Favorite Quote

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
-Randy Pausch

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And Here's To You, Mr. Akre

Mr. Akre, this post is for you...

A week ago I met an individual that I will never, ever forget.  He is a man of great courage, commitment, selflessness, faith, and hope.  And he is, my friends, going to be an anomaly...

As I walked into the Ambulatory Infusion Center my brain was spinning.  I knew I was going to get my Remicade Infusion regardless, but wasn't looking forward to getting poked by a needle, wasn't sure if they were going to find a vein, didn't want to sit there for 3+ hours, etc etc.  As I was waiting to get taken back to my room I looked down at my arms and saw a few healthy veins.  I slyly smiled because I knew that the lil bastards were going to disappear as soon as a needle pierced my skin, or rather, came into the nurses line of sight.  They roll, harden, and hide when it comes to getting pricked.  I firmly believe in the subconscious self.  People, I'm not crazy, it's real.  I don't freak out when I get stuck with a needle.  I can be as calm, cool, and collected as I want to be.  But my veins, well, they have a mind of their own.

I was led back to the four chaired room and sat in between two Chemo patients.  This is when I met the man who made my heart bleed.  

Mr. Akre is a  young man of 59 years old.  As we started chatting I learned that he graduated from The Boat School in 1972, retired as a senior officer from the SWO community, and had a loving wife and a 31 year old daughter with a successful business of her own.  I also learned that he had lung cancer.  And that the docs gave him 7-12 months to live.

We were talking about his cancer when he told me they gave him 7-12.  I stopped for a minute, not sure what I had heard.  I carefully asked, "Wait, you've got 7-12 months left on Chemo?"  Mr. Akre looked at me and said, "No, they say that is my life expectancy."  

I cannot describe the emotions I felt at that moment.  It's like getting hit by an overwhelming emotional mack truck.  Your heart melts, cries, bleeds, wants to reach out and hug this man and tell him everything will be alright and that he will grow old with his wife and see his grandchildren be born and grow...

After I got over my initial shock I looked at him and said, "Don't listen to them, they don't know.  YOU will be the anomaly."  And he smiled.  He's a double major from Boat U in math and engineering.  He knows what being an anomaly means.  And he will be.  Mr. Akre has guts and the drive to survive and beat this thing.  And I'm confident that he will.  When discussing the side effects of Chemo he said, "Even if the chemo makes me really ill I'll do it, because if it gives me one more month, it's worth it."  

And then a man who was supposed to be dead 10 years ago piped in (Mr. Akre was to my right and this man, whose name I don't recall, was to my left).  He said, "Ten years ago they gave me 6 months to live.  I'm still alive today.  It's all about having a positive attitude."  This man had a very rare cancer called liposarcoma, which is cancer of the fat cells.  At the time he was diagnosed there were only 74 documented cases of liposarcoma in the world.  His docs gave him an expiration date, and he kicked them in face by being alive today.  

His comment led to a room wide discussion (three chemo patients, two men and one woman, and our nurse were in the room with me).  Our nurse said that some people get tired of the fight and are just ready to go home.  They are tired from the overwhelming pain and suffering that is not only caused to themselves, but their loved ones as well.  We all agreed that life changing day that we were all fighters and would not be beaten by our illnesses.  We then laughed and joked.  Mr Akre joked that he has paid into social security his entire adult life and will be damned if he doesn't see any of that money!  The man whose name I can't recall joked that when he first married his wife (after he was diagnosed with cancer) he told her that she didn't have to worry about him dying because he didn't want her to be happy a day of her life, and by him dying, she would be happy.  Our room laughed.  Through all of the pain, suffering, and cheating death, we laughed.  Our room was so loud that we could be heard down the hallway.  There was faith and hope in our infusion room that day.  The man who was supposed to be dead 10 years ago was an anomaly.  Mr. Akre is well on his way to becoming an anomaly.  And the woman, well, we never did get to talk to her much, but she laughed and felt the positive spirit that arose in our room that day.  She too, whatever her internal battle is, will be an anomaly.  As for me, though I feel my struggles do not nearly compare to these three individuals, will just keep thanking God for my blessings, health, and wonderful family.   

This was an afternoon that changed my life.  Emotions arose that I never knew existed.  I saw the important part of life that day.  We wake up, complain, go about our normal day to day lives expecting that we will have another day.  We don't worry about possibly only having months to live.  When you look at the world from the eyes of a cancer patient, terminally ill patient, or one who suffers from chronic illness, you will see that things you thought were important were never important at all.  You will then cherish every moment of every day and be thankful for what bit of health yo do have.  And, most importantly, you will be thankful to be alive.

Keep fighting Mr. Akre.  You are, after all, the anomaly.

The below pic was taken on my last infusion day at Portsmouth.

Just to give you an update on myself, I have officially been in remission for 2.75 months WITHOUT the use of prednisone.  This is the first time, in almost three years, the entire time I've had Crohn's, that this has happened.  My Gastro doc more than doubled my original remicade dosage and that seemed to do the trick (GREAT SUCCESS).  

Sadly I have left my Gastro family in VA for a new Gastro fam in WA.  I have my first appointment this Tuesday with my new Gastro doc.  Doc Smith, you will be missed!  For the nurses that took care of me during my infusions, thank you.  For the entire Gastroenterology Department that helped me through relapse after painful relapse, thank you.  You all are awesome and definitely set the bar astoundingly high.  Thank you for taking care of me.  I will miss you all.  =(

And to all of you who have taken the time to read this post and others...I will never go over two months again without an entry!  No excuse for that!  Writing is my therapy, and I hope it helps you in your daily life journeys.  Until next time...


Grammy said...

"hello" my Baby Girl:
Every time I read your blog, I learn something, you were put there by Mr Akre an the other man, by our Good Lord, to give them peace, light and joy (everybody ended up laughing right?) you are an angel my baby, I am so glad to hear that you are doing well, by now at your "new hometown", and YES, thank you to your Doctors, Nurses and all the staff that took care of you in Virginia, God bless them all always", you will find people like those in Washington, I am praying for that, remember Baby Girl, DIOS QUIERE MUCHO A SUS HIJOS, OK? never forget that..love, Grammy

Emma said...

I love you SO MUCH Grammy Girl! SO MUCH.

Rooster said...

Hi, I`ve been reading your blog for a while now, so I`m glad you came back - you have such an awesome attitude. Stay healthy!

Barb said...

What a great blog, Emm. You're such an inspiration to all of us. Keep RocKin', girlfriend!!!!!! I miss my little Emm....Barb

Anonymous said...

Wow. After chatting with you for 5 minutes totally unaware of your blog or the changes in your life I was telling you you had a great attitude! You pin on the difficulties you've gon through and your attitude got stronger! huh? That's not normal. Well for you Emma...I guess it is. :) For every day you feel and think you're healed, you are. For every day you feel healed, but think you aren't...you aren't. What of those days when you think you are healed yet don't feel as such? Well...those days are an anomaly.

Oh and as extremely beautiful as your face is, it is not your looks that most of your friends love about you. It is that energizing attitude that showers us with happiness, interest, and love in the girl who just so happens to have that wonderful smile to lead the way. :) AND YOU WRITE SO WELL!!! -Duane