Once upon a time there was a young girl who had all her hopes and dreams ahead of her. A life of promise. A life with no limits. She loved high school and cheerleading. She enjoyed spending time with her friends and especially her boyfriend. She was excited about her future and relished the joys of the present.
Then one day when she was just 16 years old she started to get sick. After undergoing some testing with her doctor she received a call on a Saturday morning. Saturday. The doctor’s office isn’t open on Saturday. Nervousness set in as she prepared to hear bad news. She had recently watched “A Walk to Remember” and it was all she could think about. The main character, Jamie, had been diagnosed with leukemia and died at the end of the movie. The main character of our story is also named Jamie and she knew deep down that the doctor was about to tell her that she too had leukemia. She was not wrong...,
….Once upon a time there was a young girl who had all of her hopes and dreams dashed with one word: leukemia. Except this is no fairy tale. This is real life. Jamie is real and Jamie is my friend.
Jamie was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) on November 9, 2002 at the age of 16. This is just a small part of her story.
“I’m going to die.”
Just words to most of us, looming in the distance, knowing it will happen someday. To Jamie the words hang over her head, never knowing if her cancer will suddenly go into blast crisis. Like a ticking time bomb.
“You know what’s really hard for me?” she said. “I feel like my life is a countdown.”
Jamie lost most of her high school years to leukemia. Her energy was not what it once was. She was put on a medication that was supposed to help slow the growth of the leukemia but it didn’t help. After a short time, the doctors switched her to a new medication called Gleevec – a drug that was discovered using funds that were raised through Team in Training – and it proved to be a wonder drug. The leukemia cells in her body reduced drastically with Gleevec and she was able to keep pushing through until a matching donor was found for a bone marrow transplant.
The bone marrow transplant was performed in May of 2003. Jamie spent a couple of months in a hospital in Utah recovering from the exhausting chemo and radiation treatments. During that time she felt utterly alone. Nearly everyone she knew lived a state away in Idaho and couldn’t come visit due to the distance and her compromised immune system. It was during that time that she became a Christian. She found comfort and strength in her newfound beliefs and began to feel as though maybe she wasn’t quite so alone as she thought.
Those weeks spent in the hospital were a blur. Barely remembered. As though Someone greater than herself was carrying her through that terrible time and on to the other side.
Because of the leukemia, Jamie missed out on varsity cheerleading, Prom, and so many other things that most of us take for granted in high school. These were things that she had looked forward to as she had watched the upper classmen. These were her dreams. But leukemia doesn’t care about your dreams.
Jamie had other dreams too. She wanted to be a wife and mother. But who would want to marry someone who would be sterile from radiation treatment? And for that matter, what about her dream to be a mom? Those dreams were dashed along with the rest.
In late 2005, the leukemia came back and Jamie had to get back on Gleevec until she was able to have a Donor Lymphocyte Infusion (DLI) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donor_lymphocyte_infusion) in June of 2006. She was in remission for the second time.
Another 1 ½ years later and the leukemia was back. Gleevec and a second DLI in 2008 and Jamie was in remission for the third time.
During this time, Jamie was going to school to become a Radiologic Technologist. She met Alex (my husband) who was doing the same thing. They had many classes together at BSU and became friends. They both got married around the same time. (Yes! Jamie got married! Yay!) And this is where I come in.
I met Jamie in late 2009, early 2010 when she was in remission. I got to know her and we talked a bit about how tough things had been with her leukemia. The more I got to know her, the more I wanted to get involved.
In 2010, Jamie announced that she was pregnant. She underwent infertility treatments and was able to carry her husband's child. It was an incredible dream in the making, and we were so excited for her.
Then in January of 2011, after giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, and while still nursing, Jamie discovered that her leukemia had come back. It was devastating. Suddenly she had more to lose than ever before because now she had a family. There was no way that she could take any medication while nursing and she didn’t want to give that up knowing that she may never have the opportunity to nurse another child. But she also knew she needed to get back on the Gleevec.
Finally on March 28, 2012 Jamie started taking Gleevec once again. She will have another DLI later this summer in the hopes that her leukemia will be gone for good. But who knows.
Jamie is my motivation to put on my running (walking) shoes and get off my couch on those days when I just don’t feel like it. She is my inspiration for raising money for LLS. I do this so that one day there may be a cure and she may no longer feel like she is living in a “countdown.” I do this for her and everyone else out there like her. I do this for the “Jamie”s of the world. I do this for the survivors.
Jamie, I do this for you.
Please help me in my efforts to wipe out blood cancer. Every little bit counts. $10. $25. $50. Every little bit brings us that much closer to a cure.
You can donate online here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/oswim/trees12/kristygriffard
You can learn more about LLS here: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® - Official Website
You can learn more about TNT here: Team In Training - Together We Train to Beat Cancer
I will be updating my blog, my facebook page and my TNT page to show my progress both in my fundraising efforts and in my training efforts.
For each and everyone of you that has supported me in this cause so far, I thank you. Thank you!