Allow me to take a few minutes discussing someone’s cancer, other than mine.
Declan Hobbs is the nephew of my cousin Tammy Baio. Tammy was married to my cousin until he died way before his time. So, she is my family, and by extension, so is Declan.
They have started a Go Fund Me page for Declan, which, if you are so moved, you can make a donation to. If you are not moved to make a financial donation, please keep this young boy in your prayers.
Here is his story, as told by Tammy on Go Fund Me:
“On Tuesday August 16th my brother and his wife, Doug and Joanne, got the call that no parent should ever have to get. They were told that their son has Leukemia, and to rush him to the hospital immediately. They weren’t sure if he was going to make it through the night. They had taken him to the Doctor that day because he had bruises on his body that just wouldn’t go away, as well as little red spots under his arms. At that second, their world was completely shattered. He has been diagnosed with a rare aggressive sub type AML leukemia. He is fighting for his life and is having very intense CHEMO treatments. Declan is 5 years old and will turn 6 this week in the hospital. He is so weak already, and we’re told he will get even more sick from the intense chemo treatments he was started in. He will lose his hair this week, and will be going through pure hell. The family is doing everything they possibly can to hold it all together. They have been by his side and are also trying to care for Declan’s older sister Alexa who is 7. She is taking this very hard as you can imagine, and may be facing a terrifying ordeal of donating bone marrow to her brother. This beautiful little family is absolutely devastated. Their world has been thrown upside down and they are doing everything they can to get through this. As you can imagine, Doug and Joanne have missed and will miss a lot more work in order to be by their little boys side while he fights this painful and scary battle with cancer. We’re just asking for a little help for them, so they can continue to be with him until he heals. This will be a tough journey, but we have faith that he will be well, and we will not stop believing this!! This is a very aggressive cancer, and they need all the prayers and support they can get. Anything you can do is so greatly appreciated. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
All I can add is, please ask God what he wants you to do for this young boy. Give, pray or help in his honor. Let God guide you through this.
Sorry about the huge delay. I think I was pretty lazy the last little bit.
In the last 6 weeks, we sold our old house, moved into our new offices, moved into our new house and took a 2 week+ 5th year anniversary trip.
Needless to say, that was a crazy period, but not as crazy as the list the beautiful and talented one has for me to do at the new place!
I reread the last post and I am sorry about how analytical and boringit was (self-reflection!).
So, let’s get through the rest of that day quickly and hit some highlights of those early days!
Here is the rest of that day in snapshots of craziness:
Around midnight, a couple of nurses came rushing in and told me that they needed to take me for a CT exam. I asked why and they said the doctors thought I might have bleeding on my brain.
They put me in a wheelchair and they pushed me at a jog to the CT place. Of course, I was a little worried.
To this day, I don’t know what the outcome was, or even why they thought I had bleeding on the brain. Truthfully, I think they took the wrong patient!
After that, they raced back to “pick up my blood samples”, where they left me in a hallway in the wheelchair for about 15 minutes. They then came back I was allowed to go back to bed. It was very surreal.
I woke up the next day with my personal doctor, Dr. Ainhorn, sitting in a chair watching me. He told me he wanted to have everything checked.
Throughout the day, he sent a surgeon (in case it was an internal problem), an infectious disease doctor, and a few other random people who all seemed to just need to push on me and check my pulse.
A few hours later, I was lying in my bed (still constipated) when a doctor came into the room and told me he needed to have me prepped for a hip aspiration. I said, “why do you have to do that.” His answer? “Because we need to find out what kind of leukemia you have.”
My heart dropped and I asked, “I have leukemia?” He then got very nervous and said, “Umm, can you have family or a friend come by at 1:00 to discuss your diagnosis.”
Seriously, that was how I found out. Terrific bedside manner. I called a good friend, Darryl, to ask him to come to the office. I told him they thought I had leukemia. He came over right away with a gift of a journal from himself and his wife, Cheryl.
I also talked to Valerie and she pulled over on the side of the road on her way to Fort Lauderdale and sat on the side of the road and cried with me. My oldest daughter was in the car and was asking Valerie’s assistant, “what is wrong with my Dad?” The thought of it still makes me teary eyed.
Before either he, or my Mom, could make it, they came to do the test. There were seriously 4-5 nurses there holding me down to keep me from moving if it was painful. I cried the entire time, I thought my life was over.
Of course, God had other plans and other people he wanted to put in front of me first!
By the way…God wanted to all to know that He loves you! #FTK (For The King)
Ahh, I remember, my Mom (Marci) and Dad (Russ) coming over to watch Brady and take me to the clinic. I called them at 9:41 and asked if my Dad could drive me over to a clinic. While we were trying to figure out where the nearest clinic was, I remember saying, just take me to the hospital.
At 9:43 I text Valerie and told her I was going to the hospital. I remember her telling me to “suck it up, that I was just constipated”. I laughed a bit, but it hurt.
