In December of 2009 I noticed I had developed excessive bruising on my body and if I got a cut, it would take a long time to stop bleeding. It was the week before Christmas and we were planning a trip to North Dakota to visit Cody’s family for the holidays. I was photographing my very first wedding that evening and by the end of it I felt very weak and had several bruises covering my body. Yeah I thought I was tough and just really worked hard that day lol. Well the next day my mom, told me to go to the hospital to get some blood drawn to just see if everything was okay. I remember I was at a Dragon Inn Chinese restaurant in downtown Overland Park with our friends Jessica and Jeff and we get a phone call. Cody answers my phone and my mom said it wasn’t good news. As my mom went on, Cody’s demeanor instantly changed. I grabbed the phone and my mom said you need to get to the hospital NOW! You’re platelets are at critically low… I’m like okay… what the heck are platelets? She said, just go to the hospital, it’s not good.
So we paid our lunch bill and went to the ER at Shawnee Mission Medical Center where they rushed me to the back after we told them the blood results and they did numerous blood tests and a full body exam. They confirmed what the blood test results was true. They sent me to a room upstairs to keep me overnight for observation and to infuse platelets into my blood and start me on heavy dose of a steroid called prednisone. I found out that platelets are blood cells whose primary function is to clot your blood and to prevent bleeding. Well a normal platelet count is 150,000 to 400,000… and that morning they were 28,000. They told me that at 10,000, people can bruise all over their body and at 5,000, you can start to bleed through your skin. So basically I couldn’t move without getting scared that if I got hurt or hit my head, that I would have bleeding that potentially wouldn’t stop, because my blood wasn’t clotting.
They told me I have an autoimmune disesase called ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura) where basically my body is attacking and killing my own platelets. It is seeing them as foreign to my body and trying to get rid of them. Idiopathic means unknown cause. Great. So now I have something that isn’t good and we have no idea what caused it.
The next day they said my platelets had risen to 60,000, which is still very dangerous, and that I will need to continue on my prednisone treatment. I started seeing a hematologist at Kansas City Cancer Center once every two weeks and they instructed me to start at 60mg/day and eventually I would taper off, as with this steroid you do not want to immediately stop taking it after long periods of time, otherwise you can relapse. So this steroid treatment went on for 4 months, meanwhile my platelet count went back to the normal range. I really struggled being on prednisone because I ate… a lot… and consequently I had gained about 20 pounds and my face got very round in shape, they call it “moon face,” all symptoms of taking prednisone for extended periods of time. I was very embarrassed about the way I looked and felt, because I couldn’t do anything about it.
In April, they did a blood test one month after I ended treatment and all my counts were still normal. Then I went back in the summer at my 3 month follow-up and I got devastating news. My platelet count had dropped down just below 40,000. At this point, I felt like I went through so much and had such strong faith that everything was going to work and then I hear that the treatment was unsuccessful… I felt the world crashing down around me. I sat in my car and just cried. I had never felt so angry at God for putting me through all of that for it to just. not. work. I then picked up my head and cried out that I know he has a plan for me and that I know he is taking care of me and prayed for the strength to get through this. Because at this point, prayer and hope is all I had.
Over the next couple of months I had gone back to my hematologist every two weeks to get my blood drawn just to be told over and over again that my numbers aren’t getting any better. They said you can live with low platelets, you just have to be very cautious about what you do and to make sure you don’t get hurt. I didn’t want to live a life that felt so fragile, I wanted to live it to the fullest.. and in this body… I just couldn’t. So I asked him about other treatment options. I didn’t want to go through the prednisone treatment again. So he suggested something that I didn’t know was possible for my condition… chemotherapy. Well what I have isn’t cancer, so I didn’t understand. They told me it’s not the same type of chemo that is given to cancer patients, but it is a drug called Rituxan, which targets specific cells that are killing my body’s platelets. So with a lot of anxiety, I said yes, let’s do it. It’s the only chance I have at living a normal life again, free of worry. So over the next month, I had four rounds of chemotherapy. Every Monday morning I would show up at the cancer center and they hooked me up to an IV and dripped this drug into my blood stream. The first round was rough. I had IV cords draped all over me and needles in both arms. It started out well.. just like receiving saline solution. Well every 30 minutes they would increase the speed of the IV drip and see how I tolerated it. Well after about 3 increases, my eyes immediately started itching and my throat got tight and itchy and my chest hurt. I was scared. All of a sudden I was surrounded by nurses and doctors and they were giving me lots of allergies medicines and telling me to calm down. They stopped the treatment and gave me a heavy dose of benedryl. They said I had an allergic reaction to the drug and that the benedryl should help with that and so they had to start the dripping back at the beginning. The first day I was there for over 8 hours. The last three treatments went smoother and quicker (for me) because they gave me a ton of benedryl to start off with, and it put me right to sleep, and my treatments from then on were about 6 hours long. I was so thankful because my husband, parents, and sisters all came to stay with me, bring me food, chat, and take my mind off of the treatment. I think the scariest part was that I was surrounded by numerous patients every time who were being treated for cancer. It was very sad to me to hear some of their stories, but a blessing because it showed me how much hope and faith people still had, despite what they were going through.
Now… today… it is exactly one year to date since when I completed chemotherapy. I had my one year follow-up this afternoon. I had a lot of anxiety going into my appointment today. As soon as I walked into the building, the smell of the office immediately revoked memories and it almost brought me to tears thinking about everything I had experienced in this building.
Today… I can joyously say that, as of right now, I am healed. My platelet count today was 193,000. Praise be to God.
Writing this is one of the hardest things I have done in a very long time. It took a lot of strength to hold back tears the whole time I was writing it, as I had stored these memories in the back of my head for so long… and today, as I wrote this, I feel like I relived it all over again. So this is my testimony. It is with this that I share the amazing power of prayer and to tell you how he has a plan for each and every one of us, even if we think that we can’t live through another day or that life is too tough at the moment.
I had been debating whether or not I wanted to post this on my photography business blog page, but I wanted to testify that what happens in my personal life can and has affected my photography business and why I do what I do. If it wasn’t for me going through this, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have the same outlook on life and same perspective in my business. I have met so many inspiring people along the way and have developed wonderful relationships with both local photographers and my clients. I value life so much more and I love to capture people for who they are and to tell their story… timeless pictures that even their grandkids and great-grandkids will cherish long after they’re gone.
This is a story I have shared with many and because of that I have had abundant prayers and support from all of my friends and family. And why I have such faith in God and the power of prayer.
It is what drives my passion.