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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Day 1,067

If this post had a sub-heading, it would be “Five Slice Tuesday”. First, though, a little context. Yesterday, Amy and I watched an episode of “Unique Eats” focused solely on Pizza. They went around the country (and even up to Montreal) and highlighted a few of the most interesting, unique pizzas being made. They all looked delicious, and put me squarely in the mood for pizza. However, we were having friends over for a cook-out, so pizza wasn’t on the menu, and the craving had to take a back seat for a while.

Well, once we got into the hospital today, they informed us that my first chemo regimen wouldn’t start until 9 pm, well after dinner time. So, the choice for dinner was obvious – we were getting pizza. There’s a Mario’s Pizza right across the street from the hospital that serves pretty decent NY style pizza, and it reminds Amy of what she ate growing up in upstate New York, so it’s the easy choice for when pizza is on the menu. Whether they just made an especially good pie today or my craving from yesterday had only grown in the past 24 hours, it was one of the best pizzas we’ve had in a while. So I just didn’t stop eating.

Five pretty substantial slices and one disgusted wife later and I was a pretty happy camper. I don’t normally polish off over half of a good sized pizza by myself, but I figured that I might as well go out with a bang. The chemo is likely to do a number on my appetite, but at least I got one pretty great meal before that kicked in.

We also got a bigger room than last time, which is nice, and have had a pretty relaxing first day back here at The Resort. So far, nothing but good news to report. We’ll see how my mood is tomorrow after a night of eye drops though.

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Day 1,066

It’s been a great couple of weeks of sleeping in my own bed, eating good food, and hanging out with beloved friends, and so, it is with great memories that I head back to The Resort at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. I’ll be checking in at 8:30 tomorrow morning, getting my blood tested, and then headed for surgery at 10:00 to have the portocath installed. Is installed the right word for having something implanted in your chest? I’m not sure, but we’ll go with that for now.

After the morning fun, I’ll be admitted into the hospital to begin a six day stay. It is yet to be determined how I’ll feel after surgery tomorrow afternoon, but my goal is to begin writing on the blog every day once again. After all, there’s not much else to do in there.

I’m certainly not looking forward to another hospital stay, but we do enter this round of chemo with lifted spirits. Not only have we spent the last few weeks being encouraged by our great friends and family, but my body was also able to sustain itself pretty well while I was home, and we only had to deal with a few days of feeling less than 100 percent. For the most part, the fungal pneumonia and the lessened immune system didn’t seem to have any adverse effects, and we’re encouraged that my body seems to be doing well at keeping infections at bay.

Since I’m now in remission, infections are really the main source of concern going forward. The consolidation rounds of chemotheraphy are designed to help decrease the odds of recurrence, but they essentially have to wipe out my immune system three more times before I’m done with treatment. During these next three months, staying free of any outside infection is going to be the real key – those are the actual threats to my health, as the actual leukemia is no longer present and is basically a non-factor at this point.

So, for those reading this who are fans of prayer, that’s where we would ask you to direct your prayers – that my body would fight off infection well and that I wouldn’t develop any more illnesses as a side effect of having a depressed immune system. For those of you who aren’t so big on prayer, you can call it rooting and we promise not to mind. After all, we’ll take all the well wishes, support, and love we can get, no matter what form it comes in.

Finally, Amy and I would like to thank you all for your generous outpouring of love over the past month or so. We’re remarkably lucky to be surrounded by so many great people, and the care that we have received even from afar has been fantastic. We’ve never felt like such a part of a community as do now, and we look forward to continuing to grow in relationship with all of you. To have such great friends and family is truly a gift, and we are truly grateful to have such great people in our lives.

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Day 1,060

So, I took a week off from the blog. Hopefully you didn’t miss me too much.

We’re now officially a week away from my next hospital stay. Next Tuesday morning, I report back to the hospital for what should be a fun day – I’m having a portacath surgically inserted into my chest in the morning, then getting admitted back into the hospital in the afternoon to begin my first consolidation round of chemotherapy. The portacath gives them easier access to my veins so they can draw blood, push various drugs, and generally just poke holes in my chest for the fun of it. From what I’ve been told, I won’t even be able to tell that they implanted a button into my body. I don’t believe them.

Also, in the list of things to look forward to during my next visit, the dosages of the cyterabine that I’ll be receiving is changing, and thus, so are the side affects. While my first dose of cyterabine was an around-the-clock drip, I’ll now be receiving it in a three hour burst twice a day. This higher dosage of medicine comes with the nifty side effect of irritating your tear ducts, however, so during next week’s hospital stay (and the two after that), I’ll be receiving eye drops every two hours. Around the clock. For six days.