From here, it gets very crazy. I left the house at about 10:45 the morning of February 17, very sad but I knew I couldn’t stay home. My thought while leaving for the hospital was how much I was disappointing Brady on our “guy’s weekend”. Anyway, I make the ride over to Crittenton with my Dad. Always an adventure riding with my Dad (the stories I can, and probably will, tell), but when I was in as much pain as I was, it was like being on a roller coaster! An extremely bumpy roller coaster and as Valerie would tell you, I am a total wuss about roller coasters.
Anyway, he dropped me off at the Emergency Room and went to find a parking spot. When I got myself into the lobby, the guard just told me to go down the hall and talk to the nurse, it was now 10:55. So, in my complete crouch, I walked down the long hall into the area with the beds and went to the counter. When the nurse asked if she could help me, my response was simply, “my stomach hurts a lot.”
They got me into a bed and gave me a remote control to watch a horrible television mounted way up on the ceiling. I ended up staring at that TV a lot of the day. I really couldn’t hear it and I realized just how freakin’ many lawyer commercials there are on basic television. My constant companions during my many hospital stays were the Mike Morris Law Firm and 1 800 Call Sam. I think I can still tell you what every commercial said.
Then something I had never seen happen happened. A tech came into the room and took a chest x-ray of me, while I was sitting in the bed! It was really weird.
The day began ticking away, as only a time in a hospital can..amazingly slow.
I was sent for an ultrasound first. It was inconclusive. Inconclusive, but at least I got to drink that stuff that tastes like 7Up and turns you off of 7Up forever. I sent Valerie a text with a picture of the bottle. She laughed, because she had had to do that at the hospital about a month before. Hers was for a bowel obstruction. We were sure that was what I had too. Cause we play doctors on TV! Sorry, old joke.
Then I was send for a CT scan. They thought my spleen looked a bit enlarged. At this point, I was just praying it was a problem where they had to remove the spleen and I could skip home. Nope.
At 2:52 pm on the 16th, I just remember beating myself up for letting Brady down. I told my Dad that he needed to go take Brady out for dinner. I said Dave and Busters, but I believe they went to a Coney Island. My Dad was very reluctant to leave. I love my Dad. Though my Dad was never an emotional guy, we weren’t a huggy “love you” family, but seeing my Dad sitting by my bedside that day, I knew how much he loved me.
At 4:54, a doctor came over to tell me my white blood cell count was low and they were thinking I probably had a viral infection. I can tell you, I felt so much better. Little did I know.
I talked to Valerie sometime during this and told her it was just a viral infection but they wanted me to stay the night. We both spoke bravely, on the edge of tears. I know Valerie mentioned in her blog post that we had been having a very hard time in our marriage prior to that. I can say we did compatibility testing with our Kensington Church Marriage Mentors and they said we were probably the most compatible couple they had seen. The
two of us having very few differing points. I loved her to death, but couldn’t make her believe it. I was a garbage husband at that time, and I had been preparing myself for her giving up on me. The thing is God works miracles. God also knows how much love Valerie and I have for each other. We are honest when we tell people that we are soul mates. She still is and always will be. Every day, it is His hand that makes sure we love each other and pour out to others.
OK, now that I have wiped up a few tears, let’s continue.
It was 6:12 and they started prepping me for my stay. I love when a 2-star hotel/4-star hospital gets you your room without a view! I can tell you, the people at Crittenton were amazing, kind, and so very supportive, though. So I couldn’t complain too much.
Oh yeah, I couldn’t complain too much. That wasn’t exactly true. You will find out through this entire process I became a very needy prick. Especially to Valerie. I complained like I was doing it for money. However, I always tried to be nice to the hospital staff. Valerie took most of the brunt. It was so unfair and I am truly sorry. Valerie was and is my rock in storms, holding God’s hand while grabbing mine and pulling me up. Without her, I would have died. Not because of the doctors or treatments, but because I would have given up. She never let me give up.
While I was being prepped, I just remember thinking this was not a scary thing. Just get that viral infection fixed and I would be good to go.
I was taken to 6 South (Just before I left for Karmanos, I found out that 6 South is the oncology floor). There I met Rachel, my lead nurse. She was funny and nice and she seemed truly worried about my health.
That was the end of the first day.
It was also 36 hours since my last bowel movement. Sleep came because of drugs, but I was in so much pain, I could never get comfortable.
I thought February 16, 2014 was tough. It was just the tip of the iceberg.
The best stories begin at the beginning or is it the end? Either way I will start my story where I want to, that is the way I usually do things, my way. If you asked me “Valerie you sexy lady. What do you think of cancer” I would respond pre 2014 with “It is terrible, sounds terrible and I am sure there is a cure. The government just doesn’t want us to know about a cure as they would lose a ton of revenue.” If you were to ask me, post 2014, I will give you the same answer only before responding I would ask a question. “What kind, is it someone you know, what hospital are they in and do they have someone?” The someone I worry about is someone that they can stand beside, follow and lean on with the weight of their problems. Who you are and who you have in cancer are huge, they make all the difference. I was about to learn this lesson.
