Thunk! Thunk! Thuthunk! Thuthunk! I hear my heart beating faster and faster as Dr. B tells us that I have either leukemia or lymphoma. I turn to look at my mother, she is white as a ghost, but composed. My father’s lip is twitching to the right, but otherwise he is not letting on what he is thinking. My world as I know it is crumbling down with a simple six letter word, C-A-N-C-E-R. They are not sure what type or how bad it is, but suddenly the four sterile white walls of the eight by ten examining room are fading away and all I see is everything I have worked so hard for crashing down. The hours of practicing region music to make the All State Band while I was in excruciating pain would not be just a memory for my family of how strong willed and determined I was not to let swollen joints, fatigue and weakness keep me from fulfilling my goal of being an All State French horn player.
Cancer, cancer at my young age of 15, and not just the common ALL type leukemia. No, a very rare form of leukemia which is usually found in 65-year-old people and older. I am lucky number 31 in my age group since 1974 when they started documenting Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm. Of course, the question we all had for the doctor, what were my chances of survival? I can’t leave my family. I am not ready to die, I have stayed up too many nights to complete my homework and finish my projects or doing research will the treefrogs have finished their mating songs and gone to sleep. I have taken the Tylenol to keep the fever down because I had a test in Algebra II and I need to keep my GPA. While my friends played video games and texted their girlfriends, I sat in my living room doing homework and studying so I could maintain my GPA and keep my valedictorian ranking. I have gone to my Youth Orchestra of San Antonio and San Antonio Youth Wind Ensemble and played while my hand resembled a water filled balloon. And now the doctors are telling me I have cancer and my chances of survival according to medical statistics are 30%. Well guess what, I say medical statistics are wrong and I will live to prove them wrong. I look at my mother and she has her warrior look on her face, I look at my father and he has his, “The Lord is my Shepherd” look on his face. Together they look at me and they tell me what I have already decided, I am going to fight and I am going to win! My siblings are my champions as well. They are asked if they want to be tested to be bone marrow donors in case the chemotherapy does not work or there is a relapse and even my then 11-year-old sister is ready to fight the fight with me.
My world became the four walls, two plain white and one blue like the sky outside which I could see through the fourth wall which was made up of windows, of the hospital room at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Three times a day I was infused with three different types of chemotherapy. Poison, poison for the cancer is infused into my veins. Poison that needs special tubing since it will break the regular IV tubing. Poison which caused me nausea, vomiting, fever, rash and infection. Poison which caused my immune system to crash. Poison which allowed bacteria to wreak havoc in my body and need amphotericin to fight infection. Amphotericin which caused anaphylactic shock. Poison which caused a stroke on February 6th of 2017.
Drip, drip, beep, beep! “Caleb, is that you beeping?”, of course it is not me beeping, it Is the noisy IV machine which had become my lullaby. For four consecutive months I fell asleep to the constant drip, hum, drip, hum of the machine. While all my friends returned to school in August, I remained in the hospital. I no longer went to my school and marched with the band nor went to Church every Sunday. Teachers came in to give me classes and I even took my PSAT while sitting in my hospital bed receiving platelets and hemoglobin transfusions. The nurses became my playmates, coming in every few hours asking, “Did you put bubbles in your line again? Did you poop today? Did you shower today?” I went from having my own bedroom at home and having privacy when I needed it, to not even passing gas without people making a production out of it. The nurses measured my intake and my output. They measured my height, weight, pressure temperature, heart rate, and oxygen levels. But they also came in to show me pictures of their pets, the places they visited and even played catch with me. Do you know that syringes make great water guns?
For four months, I fell asleep to the sounds of machines infusing me with life giving poison. My leukemia was being treated like AML type leukemia, but my body could not take another month of chemotherapy in such large quantities. I was switched over to ALL type treatment and will now have to endure the poison until November of 2018. I am still fighting to win and win I shall.
My Philosophy of Writing
Many people believe that “love can move mountains”. I believe writing can do the same. The power of writing has brought about changes in our world through wars and treaties, declarations and proclamations, love letters and “Dear John” letters. The communist revolution was started by Carol Marx’s communist manifesto. The United States was established and all our laws were set forth using the Declaration of Independence and peace has been brought about by treaties with countries all around the world. Before cell phones and emails, couple who were apart maintained their relationships through letters and broke up the same way. Today, couples unite and break up through texts and emails writing formally and informally. People who have not ever met have conversations through writing on social media. Some of these conversations end up with insults and hate, but some of these written conversations have ended up in marriages, business negotiations, families being reunited and in some cases lives have been saved.
Writers not only entertain us; they take us to different worlds. Place we may one day see or fantasy worlds, like the setting of my favorite book series, Harry Potter. Writers also tell us about our past and warn us about our future. No matter what field we may be in, writing helps us succeed whether it’s writing proposals, advertisements, reports, or simple notes of appreciation; we must communicate using the written word.
Caleb J. Keller