Day 1,132

Since it has been a few weeks since we last posted, we have a few medical updates for you. Dave’s last round of chemotherapy went well, two hour eye drops and all. He didn’t find much time to blog during his inpatient stay, as he was focused on baseball and trying to get some sleep. His hospital stay was followed by a week long visit from his brother, which was great fun. The only other time I have gotten to meet him was the week of our wedding, so it was nice to get to spend some time with my brother-in-law. While Jeremy was in town we also were blessed with a visit from Dave’s Aunt Daisy, Uncle Bo, and Aunt Mary which led to a night filled with laughter, great company, and great food. I must say I knew I was getting an amazing husband when I married Dave, but I didn’t realize I was going to inherit an amazing family as well.

We have now successfully made it through Dave’s house arrest when his counts drop and his risk of infection is high. We stayed out of the hospital and his counts recovered nicely, leukemia free, and he now has 3 weeks of freedom before his last and final round of treatment. And another piece of good news came today when Dave had a repeat CT scan of his lungs to monitor the fungal pneumonia- final report: near complete resolution! Woohoo.

We are so close to being finished now that I feel like I can see the finish line. It is still a distance away but within view, and even though we are weary there is an excitement to finish this part of the journey strong. We know it is not the end of the race, but it is the end of this chapter of the journey. Next year will bring lots of trips to the Cancer Center for blood work and monitoring but we are at peace that the Lord is always going to be for us no matter what life throws at us and we are standing in faith that this remission will be permanent.

My heart is full!

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Day 1,103

Today brings round three of chemotherapy treatments, and boy am I excited about it. Okay, you’re right, I’m not excited about it at all. I’ll get my first treatment tonight at 9 pm, which is also when the every-two-hour eyedrops begin again. Man, are those awesome. I sympathize greatly with all women who have had to get up every couple of hours to tend to their newborns, though at least you have something (usually) adorable to hold – I just get a nurse of varying degrees of attractiveness, and if I tried to hold him/her, I’d likely get arrested and have an angry wife to deal with.

The one upside to this hospital stay is that there’s supposed to be a decent amount of baseball for me to watch. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers are threatening to end the American League Championship Series pretty quickly, so I’m going to need Detroit to buck up and make this thing go six or seven games. If Texas wins today and tomorrow, I’ll be stuck watching Golden Girls. Go Tigers.

In other news, my brother is making a trip out to North Carolina next week, and it will be fun having him around. His only previous trip to Winston was for our wedding, so we might just ask a bunch of you to rent tuxedos and come hang out in order to make him feel comfortable. I’ll have to run that by Amy first, though – don’t show up uninvited in a tuxedo until you get the okay.

I’ll close with a quick hair update. It’s kind-of sort-of growing back, and it’s now reached the “13-year-old’s mustache” level of thickness, but there’s enough there that I was able to convince Amy that I don’t look so horrible that she needs to shave it off immediately. We’re going to try and power through and hope it starts growing out a bit thicker as we go forward, though we’ve also been told that this chemotherapy regimen will probably slow it down. If that does happen, my guess is that Amy will eventually break down and demand that we shave it back to nothingness. She’s started to like the no-hair look, but she’s not such a big fan of this in-between stage. Thankfully, I have my winning personality to fall back on during these times when my ravishing good looks fail me.

More delirious sleep-deprived writing coming tomorrow. I can feel your excitement growing from here.

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Day 1,094

Medical update: I’m still in remission.

Now that we got that out of the way, I want to ramble for a little bit. A few weeks ago, someone sent me a message, noting that they were inspired by the courage I was showing through this whole ordeal. Since then, I’ve been pondering what that word really means. To me, courage has always been something of an action, generally performed in a life threatening situation. A soldier charging into an open field to rescue his friend who is taking fire – that’s courage. Police and firemen going into the World Trade towers to rescue as many people as they could – that was courage. Put simply, I’ve always believed that courage basically equated to risking your life to save someone else’s.

In reality, though, that’s more like heroism. And this person didn’t remark about how they were inspired by my heroic acts (spoiler alert: I haven’t done any), but instead how they were inspired by my courage. My natural reaction was to just defer, to point out that I hadn’t actually done anything courageous, but then I realized that I probably didn’t have a strong objection to their compliment when I didn’t even really understand what the word meant.