At the end of 2013 Brian and I were just coming off one of the worst years of our marriage. We were struggling both personally and professionally. I realized that we had been on two different paths, mine was heading in the right direction of course. Brian was off, this is the best way to describe it. We took a much needed vacation in November. We spent an amazing time away and I was hoping that we could cruise through Christmas with an open mind. My vacation high didn’t last too long and that made my selfish diva side angry, she is one mean bitch. December was horrible, I hate Christmas as it is, the kids were constantly sick. Each week they were bringing something new home. Brian was getting everything along with them. I would pump him full of more vitamins and tell him to “suck it up buttercup we have shit to do”. I will let you know that I am not romantic, I don’t like to be taken care of and don’t expect me to drag your sorry ass along if you can’t keep up. I know harsh, it is what it is. I questioned him as he forgot things, broke things and just plain ignored me. We met with our marriage mentors, worked out, prayed, fought and snuggled. Nothing was working and I began to question everything. My birthday was horrible and I’m pretty sure he almost forgot. So, I did what any sane woman would do I got Botox, got a haircut and some new clothes. I worked on myself thinking that it was me, he just was bored with life in general. For Christmas and birthdays 2014 I decided that I would take Alexa and Kristie on vacation. I was hoping the girl bonding time would make everything feel better. I would be gone for a week and in that time Brian would somehow get his shit together and we could get back to life.
Alexa, Kristie and I left for the airport the night before our trip. I am a bear in the morning and probably the slowest person getting ready, besides Kristie. Somehow I managed to find an amazing assistant/best friend that is more scattered than I myself tend to be. My plan for this trip was to visit Fort Myers, where I lived, and drive to Miami down the Keys and then back to Fort Lauderdale. We were in Key West when Brian started texting me that he wasn’t feeling well. I was texting him how annoyed I was that our hotel was insanely crappy and that the brand should be ashamed. My DBS was throwing a hissy fit and stomping around. I have a feeling that this was the point that God may have been laughing, I think that God has an amazing sense of humor. I make my point with the manatee, platypus and sloth. We boarded a boat to go snorkeling the morning of February 15th. The 3 of us spent a beautiful day out on the ocean with a guide. The water is comforting for me and the ocean runs through my veins. We found a group of dolphins while we were cruising that stayed right by us the whole time. At one point, I was hanging off the front of the boat with my hands in the ocean thinking everything is going to be great. My life is great! I have everything I need and want, its great! We are blessed! Look at this trip its amazing and the world is beautiful. Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! And then it hit, salt water, dolphin snot and the smell of fish. The dolphin sprayed me right in the face from the blowhole. If you didn’t know, now you know that blowhole water is gross and smells worse than chum sitting in the sun. Somehow in that moment life would never be the same…..
My name is Brian DiBartolomeo and this is my story.
Today is February 17, 2016, it is officially 2 years since I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and I thought my life was over.
I am starting this blog to talk about the things I went through during this process and maybe to help others who are going through similar situations.
I want to thank my wife, Valerie, for the amazing support she gave me throughout treatment and during recovery. Our company and family would have fallen apart without her strength. She is the most amazing woman on the planet and the love of my life!
We both want to acknowledge that none of my recovery would have been possible without God’s loving hand directing the doctors and nurses at Karmanos Cancer Center through my treatment and continuing today. God is Great!
So, how does one go about getting diagnosed with leukemia, which is a blood cancer for those who don’t know.
Well, it started when my wife and oldest daughter, Alexa, went with Kristie Lynch on a trip to Key West.
On February 14th, our youngest son, Brady, and I went to the Oakland University vs. U of Detroit Basketball game. It was a great time and a great game…mostly because the Grizzlies won!
Then on February 15th, I went with my father-in-law, Gordie, to see Billy Joel live at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It was a great show, but when the last song started I got a pain in my stomach that felt like the worst gas bubble ever. That last song? “Only the Good Die Young”. Nearest Valerie and I have been able to tell, I probably had other symptoms, but God chose that song, by my favorite artist, to tell me to get it checked out. He was giving me a pain at a time when I would pay attention.
Once I got home, my mother-in-law, Julie, had Brady in bed and I was in such bad pain that I had to sit on the stairway in our house just to keep from showing the pain I was in.
When Gordie and Julie left, I went to my room to sleep. Brady came in because he wanted to say goodnight and I told him I was sorry I felt a bit sick then but that on Sunday we would go to Kensington Church, then another Oakland University game, and then to Dave and Busters. He loved the plan and went to bed. I, on the other hand, did not.
I spent the night of the 15th in the most pain I had ever felt and that pain moved to my back. I took everything we had in the house, from Nyquil to laxatives, trying to relieve the pain I was in.
The next morning, I text Valerie and told her about the pain and said I probably just had some major constipation and gas, and she agreed. I told her I loved her and tried to get comfortable again.
Brady came into the room to see why I hadn’t gotten him up for church and I told him I just needed another hour or so because I didn’t feel good. Seeing his face and then having our dog, Apollo, jump on me made me realize that I was not going to be able to handle my job as Dad to either of them. So, I did what every boy does when they don’t feel good, I called my Mom and Dad. I asked my Mom to come watch Brady and my Dad to take me to Crittenton Hospital.