The three-year overall survival rate for M5 type leukemia, or Acute Monocytic Leukemia (AML), is 31%. Not a very good average if you ask me.
And today, I was one of the 44,270 predicted to be diagnosed in 2008 with leukemia to actually be diagnosed.
I have to admit, though. It doesn’t surprise me much. I mean, there was that first initial shock when I heard the doctor say “I think you’re strong enough to hear the truth” and then told that I may not be alive in the next three years or so, maybe even the next few months. (Okay, so he didn’t say it exactly like that. But that's what he meant.)
Really, I’m not sure how it happened. The other day, I found this weird bruise on my wrist that I couldn’t remember getting. And during the night, I fell out of bed and I guess I hit my head pretty hard, because when I woke up the whole right side of my face was a deep bluish-purple.
Mom said it was nothing and shrugged it off. By the end of the day, I had a fever of 103.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Not fun. Well, next thing I know we’re at the doctor’s office with them all over me, drawing blood and taking tests. Joy.
Four hours, three blood tests, and two finger pricks later, I’ve been officially diagnosed with AML.
I’m not quite sure what to think yet. I guess the first thing that came to mind was “chemotherapy” and “will my hair fall out”. Stuff like that. But I thought the part where I’m scared or sad would set in sooner. It’s really weird.
It isn’t like I’m in denial; at least I don’t think that’s it. It’s just that the huge 31 in my mind hasn’t quite gotten out of the way of all the other information yet. I can’t really say what I’m thinking right now.
All mom has really done in the last few days is cry. Whenever I talk to her she’ll try to hide it, but the red rims under her eyes tell the whole story. Yesterday, I almost yelled at her. She doesn’t seem to get that I can’t deal with her blubbering on like that. She thinks that she’s the one who has to cry?
Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit unfair. I am her son and all. It just doesn’t feel right when she’s the parent especially when it feels like she can’t be strong enough to hold her tears for me just a little bit longer. At least until I’m out of the house or something.
We haven’t told any relatives yet. But, of course, the siblings know. What hurt the most out of all that was how Jeremy stared at me with his sad green eyes . . . and then just shrugged it off and went back to listening to Linkin Park as though nothing had happened.
The only response I got out of Cam was a slight tremble in her lip. Then she was grabbing up all her books from the kitchen table, where she’d laid out her homework, and skittering from the room as though a ghost were after her.
And Ellie . . . Ellie didn’t take it too well.
She was eating a chocolate chip cookie and sitting on the counter with her legs swinging when mom broke it to her. At first, there was nothing. Then, slowly, the color drained from her cheeks. Next was the cookie to fall from her fingers and crumble on the ceramic tiles beneath her now frozen legs.
Then her mouth opened in a little “O” of surprise. “Wh . . . what di-did you s-say?” The pain was so apparent in her voice, I couldn’t bear to hear mom answer her.
“Honey . . .” mom started. But before she could continue, Ellie burst into sobs right there on the counter.
I couldn’t just watch her cry like that, so I crossed the kitchen floor to her and held her in my arms, unsure of what to say. All she could do was press her nose into my shoulder and cry.
That was two nights ago. Now, I’m not so sure what’s going to happen. I’m still strangely numb to this news that seems to have affected everyone in the family but me. (If not Jeremy and Cam, I’m not sure, though.)
That night I sat on the animal shack’s roof and Percy came up to join me. (The only other cat we shelter besides Creature.) She seemed to be smiling at me through the moonlight and her whiskers quivered as she rubbed against my arm and welcomed a few scratches behind the ear.
It was the first time I managed to smile that day.