Our Story

On March 29th, 2011, I sent Ryan an email from work that read, "I can feel our baby kicking right now." The next day, during a routine 20-week ultrasound, our doctor informed us there was no heart beat. That simple pronouncement was both the end and the beginning.

That Thursday and Friday were consumed with medical consultations and tests to determine the baby's cause of death. In preparation for the procedure to have the baby removed, my blood was analyzed. On Friday, the doctor, who would be doing the procedure, told me I had a low platelet count, which would put me at risk of "bleeding out" the following day during the procedure.

He rechecked my levels when I arrived at the clinic Saturday morning. When the results came back, he instructed me to change from the surgical gown back into my street clothes and for my family to meet me at the nearby hospital. My platelet count had dropped further, and he wanted a full medical staff and blood transfusions on hand during the procedure. He looked into my eyes and said, "There is something else off in your blood. In my 20 years of practicing, I've never seen lab results look like this."

That was the second pronouncement that week that I will never forget. He was a kind doctor, and I could see the worry in his eyes. The grief I was feeling over our baby's loss was temporarily replaced with fear. Ryan and my dad took me to the hospital, while my mom was at home with Katelyn. I couldn't stand because of the labor contractions the doctor had induced the night before to prepare for the procedure, so I was seated in a wheelchair.

While the hospital staff was trying to figure out what to do with me, I looked up at my dad and said, "The doctor thinks there's something else wrong with me. I'm scared." As any good father would do, he reassured me that wasn't the case. The hematologist who examined my blood that day reassured me of the same: the baby was affecting my blood counts, nothing more.

Lily was delivered around noon on April 2nd, while I was under general anesthesia. We hadn't known before then that she was a girl. My one personal regret throughout this whole saga is that I didn't ask that kind doctor afterward if Lily had any hair yet, and if so, what color. Katelyn was born with a full head of black hair. I will always wonder how similar (or different) to Katelyn Lily would have looked. If I'd asked about the hair, I could have had at least one factual detail for my image of Lily.

On April 7th, 2011, an oncologist informed Ryan and then me that I had acute promyelocytic leukemia. After Lily's delivery, I had experienced a series of symptoms that had become severe enough for Ryan and I to decide I needed to go to the ER that morning. I didn't return to our house for around another 40 days.

Acute promyelocytic leukemia is a blood cancer that strikes suddenly and aggressively, but is very curable. Most of those who die from it do so within the first week. Most likely, Lily saved my life. Her death triggered the medical attention that resulted in my diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

There are four people in our family-- Ryan, Katelyn, Lily and me. We are not a family of three, and we cannot consider being a family of five for several years. Katelyn has a little sister who gave her a present she won't be able to fully appreciate for years. When Katelyn is old enough to understand what Lily did for her, she will help us find a special way to celebrate what would have been Lily's birthday.

Thanks to a team of brilliant doctors, caring nurses, and the support and prayers of our family and friends, I am currently in remission. The chemotherapy treatment regimen to prevent a relapse will continue through the fall of 2013. I will be tested every three months for the presence of tumorous blood cells that would signify a relapse. We pray that each of these tests will show I am still in remission.

This blog details our family's journey through the grieving process of losing Lily and the coping and healing process of surviving cancer whiling raising our precious toddler. This journal is also about more than cancer, and more than us. As I wrote in my first post, life can be a b*tch, but we must always remember what a beautiful beach it is too.