So, I’ve been thinking about courage – what it is, what it looks like, and whether I’ve actually shown any. And then this morning, it hit me; courage is a mentality, not an action. Seriously, here’s the definition of the word from Merriam-Webster:

Courage, noun: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

The actions that we generally consider courageous are simply evidence of a decision that was already made in advance. Those actions aren’t courage, but instead, the natural result of someone who possesses courage being put into that situation. They already had courage – the dangerous or difficult situation just gave us all a stage in which to see what was already inside of them.

This revelation helped me understand why someone could genuinely be inspired by “my courage” when, in reality, I haven’t really done anything. In my specific situation, I got a crappy medical diagnosis, cried for a bit, and then went on with my life. Besides the semi-weekly trips to the hospital and the wonderful medicines I’m inhaling, I’m not doing anything different now than I was prior to acquiring leukemia. But, in that normalcy, there is evidence of courage. I’m not trying to extoll my own virtues here, but look back at that dictionary definition of the courage again – mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Amy and I made the decision to persevere through a difficult season, and while we might not have been getting shot at, Merriam-Webster tells us that was evidence of courage.

Seeing courage this way was actually pretty freeing. I’ve often wondered how I would respond if I was put into a stressful situation where critical decisions had to be made quickly – I’m more of a sit back and analyze everything kind of guy – and yet, I wanted to be a person who would have courage when necessary. But, now, I’m realizing that courage isn’t a spontaneous decision to put your life on the line, but instead, it’s simply setting in your mind that, no matter what comes at you, you will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s all Amy and I have done. From even before the diagnosis, we had determined that our circumstances wouldn’t stop us from advancing forward. They might change our path, but we were never going to give up on our hopes and dreams, regardless of what life threw our way. Before today, I wouldn’t have considered that courage, but I’m realizing that it is, and that we’re all owners of courage.

If you got out of bed today, you have courage. If you have kept living when life got hard, you have courage. If you have refused to give into fear, you have courage. We all have courage inside of us, and we activate it by putting one foot in front of the other. Do that enough times, and you’ll be amazed where you end up.

And now, seeing it in this light, it is I who am inspired. I can say with confidence that I have courage – and so do you.

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Day 1,081

(Why yes, I did leave that last post at the top of the page for a long time to earn extra brownie points with my wife – why do you ask?)

Over here at the Cameron Recovery Center, we’re excited to be welcoming a third Cameron to the party tomorrow. No, we didn’t sneak in a surprise pregnancy on you all – Mom is flying out from Seattle for a six day trip to North Carolina. Six days might not seem like a long time for a cross country trip, but I believe this is the longest vacation she’s taken since her and Dad started Auto Sport. I think I was three or four at the time. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Our plan for her stay is somewhat up in the air, as I’m currently semi-quarantined to the house; my immune system has reached its nadir from the last round of chemo. I’m supposed to be headed back towards normal immune function, but we don’t know how quickly I’ll get there, and there’s a chance I’ll be neutropenic during her entire stay. We’re hoping that the counts come up quickly enough that we can attend a neighborhood block party on Saturday night and go to church on Sunday, but if not, we’ll just have to sit around and eat a lot of waffles.

Either way, I’m quite excited about her trip. Since making the choice to move 3,000 miles away back in 2002, visits with the family have been too short and too infrequent. Having Mom here for an extended weekend is going to be great.

In other news, I’ve felt good enough to start cooking again, which has provided a nice boost of normalcy to our lives, as well as improved the quality of our meals. Tonight, I busted out a mexican corn and chicken soup that was pretty good for a gringo, and it’s nice to be able to feel like I’m contributing to the house again. The return of my appetite has brought one strange craving though – after 15 years of ignoring its existence, we have gone through two boxes of Cap’n Crunch in the last week, and there are two more boxes in the pantry that might not last that long. Cap’n Crunch is delicious.

You know what’s not delicious? Avalox. Chewing pills is not fun. Parents, teach your kids how to swallow them if they can – that is one skill I really wish I had about now.

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Day 1,073

Home again, home again. It is nice to be home again.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what the hardest part of going through all this has been. I had to think about it for a while, as nothing really stood out as obviously the most difficult part. The initial diagnosis was tough, but we were immediately surrounded by friends with great faith, and we were surprised at how easy it actually was to stand up to a life-threatening disease and proclaim that we weren’t going down without a fight. The first hospital stay was tough, as three weeks in a single room isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. The physical side effects of chemo are a bit challenging. But, really, I wouldn’t describe any of these things as being all that hard to deal with. There was a way to respond to each, we found that way, and we responded. It wasn’t a cake walk, but the path forward was clear.

