Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Letters To Janette

We are starting a new line of posts called "Letters To Janette." We're going to give her some uplifting letters while she goes through all of this. Starting tonight with Kiersten. Enjoy...

Something I really admire about Marc and Janette is the love they have for each other. I think of their relationship as a good old-fashioned love story. They call each other “sweetheart” and say, “I love you” all the time. They were high school sweethearts. Marc started to do whatever he could to make Janette happy. He started being romantic and listening to love songs. They were crazy about each other. 

When Marc went on a mission for the LDS church, Janette waited for him. She wrote to Marc all the time encouraging to keep going and what he was doing was right. Marc had some medical issues while on his mission and had to come home for a little bit. You would think that Janette would want Marc to just stay home and not finish him mission, but she encouraged him to go back out there and finish what he started. When he got back from his mission, we were not surprised that they were engaged a week later. They were married and started the cutest little family. 

I was so sad when they moved away from us to go to Pharmacy school in Alabama. Janette, of course, was encouraging Marc the whole time during school. She was taking care of Conner, Brayden and the household chores. Janette was just happy to be with her family. Right before Marc and Janette were going to come home, they found out that Janette was had leukemia. I saw Janette be so strong while going through a 30-day chemo treatment. Being away from her boys was heartbreaking. I saw Marc encouraging Janette that she can get through this and he will be right by her side the whole time. The way I see their relationship is that both are in it 100%. They do not meet each other half way. They walk along side each other through it all, supporting each other. 

Janette, Thank you for being an amazing wife to my brother, he is a better man because of you. I know that Marc loves you and he will support you and encourage you through your battle. I am here for you and Marc. I love you both SO much and I will do ANYTHING to help you guys! 

Kiersten (Marc's Sister)   

My Story

I decided to tell my story from the beginning up to now so that those of you who are new to my blog can hear my full story.
In 2008 my husband, two young sons and I moved from Utah to Alabama for my husband to attend the Mcwhorter School of Pharmacy. My husband went to school during the day and worked part time at night while I stayed home with our boys. During the summer before his 4th and final year of pharmacy school I noticed that I was sick all of the time and I was constantly exhausted. Then I began having night sweats and hot flashes. My doctor thought that maybe I had Mono. Finally my gums became swollen and red and I had a severe headache. My headache finally prompted me to go to the emergency room on November 14, 2011. There they performed blood tests and found that my white cell count was at 66,000 (normal is 500-10,000) They immediately assumed I had Leukemia. They admitted me and performed a painful bone marrow biopsy and confirmed their diagnosis. The type of Leukemia I have is called AML. Without treatment patients have 1-4 weeks to live. Because of the seriousness of my disease they immediately began inpatient intense chemo therapy. I was in the hospital for 32 days. During that time family flew in from Utah to take care of my kids (now 3 and 5 years old) while my husband continued his education and spent the nights at the hospital with me. When I was finally able to go home they let me stay there for 1 week. Then it was back to the hospital for a 6 day stay of consolidation chemo to ensure I stayed in remission. After this round of chemo I developed a fever of 104 and my blood pressure dropped into the 70’s. I was hospitalized and put on numerous antibiotics. My fever persisted and the doctors couldn’t figure out the cause. Finally they discovered that my Gall Bladder was enlarged and infected. Also, because of all the antibiotics I had kidney failure and liver failure. They also discovered that the intense chemo had caused heart failure. They inserted a drain tube into my gall bladder because I was too critical to operate on. They then kept me in the hospital for 2 weeks until my kidneys and liver recovered. I was finally able to go home for 2 weeks! Then I was back for more chemo. They lowered my dose this time and I tolerated it much better. By this point (mid February) my husband had been unable to work since November, our student loans were running out, and our medical bills had climbed above $10,000.00. Our family and friends came together to pay our rent and utilities. We then decided that we should move back to Utah where we could live with my parents so our kids could have a more stable home and I could receive treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital. We moved on February 29. That week I began having severe pain in my gall bladder. One week later they were able to remove my gall bladder only to find that there was a hole in it! After recuperating from surgery I went in for my 4th round of chemo. My doctor then told me that with chemo alone I only had a 30% chance of long term survival (they consider 5 yrs long term) and that if I came out of remission they would not be able to use the intense drugs that they initially used in November because of my heart damage. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get me back into remission. He said my best chance was to do a bone marrow transplant. After transplant I would have a 70% chance of long term survival which is a number I could accept much better than 30%! The process of a transplant first involves finding a donor. Remarkably they were able to find me a donor that is a 100% match! Then I will have about a 35 day stay in the hospital where I receive more chemo, then they implant my new bone marrow. The main problem in leukemia patients is that their immune system does not recognize the cancer cells as being foreign. The cancer is then allowed to grow until there is no more room for regular white and red blood cells. The goal of transplant is that when you take someone else’s bone marrow and implant it in a leukemia patient, the new immune system takes over and recognizes the cancer as being foreign and begins to attack it. The new immune system eventually eradicates the disease. While this sounds like a great plan, it can also be a very dangerous and lengthy process. After I am released from the hospital I will need to stay in an apartment or hotel close to the hospital for the next 70 days. If I get an infection of any kind I will need to be hospitalized and receiving antibiotics within 2 hours for the best chance of survival. Full recovery takes 1-5 years with weekly doctor visits. We are currently preparing for transplant to begin on May 11 (my 28th birthday!) My husband is set to graduate on May 18th in Alabama. I am very sad that I won’t be there to see him graduate, but hopefully his parents will face time with me during the ceremony! I am so proud of him! The pharmacy market in Utah is currently flooded with pharmacists and my husband has not yet been able to secure a job. It is even more difficult since I have to stay so close to the Huntsman Hospital for so long. We are unsure of what our future holds, but we know that with the help of our family, friends and caring strangers we will be ok. My doctor once told me that cancer is a marathon, not a sprint. I feel like I can finally see the finish line, even if it is still a ways off.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Panic Attack

