I had a physical in August, 2000. I had just turned 50 so it was time. I guess it was time when I turned 40 but you know.
Anyway, fifteen years ago today I got a call from my doctor with the results of the physical. Getting a call from my doctor was initially confusing. He was usually so busy that he barely had time for you when you had an appointment. The fact that he was calling me and not one of his staff got my attention. But when he told me I had Chronic Lypmphocytic Leukemia or CLL I am not sure if I was still paying attention.
So many things were going through my mind. I know I heard the word leukemia and I knew enough about that to know it was not a good thing to have. People die from leukemia. After the initial shock I did hear my doctor say that if you were to have cancer then this is the one you would want. I didn’t want cancer. He then went on to say that most CLL patients die from something else all together and that many never get treated at all.
He gave me the name of an oncologist and I hung up. I immediately went to the web, we didn’t have Google in 2000 but I did a search and read up on CLL. I wanted to know something about this before I called Eileen.
What I learned about CLL was basically what the doctor had told me. I can’t say I felt good but I did feel better. I was now able to call Eileen and give her the news.
I don’t remember much of the call to Eileen except trying to be as optimistic as the doctor had been.
” I probably will die from something else and won’t even need to be treated” are some of the things I said. I am sure she didn’t buy it. As bad as email is to communicate things like this to loved ones, the telephone wasn’t much better. I gave her the name of the oncologist that the doctor had given me and she knew him. As a nurse in the same hospital where he attended it turned out to be a blessing. She got me in to see him the very next day.
So began my fifteen year relationship with Dr. Louis Avvento and his team at Eastern Long Island Hematology and Oncology.
On that first visit in August of 2000 I was assured of a 10 year survival rate. ( I didn’t write anything five years ago because he was treating Eileen and, thank God, just as successfully as he treated me.) Well, I am still here and still going to ELIHO. Over the years Dr. Avvento has become much more than a clinician to me and my family. We talk as much about the Yankees and especially the New York Rangers as we do about CLL. He has treated me not just the disease. His staff have been wonderful. Can you imagine feeling good about going to your oncologist? I have more angst getting a hair cut. That is because you feel so cared for and appreciated when you enter the office.
Everyone smiles and is so reassuring and uplifting. You are immediately put at ease,
One of the things that naturally happens when you are in a treatment setting for several hours is that you meet other patients. Some don’t always respond to the treatment the way you do. There have been people that I got to know that have passed. It’s a reality check that you don’t like to dwell on but is there right in front of you, nonetheless.
I was treated with chemotherapy in 2000 and again in 2007. I have been in remission since 2008. My numbers have been going up, specifically my white blood count but not nearly where it was when treatment was required. So far everything else is right where I want to be. But you don’t take anything for granted.
The other thing I try not to take for granted is people. Family and friends have been with me through all of this journey. The same group was there for Eileen and me when Eileen was going through her journey.
Sometimes I do wonder “Why Us?” But then I look around and realize that I have nothing to complain about. On the contrary, I have so much to be grateful for.
We have been blessed with so many people that have cared for us. Our circle of friends has expanded just at the time of life when it usually recedes. To complain about what life has presented would just seem silly.