow transplants starting some 40 years ago. We are told that the results of a transplant here are better than anywhere else in the country. If at the end of the 5 months they cannot find any cancer cells, Allistaire will be considered to be in remission but will be checked often especially within the first few years.
There are so many thoughts and emotions right now which I don’t have time at the moment to convey. I am hoping to start a blog in the next few days to make updates easier to access and easier for me to provide and of course to give a more colorful view of our new world. Your overwhelming outpouring of love, prayers and willingness to help is what – what can I say, it is staggering, it is a comfort. The Word of God says that we are the body of Christ. This is a mystery and it is ordinary and mundane. This is part of the way in which the weight that we bare is dispersed, is spread out. As we are yoked to Christ – we are yoked to His body which many of your are. You are one of the beautiful tangible means of hands, feet, voice, and ears. In the coming days I think we’ll probably start taking you up on your offers of help.
On Tuesday Allistaire will have a central have central line put into her chest. This is near her heart so that as soon as medicine and chemotherapy is put in, it can quickly disperse into all parts of her body. This also means she won’t have to have an annoying IV that is so cumbersome right now. While she is sedated she may also have another bone marrow draw if they need to get more sample. They will either begin chemotherapy this Tuesday or Wednesday.
As you can imagine, this is not what I thought my life would be like on December 11, 2011. Of my own accord, I would never choose this road. I woke up in the night and saw the glowing green light of Allistaire’s monitor – there’s no one in her room. I didn’t have to step lightly when I got out of bed so as to not have the creaking floor wake her up. She is not here. When I went to get the clothes out of her closet I saw the dresses she’s only worn a few times, there is no need for them now. What can I say? If I let me mind go down the innumerable roads of how life is not what it was, what I want it to be, what it feels it should be…well the pain is like having the flesh ripped from your bones. But at some point this morning the Lord lifted my heart and encouraged me not to look at what is not but look at the possibility of what will be – to keep my eyes alert for how He is at work, for what He will do. Again, here is the Rest He keeps extending to me – it’s like when you’ve been hiking with a ridiculously overloaded heavy pack and someone offers to take it off your shoulders and carry it for you. There is a strange awareness of feeling light and able to charge ahead.
Much love to you all,