2019 was just around the corner and we were fully enjoying Christmas of 2018. Unaware of what was awaiting us. All of us, but most of all, our mom Tinka. At the end of the year, a fever came, the kind that accompanies bronchial asthma, especially in winter months. However, this one was just a bit odd, and immediately after the new year we were trying to figure out what was going on. We went to a hospital in Nitra at Zobor, where they hinted at potential pneumonia. A few days later, things started to deteriorate quickly. On one January afternoon, Tinka's pulse was so high that a digital blood pressure monitor could not get a read. We ended up at the emergency room in Zlate Moravce.
We were quickly transferred to Nitra, and from there to Bratislava, to the National Institute of Oncology. Diagnosis: Non-hodgkin's lymphoma. The doctors needed to collect a lot of information, and during one of the procedures, Tinka's lung had collapsed. She was on a ventilator and put into an induced coma...This all transpired within mere weeks. Then came the days that only people that have gone through similar situations can relate to: visits accompanied by the beeping of monitors and an endless number of tubes and containers. And my loved one, with whom I was just happily celebrating the New Year's, is lying there lifelessly. The doc informs me that they're running all of the possible tests to figure out what is causing the pneumonia that is getting worse. During this time, chemo cannot be given. One week goes by. Then, two. Docs are shaking their heads. They are preparing me for the worst and saying that this is likely the finish line, albeit a short one.
So we got everyone we could think of involved...both on Earth and in Heaven.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the evening prayer times.
Thanks to God, and the intercession of St. Charbel, Tinka is here with us today.
We were able to do a second round of chemo, which allowed us to wake Tinka up from an artificial coma, take her off the ventilator, and continue with the treatment. Life, however, can be quite unexpected, and there was another (not so pleasant) surprise awaiting us. When Tinka was supposed to be transferred from the Unit of Intensive Care to a care in onco-hematology, we learned that her arms and feet had stopped working. Both of her arms and her right foot started to recover after a few weeks. The left foot never did. In that moment we hoped (and still do) that the left foot will change its mind, especially since we were still at the beginning of the treatment.
We started both the inpatient and outpatient chemo. The entire treatment was completed by doing a hematopoietic cell transplantation. This meant endless hours and days spent in pain, fear, and hope. We finished the year 2019 on a good note. CT confirmed that the cancer was gone.
So...why aren't we celebrating and popping a bottle of champagne?
Hi! My name is Non-Hodgkin, and I have decided to come back...
There is no oncology patient in remission that wants to hear those words. Especially an oncology patient who is now reliant on a wheelchair. Tinka listened to this verdict and knowing what was awaiting her, she started the fight. We all did, because the support from family is the best thing you can offer during this time.
We started the chemo all over again, but this time we started right away with the inpatient one. Her body was not recovered enough and exhausting it with an out-patient chemo would have been too much for her (and still might not work), so we went in full force with the inpatient, while Tinka had time to deal with this very aggressive type of lymphoma.
Therefore, the rocket approach in January of 2019.
There were two reasons why we decided for a more aggressive treatment. One is already mentioned above, and the second one was in the form of experimental treatment in Prague, which would increase the chances of beating the cancer. The treatment called "CAR T-Cell Therapy" truly did miracles for Tinka. This type of treatment is still in the testing phase, but the first recipient of this therapy in Florida has been in remission for 10 years.
We are forever thankful to doctor Miriam., chief Ľuboš. and head physician Andrej. from the onco-hematology department at the National Institute for Oncology for the administrative support. We are also indebted to the team at UHKT in Prague who took care of Tinka during the treatment.
When it looked like nothing worse could happen, COVID hit. Despite extreme carefulness and precautionary measures, all it took was a moment of carelessness. Just like Tinka was among the first few to try out experimental therapy in Prague, she also tried out the high-flow oxygen device. In the picture is the transfer from the COVID wing to the Intensive Care Unit after one of Tinka's lungs had collapsed. In this moment, I was able to be there with Tinka, as if through an intervention from above. So we overcame COVID exactly 5 months after.
When the PET-CT in May of 2021 confirmed remission, which made us extremely happy, our fight for life without a wheelchair could finally begin.
Last, but not least, I'd like to call out people who helped us along the journey and still do.THANK YOU!!!!
© MaReK 2022