In 2013 I started writing the Song of the Worlds Series, which I originally called "The Boy and the Beast Series." My third child, Isaiah, was due January 2013 and I realized that if I was going to write this amazing story in my head, I had to buckle down, get a routine going, and start on book one asap, because... pretty soon it was going to be baby time!
Here's a picture of me and my wife from 2013
January 12th, Isaiah was born :)
As you can see from the picture below, I look pretty tired! Haha, you can probably guess why!
In 2014 I was able to write book one and started book two, The Bridge Beyond Her World. I had my routine down. I went to bed around 8:30pm and woke up between 3:15 and 4am. I'd write until 7am every morning, 7 days a week, on holidays even. This allowed me quiet time to write AND be with my family the rest of the day.
Everything was going great!
Then something weird--and very painful--happened.
November 2014 I had a horrible night of vomiting like I've never experienced before.
A week later, I was hit with a strange pain that moved all over my upper body. It was so painful, I sometimes couldn't get out of bed and it lasted for an entire month. I had to go to the ER and the doctor there connected the roving pain to that one awful night of vomiting. He believed it might have been an auto-immune response from such a traumatic event.
This strange pain came and went every month, sometimes coming twice a month. Some episodes were tolerable, others left me bed-ridden. It took several trips to the emergency room and seeing various specialists before my condition was labeled as Reactive Arthritis. I was told it should go away after a year.
When I wasn't in too much pain, I would write. I was able to finish book two and then start in on book three. I got about 150 pages in when everything came to a stop.
August 1st of 2015
My wife drove me to the emergency room as I felt the excruciating pain move into my lungs and heart. Every turn, bump, movement of the car ride was agonizingly painful. I could barely breathe, only taking little, gasping breaths. They ran tests, gave me pain meds. but nothing further was found...
Thankfully, my father is a vampire. By that, I mean he's the lab manager of our local hospital and reads blood tests for a living. He saw something that the hospital didn't catch, and he ran it by several experts he knew.
He pushed my doctors to recheck the blood tests from my last ER visit.
Middle of August 2015
I was diagnosed with leukemia (AML). I immediately was admitted to the hospital. I had no idea what to expect physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I brought my laptop so I could write. I was optimistic and positive going into the entire process.
I'm the kind of person that will cry over other people's pains and sorrows, but not my own. I kind of take everything in stride. But I felt the fear, shock and inner pain of everyone around me as they took in my diagnosis. My wife was very brave, but it was incredibly hard on her.
Four days after the chemo began, all my emotions started to change.
I spent 40 days in that one hospital room and went through the darkest storm of my life. Sitting here at my desk two years later, writing about this period of my life, I can attest that those 40 days were the hardest, most difficult days of my entire life.
I went in thinking, I'm not afraid of dying, but as the chemo started to hit me, it was like a darkness fell over me. It was a horrible time. I went from 170lbs to 135lbs. I couldn't stand eating much.
I looked outside my fifth-story hospital window and felt isolated from the world. All the patients I saw like me in the cancer wing, I realized people like them had always existed beyond my sight. When I was happy and going about my daily routine, there had always been people suffering behind closed doors.
And they are still there, right now.
One thing that got me through those grueling 40 days were the daily visits from someone I cherished in my life. My wife, my parents, my pastor, a dear friend named George, my brother Justin, and then my long time buddy, Raymond, who flew out from Scotland.
During those 40 days, I had two rounds of intensive chemo therapy, fought off pneumonia, had several bone marrow biopsies, dealt with horrible bleeding from my nose and mouth due to low blood count, received numerous blood transfusions, and had all number of other things done that I won't list. By the end I couldn't walk to the bathroom, and had to regain my strength to do simple tasks before I could leave the hospital.
During the end of my stay, I received two pieces of good news. I was in remission, and to my amazement, my only brother, Justin, was a 100% match to be my stem cell donor. There was a 1 in 4 chance that he might be a match, but 1 in 4 had seemed like a dismal roll of the dice.
I cried at the news that Justin was a match and could only thank God in response.
Being wheeled out of the hospital was such a surreal and amazing feeling! The sunlight hitting my face, the excitement of going back home.
There is NOTHING like the feeling of arriving at home! It was such a special moment hobbling into my house. The familiar trappings, the sense of safety and comfort... it is inexpressible. A meal from In-and-Out Hamburgers was waiting for me with french fries and a strawberry shake.
My family was so precious to me. It truly was the burden of my soul during my 40-day struggle in the hospital. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my children and wife to deal with my loss. I was so overjoyed to be reunited with them at home once again. Though I was frail, and weak, and always exhausted, I was present with them, and it was a glorious moment in time.
One of the themes in my Song of the Worlds series is pain and suffering and its purposes. It's rather interesting to me that that I wrote that theme into books 1-3 before being diagnosed with cancer. I've always wrestled with those questions. The very questions my character, Winter, suffers through.
My fight with cancer hasn't changed my questions, but it's made them more personal. I look forward to finishing the series. I already know how it ends. And it will surprise you.
I know this--I love and cherish my family more now since I've suffered. If it were not for my suffering, I would not have the depth of appreciation I have for my wife and children.
My love for them has grown because of the pain...
Part 2 of my story coming soon -- Journey To Transplant