I am the only person who has mistaken a panic attack for a pulmonary embolism and ruined her sisters birthday? I think so!!!! Let me explain....  So I have a large blood clot in my sub clavian vein (right by my heart) so the doctor has put me on a high dose of blood thinners. On Saturday I went to the movie with my two sisters and mom to celebrate my sisters birthday. During the movie I suddenly felt like my body was on fire and I was having a hard time breathing. I hurry and stood up and signaled for my mom to follow me out. When we got out side my symptoms began to subside but my mom said I was white as a ghost and clammy. I called the on call oncologist and after hearing my symptoms and looking at my chart he said that he thinks it was just a panic attack and that looking at everything I'm going through he's not surprised! He then told me to take an adivan and go to bed! The experience really scared me. I have to say that while sitting in that theater I really thought I was going to die. The first thought that I had was "I can't die in a movie theater! I want to be home with my family!!"  I am SO glad that it was just a panic attack. I liked to think that after months of facing the possibility of death that I have come to accept it. But after that experience I realized that not only have I not accepted it, but I don't know if I ever can. I just can't image a future that doesn't involve me raising my kids and growing old with my sweetheart. Life really is precious and I pray every night that God will bless me with the opportunity to raise my family, and hopefully help others in my situation.
-and again LeAnn, I'm sorry I ruined your birthday!


We will be holding a fundraiser for Janette and Marc and The Boys on Friday, May 4th from 5pm to 8pm at Box Elder High School. We will have food, carnival for kids, a silent auction, a raffle and entertainment. It is going to be a great night. We are taking donations for this fundraiser until May 2nd. We have plenty of room for people to set up booths to sale their product. We can't wait to see you all there! Details of who to contact are at the bottom.

Thanks so much!

For donations or questions you can email

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bone Marrow Transplant

Well, it's been a long time since I've done an update. Life has been crazy! We have settled in Utah and I've just finished my third consolodation. I had a doctors appointment today and they told me that they have found a perfect match for my bone marrow transplant! apparently it's really hard to find a perfect match. I am very blessed to have one. A transplant is my best chance for long term survival. Transplant requires a 30 day hospital stay, then I have to be within 30 min of The Huntsman Institute for 70 days in case I get an infection. I will be on immuno suppresants to help my body accept my new immune system, so if I get an infection it can become life threatening within just 2 hours. Full recovery takes about 1 year. I am very scared about going through all this, and I don't know how I will be away from my family for 30 days, but I know I have to do it. I heard a quote that said "you don't know how strong you are until you don't have a choice". That is very accurate!
So, it takes about 5-6 weeks to prepare for a transplant. In the mean time, my doctor thinks I might have a blood clot in my right shoulder where my central line is. So I will be going in to get my line pulled in the next day or two then I will probably have to have blood thinning shots every day for a while. The worst part is that they will have to put a new line in my left shoulder for transplant. I remember getting my first line in, it hurt for about 4 weeks! I am not looking forward to the new line! My doctor also might want to do another round of chemo next week just to make sure I don't come out of remission before transplant. When he told me this, despite my best efforts, I broke into tears! I really don't know if I can handle more chemo! My body and my phyche have had enough!! It's such a hard decision though. If I don't do it and I come out of remission then they might not be able to get me back into remission. Is it worth the risk to not do it? I really hate these decisions. I really wish someone would trade me places for just a few weeks and make all the hard decisions for me!
On a positive note, my amazing friends and family are putting on a fundraiser for me on May 4th. We are having a carnival for the kids, and entertainment and a silent auction for the adults. I'm very excited to go with my family and see everyone there. I really hope I'm not in the hospital on that day. All this talk of more chemo really throws a wrench in my planning!
Marc is staying stong, but stressed! He is getting ready to graduate from pharmacy school, take the exams, and find a job. He is such a support to me though. He is always there by my side telling me how much he loves me. Sometimes I'm afraid he wishes he would have married someone who could be healthy for him and his kids. I feel like such a burden. But I think he read my thoughts! He let me know that he would support me even if it meant getting chemo for the rest of my life, and he wouldn't want to be with anyone else. He's so intuitive ;)
My boys are handling everything pretty good. Conner is really frustrated that the doctors don't know what caused my cancer. He is all set to go to medical school and figure it out himself! Both boys keep telling me they don't want me to go to the hospital anymore. It breaks my heart because I know what is in store. I wish they could understand that I'm doing this for them, and that being away from them breaks my heart every second that I'm away from them. One day I hope they'll know just how much I love them.