As you can imagine, I’m very excited about this upcoming stay. I can do anything for less than a week. I can do anything for less than a week. I can do anything for less than a week.

We’re not just sitting around dreading next week, however. With my counts mostly recovered, we’ve tried to engage in social activities here at the house as much as possible. We had friends over and made them dinner on Saturday night, marking the first time we’d used our kitchen to host guests. Last night, more friends came over and brought dinner to us, which was really nice. We also have visitors lined up for the end of the week as well, and it’s been nice to not feel quite so isolated even as I try to do my best to stay infection free during my time home.

In terms of overall health, I’m happy to report I’m still doing well. I had a bit of a downward cycle over the weekend, with a lack of energy on Saturday and a near-fever on Sunday, but those symptoms are both gone and blood tests on Monday morning confirmed that there’s still no leukemia in my system and all appears somewhat normal. However, like any disease that comes with a significant risk of recurrence, we’re learning that one of the main obstacles that we will have to overcome is analyzation.

I know that’s weird to say for a guy who spends his days crunching numbers and trying to interpret convoluted formulas, but we’re also realizing that there are going to be opportunities to overreact to any small deviation from normal in how my body feels on any given day, and that fear is going to try and turn every one of those into a chance to worry that the leukemia might have returned. This is, after all, the great deceit of fear – it only has power corresponding to the amount of faith you put in it. Fear offers us the chance to worry every time my neck hurts or my leg twitches, but we have determined that we will not live in fear of leukemia returning, but will live in faith that its time has passed and it will not return.

If it does come back, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but we will not worry about bridges that are not in currently in sight. This isn’t always an easy battle, and because of the mysterious nature of cancers in general, it is easy to give validity to fears that come. However, how we respond to fear a choice, and as for Amy and I, we have chosen that we will simply give fear no credit. We place no trust in what it offers, and we disregard its opportunities for worry.

Cancer diagnoses offer a prime breeding ground for fear. Thankfully, we don’t have to cultivate it, and we don’t have to let it overtake our thoughts. It’s not always the easy path, but a month after the original diagnosis, I’m proud to say that Amy and I are still here, still standing strong, and our faith is not wavering. Hopefully that’s still true when the nurses are waking me up every two hours to put #$*!& eye drops in my eyes.

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Day 1,053

We’ve made a lot of references to the housing remodel we were in the middle of when this little leukemia speedbump reared its ugly head, but we haven’t actually shown many of you what our house looks like. So, because Amy is so proud of the kitchen her husband so expertly designed, here are some before and after shots of the best room in the house. And also of one of the bedrooms that Amy made in her style. She likes green.

Enjoy!

BEFORE…..

The Kitchen Before

and AFTER….

And one of the bedrooms BEFORE….

And AFTER….

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Day 1,052

Just a quick update for those who love updates – we got the results of Friday’s bone marrow biopsy back, and the results were good. The doctors will now agree that I’m officially in remission. My blood cells have grown back with no signs of leukemia in them, and while that doesn’t mean they can’t come back in the future, we’re encouraged that they have not yet returned, and continue to believe that they never will.

We don’t have an official schedule yet, but it sounds like I’m going to get two more weeks at home before I head back for my first round of consolidation chemo. That there won’t be any leukemia to wipe out is certainly good news, and we can hope that these rounds just serve to give my body the boost it needs to keep the leukemia from ever returning.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take about six hundred pills. They switched from me from a liquid medicine to a crushable tablet for one antibiotic today, and upped the dose I have to take in the process. The good news is that I was told that I can crush the pills into “chocolate pudding”, and we just so happen to have some homemade chocolate ice cream in the freezer. Pudding, ice cream, it’s really all the same, right? I’m going to have so much ice cream the next ten days…

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Day 1,050

Dave and I just returned from being out on a date. It is so much fun to be together again. And it was a country date at that. We went to the movies and then he took me to the Dairy O for soft serve. There is something nostalgic about the Dairy O. It brings me back to my roots. A soft serve twist with rainbow sprinkles, county music on the radio, small town people. Reminds me of Westmoreland, the town I grew up in.

Today was the first day since Dave’s admission that I didn’t have to crawl out of bed and drive to the hospital. It has been sweet. Dave is taking full advantage of his diagnosis. He will sit and ask me to do something that he could clearly do himself and then when I ask him to do something he responds with, “I’m the patient.” So I guess for now I will let him be the patient and I will tend to the little things:)

Dave did have another bone marrow biopsy yesterday to confirm he is in remission and we will have the results on Monday. But for now we are trying to focus on enjoying each other, family and friends and trying to live life as normal as possible. As his blood counts are now at safe levels we look forward to great fellowship over the next few weeks and as his appetite has returned, great food as well!!

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