Thursday, June 25, 2015

My email to Molly Grantham.... "Introduction to BJ"

Hi Molly. I posted a facebook link on your site about my son, BJ, who is beginning another fight with Leukemia before he even finished the first one. He's 14 (in 8th grade at North Lincoln Middle School), and I know he's my kid, but he really is awesome. He was 11 when he was first diagnosed with B-cell ALL. It came after we were trying to figure out why he wasn't keeping up with the other kids at football practice. Putting some of his symptoms together, I thought maybe he was anemic, so I took him in for a quick blood test. The next day, our family doc called to tell me BJ's hemoglobin was 5.8 (it should be 12-16), and I should take him to the ED to find out why. He has always been a healthy kid, so when the doctor told me he had leukemia...I couldn't believe it. 

The first year of his treatment was incredibly tough, but we got through it.  We had close friends that stepped in when we needed them and I had developed a close friendship with a neighbor, who took care of our dogs while we were at the hospital. I have worked at Medic (Mecklenburg EMS Agency) for almost 15 years, and have an incredible amount of support from that side, too. Co-workers donated me sick time so I could still get a paycheck and be out with BJ. BJ was diagnosed 2 weeks into the 6th grade, and missed the rest of the year because the treatments made his immune system too low. But in the fall, he started playing football again for the local rec league - even before the last harsh chemo phase was over. Every practice and every game, I've just watched him, and been so thankful for his improving health, and for finally beginning to see the end of this journey. We were finally on the single-digit countdown...He was scheduled to be finished on Jan 4, 2016. He had 7 more months of treatment. We were both so excited. On May 9th, he ran the Keep Pounding 5K, and finished in 29:01, and then went home to play in his basketball game a couple of hours later. 

On May 22, he had his regular monthly chemo infusion and doctor visit. Dr. Kaplan saw some irregular cells in his blood. He sent the sample to the pathologist, and we left the clinic, waiting to hear the results by phone. We were in the car when Dr. Kaplan called...BJ knew we were waiting on that call. I had picked up Carly (my 10 year old daughter) from school, and had not mentioned anything to her about the extra blood tests. When BJ saw my reaction to Dr. Kaplan's news, he started screaming "No!"..."Why?!"..."No!, no!", and just dropped his face in his hands. Carly didn't know what was going on, but with BJ's reaction, she started wailing. I tried to focus on what Dr. Kaplan was saying, but in that moment, my heart was being ripped to shreds. All I heard was that the leukemia was back.

BJ settled down and we talked about what we were going to do. A few hours after his raw emotional reaction, he was back to being rock-solid. He's been that way ever since. When we left the clinic that day, not knowing what the news would be, BJ said, well, if it is leukemia, there are people worse off than me. In my mind, I know that is true. But I'm really scared this time. Believe me, I have faith in God, an incredible amount of faith, and that's exactly what got both of us through the past 2 1/2 years. I just haven't yet been able to completely give it to him this time. I'm sure that's normal, but when I see the strength my 14 year old son has, I am overwhelmed with pride, and admiration, and fear all at the same time.

BJ has a great deal of support from the staff and students at his school. After we found out that the leukemia was back, we went to his school to get some things he wanted. We were both still upset, and while BJ went back to his classroom and locker, the staff cried while I told them the news. When BJ came back, he told me that he had went to ask some of his teachers if they had any work for him to do, but that he didn't tell them why. The last teacher he went to asked him why he was asking for work. He told me that when she asked, all he could say was "I don't know if I'll be back". He broke down and so did his teacher. Then that teacher gathered his other teachers, and they prayed for BJ right there in the hallway. 

There's so much more, but I'll leave you with this small picture of who BJ is inside his heart. He said to me again, as we were leaving the clinic (Levine Pediatric Hematology and Oncology clinic) a few days ago after having a chemo infusion and his 10th, 11th and12th intramuscular chemo shots... "See mom....there are people who are worse off than me."

I appreciate all of the work you do to create focus on what these kids go through. 


Michelle Love

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