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When You Have Leukemia and the Doctor Asks If You Feel Better

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He burst through the door like he was Kramer from “Seinfeld.” His smile was huge. He wasn’t acting very doctor-like.

“You’ve got to be feeling better?”

I paused. I was afraid this was going to happen. The question hung there, screaming at me. Mocking me.

“Your labs are the best since I’ve been treating you.”

It’s true. Amazing, awesome, fantastic, breathtaking news. My labs are the best they have been since at least May. That’s eight months. If you’ve been pregnant (five times, thank you very much) or know someone who has been pregnant, you know that’s a lifetime.

Well, I gotta tell ya, I loved being pregnant. I’m fortunate. I actually felt great pregnant. The past eight months felt nothing like that.

“You feel a little better, right?”

I couldn’t look at my husband. He’s amazing. He has been next to me every step, every procedure, every Doctor Day. It’s not his first time being the caregiver. He and I both know how grueling it is being the caregiver.

We both stood by our spouses, weapons tirelessly drawn, ready to attack whatever cancer popped up with next. I used to tell my First Mike, “No worries! It’s just like shooting ducks.” I was wrong. Fighting esophageal cancer is like betting against the house.

New Mike’s wife (yes, both my husbands are Mikes —  and both of us wives are Patricias — that’s a little God nod) lost to breast cancer. We didn’t know each other as my husband and his wife were dying. I’m not sure we could have seen past what was right in front of us.

We both have been to caregiver’s abyss and come out on the other side. And now, he’s a caregiver again. My heart breaks for him.

This time will be different. This time his wife won’t die.


“Yes. I think I feel a little better? I think I have a bit more energy?”

Confetti and balloons fall from the ceiling along with my face.

I demanded, “Dammit, stop being so happy. I still feel like crap. This fight isn’t over.” But what came out was, “If my numbers are so good why do I still feel so bad?”

I’m not even sure my oncologist heard me. He says we’ll know more in a week when the big results come in. Tells me I don’t need to get labs drawn for three months.

Three months? How am I going to track my progress? How am I going to know I’m getting better? He agrees “just because it’s you” to six-week labs. Yay.

On the ride home, caregiver gently smiles at me and asks if I’m OK. I start to cry.

I’m trying to be happy, I am. I’m trying so hard. But my labs say one thing and my body says something else.

We’ll get there, he says, and takes my hand.

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Getty Images photo via SARINYAPINNGAM

Originally published: January 10, 2018
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