Bone. Marrow. Biopsy.
Three words I hoped I’d never hear again. But that’s where we were on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly’s blood work numbers came back askew. Not all the numbers were bad. In fact, all the numbers were in the normal range — except for the one number that really counts, his absolute neutrophils. Neutrophils are white blood cells that fight off infection. Kelly’s neutrophil number was 1, meaning he had about 1,000 of those cells to fight off infection in his body. That’s a problem because normal absolute neutrophils will range from 1.8 to 7.7. In July, his absolute neutrophil number was 4.2 — the best it’s been since he went into remission. When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, his neutrophil number was 0.
Neutrophils (The most abundant white blood cells in most mammals.)
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When we were discussing options, Dr. Foster looked at Kelly and said, “Another bone marrow biopsy is an option. I know a biopsy is uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable,” Kelly replied wryly. “Is when your underwear rides up. Bone marrow biopsies are excruciating. But it’s the only way we’ll know for sure what’s going on, so let’s do it.”
So, this past Monday, two years, ten months, and 27 days from the first time he had a bone marrow biopsy, he lay on a gurney at the UNC Cancer Hospital having his sixth one. He was face down, waiting patiently while Dr. Van (his other cancer doctor) was preparing the site where the needle would be inserted. I was holding his hand and it just didn’t seem like it was enough, so I got on my knees by the gurney and laid my head next to his so that we could be face to face.
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We prayed. We cried. He gasped in pain as they numbed his hip. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks as Dr. Van used three separate vials to aspirate marrow samples.
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It’s hard to watch the man who is your earthy rock go through so much pain. It makes you feel so small. And I remembered several scriptures and began to pray them:
All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave. (Psalm 31:24, NCV)
Always respect the Lord. Then you will have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true. (Proverbs 23:17b-18, NCV)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)
Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. (Roman 12:12, NCV)
When I had no more words, I sang.
I sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness*.”
I sang “He is with Us*,” by Love and the Outcome.
We were holding each other’s hands so tightly that our fingers were white. So I poured out my tears, a language that only God truly understands. And in near silence, Dr. Van continued to work.
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And Kelly broke the silence, not with a gasp of pain, but with these prayerful words, sung so softly that I might have missed it if I hadn’t been so close to him:
Almost immediately, Dr. Van said, “There is power in the Blood. And I know that you both know that God has this — either way.”
I usually write something about weight loss on Wednesday — physical weight loss. Today’s post is about losing the weight of a spiritual burden. I took a great deal of fear with me into that procedure room, but I came out feeling light and full of hope.
What will the biopsy show? We don’t know. But we know God’s got this — either way.
*To listen to each song, just click on the title. “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is sung by George Beverly Shea, who for years was the voice of the music at all the Billy Graham Crusades. Kelly loves Billy Graham and loved to hear GBS sing.
- Bone Marrow Biopsy, Echo Cardiogram, Flowers, and Unexpected Discharge…Because Insurance (eugiefoster.com)
- The big 6 month mark. Well almost. (dwpruitt.wordpress.com)
- The Calm After the Storm: Stories From the Front Lines (prweb.com)
- Day +118 (olliesbonemarrowtransplant.wordpress.com)
- The bone marrow biopsy (igotthegoodcancer.wordpress.com)
- All Titles Sound Too Trite (lauratucker64.wordpress.com)