There’s one area, though, where there wasn’t an obvious way forward for me – still operating as the husband that Amy fell in love with. I love my wife and I love my marriage, but it has had some pretty clearly defined roles up until about two months ago. I did the grocery shopping. I paid the bills. I cooked dinner. I tucked Amy in at night. I killed all the scary bugs. I provided the shoulder to cry on when she had a tough day at work. I found that part of my reason for being on earth was to provide safety and security for my wife. And suddenly, I couldn’t do that anymore.

I couldn’t promise her that I would grow old with her. I couldn’t tuck her in at night. I couldn’t even be there for her when she walked in the door. With no real time to prepare, I lost my spot as her safety net. And, with it, part of my identity in who I am as a husband got left behind. I had to trust that she would be okay without me. That was hard. That is still hard.

In my weakness, though, He is strong. The void that was left by my physical absence from the house has been filled – and then some – by the fantastic encouragement of great friends. One in particular has taken it upon herself to send Amy a card almost daily since this entire ordeal began. These cards have often contained exactly the words that she has needed for that day – the words I wish I could have been there to say to her.

I’m learning, slowly, that I am not Amy’s safety net. We were put together to make each other better, to push each other forward, and to form a beautiful relationship that would bring us joy on a daily basis. But she didn’t pick me to become her savior, her champion, her rescuer. She already has one of those, and He can do abundantly above and beyond what I can ask, think, or imagine.

Through this whole process, I haven’t been able to be the husband that I was used to being. That’s been hard. But you know what? Amy’s doing great, and so perhaps the husband that I was used to being is not the husband that I need to be going forward. Maybe, instead of trying to be her safety net, I’ll just try and show her how much I’m in love with her, and how I’m so grateful for every day we get to spend together. I think I’ll start now, actually.

Amy – you’re the best part of my life. I’m so proud of you. You’re so much stronger than I’ve ever given you credit for. You are truly a gift from God, and marrying you was the best decision I will ever make. Thanks for being amazing not just through this challenging season, but through our entire marriage. You really are special, and you deserve to know it.

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Day 1,070

So Dave is a little under the weather today because of the chemotherapy. It does appear the doses are cumulative. The more he gets the more side effects he has. Today it is a rash that has left him itchy and drugged with Benadryl. We think tomorrow will be better and are excited that discharge is now less than 48 hours away.

Last night, while procrastinating going to sleep, I decided to google search “Dave Cameron Leukemia” to see if our blog popped up. I was shocked by the results and quite moved. Being the wife a baseball nerd, I have really let baseball be his job and have never really gotten into it all that much, but the baseball community is amazingly supportive of Dave and this is what I found in my results – below are links to 3 articles written by guys in the baseball community. If you have time to read them they are really encouraging.

A Reminder of What’s Important

Rooting Hard for Dave Cameron

Treating Baseball too Much Like Real Life

Being supported by a community is amazing and we really have experienced that here in Winston Salem. But is it incredible to know our support extends so much further.

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Day 1,069

We’re about halfway done with this stay in the hospital, and besides a bit of nausea from the chemo yesterday, it hasn’t been too bad. The every-two-hour-eye-drops are annoying, especially in the middle of the night, but I’ve been able to get enough rest to still be somewhat functional. I’m definitely feeling better than I did during the first go around, though we’ll have to see if the chemo has any cumulative effects once they put me back on it tonight. The schedule has them giving me two doses 12 hours apart, then giving me 33 hours off before I get another dose, so today was my off-day with no chemo. I’ll get another round tonight at 9 and then again tomorrow at 9 am, and we’ll see how I feel after those two doses. So far, so good though.

We also got some good news on the odds front, or at least clarification of some good news we got a while ago. While the historical five year survival rates for AML patients aren’t great (they quoted us 30-40% at original diagnosis), two specific genetic tests have moved me into the low risk category, where the five year survival rate is closer to 60-70%. We’re not putting our faith in the odds, but we’ll take good news when the doctors want to offer it to us, and 60-70% is certainly better than 30-40%.

That said, we’re believing that I’m going to beat this thing, regardless of whether historical precedent says my odds for survival are 100% or 0%. It’s nice that the doctors are encouraged and that they’re not talking bone marrow transplant, but our hope does not rest in how others have responded to treatment. Our hope is in the cross, and that won’t change regardless of the diagnosis.

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