“‘Cause I’m gonna make you see … there’s nobody else here, nobody like me. I’m special, so special … I’ve got to have some of your attention … give it to me!”
As parents, we know that each our children are special! No matter how many we have, whether it is one or, in the case of my Aunt Lois, 15 (wait … there were several sets of twins), each has a unique personality. Each has special talents. All of MY boys do, and I know yours do, too. It’s just that some children scream louder than others. I was blessed to have three beautiful and amazing boys. This is about the loud one! Before Jeffrey was born, he had my attention. My wonderful Doctor told me early on that he was partial to “little red-haired” girls. You see, he had four beautiful red-haired girls of his own, and thought adding one to his crew might be a good thing! So, he told me, “Better hope you don’t have a little red-haired girl … I just might have to snatch her!” We knew shortly thereafter that Jeffrey would be all male! He was breech, so we spent hours with sonograms, and in the Doctor’s office trying to turn him. One day after a particularly trying session, Dr. Newsome said, “This baby is trying to tell us something … he’s not going to turn, and we’re not going to try anymore.” From his very beginning, Jeff had a mind of his own! He was born early one Wednesday morning in March by C-Section, and he came into the world screaming. He wanted everyone to know that he was here! I looked at him, then at Dr. Newsome, and said, “He has red hair, but he’s a boy, so you can’t have him! He’s mine.” Such an especially beautiful, little red-haired baby boy he was, with huge aquamarine eyes. We had a longer than usual hospital stay because of the C-Section, and he continued his screaming, except when he was in the room with me. The nurses would bring him to me and say, jokingly, “Mrs. Horne, please take this ‘hateful baby’!” After we brought him home, he became affectionately known to us as “the hateful baby”! Oh, he was never hateful, just wanted us to pay attention. And, we did.
When Jeffrey was a young child, he clung to me as though I were his life. It was hard to get out of the door every morning. And if I had to take Brian to the pediatrician and leave Jeff at home, you would have thought the world had ended. Such an amazing child! He could infuriate me more than you will ever know, and caused my heart to sink many more times that I like to remember. Still, he never left home without telling me where he was going … was never one minute late without calling to say where he was and when he would be home … and always took care of his little brother.
But, it was after Jeffrey’s diagnosis of Acute Mylogenous Leukemia that he showed how truly special he is. He was diagnosed on his twentieth birthday. One night a few days later, when he was hospitalized, he sent me a text. It said, “Mom, I don’t know if this will end good. Are you okay with that?” I texted him back saying that it certainly would end well, and that this was just a blip in the screen of his life. That’s what we all wanted to believe, but it wasn’t to be. Through the eleven months of his illness, Jeffrey kept his sense of humor … we threw food at the hospital walls, snuck him out every now and then, and generally did anything that would keep that amazing smile on his face. He never lost faith, and he never lost hope. He never gave up, no matter what the Doctors said. He was one determined young man, though he faced, head-on, the reality of his situation. Unless you, or a loved one, have personally experienced the treatments for Acute Leukemia, you can never know how horrific it is. Out of the 11 months of his disease, he was hospitalized for ten of them, off and on. Leukemia is not a cancer that can be removed by surgery. It circulates throughout the bloodstream, attacks vital organs, and just when you think it is gone, you find that it has hidden out somewhere, and it comes back with a vengeance. Jeffrey endured all of this with strength and courage that amazed me. It was especially difficult preparing for his Stem Cell / Bone Marrow transplant. That was right after Memorial Day, and I remember thinking … after hearing what his prep would be … I just need to pick up my baby and run … run anywhere away from this. That’s another song for another day … “Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide.” There was nowhere to run …
We made it through the transplant, and Jeff was officially in remission for three months. During that time, he decided he wanted an English Bulldog. Anyone out there ever owned one of these wonderful animals? Well, they, like Jeffrey, are high maintenance. We did a lot of research, found a reputable breeder, and brought our little “bully”, Camilla, into our home. Jeffrey’s transplant failed not long after, so he was never really able to take care of her. She became mine. Like her owner Jeff, Camilla demands constant attention, and she is just as determined and strong-willed as he! When his stem cell transplant failed, Jeff participated in a number of clinical trials. Each time I would ask him, “Jeffrey, are you sure you want to do this?” He would say, “Yes, Mom … it may not help me, but maybe it will help someone else who has leukemia.” And so, that’s what he did. When it became clear that his prognosis was about as bad as it could get, he looked at me one night with those beautiful aquamarine eyes and said, “You know, Mom, God has a plan for this. It may be that I will get well and that I can help others with Leukemia. But, maybe I won’t … and then you can.” Here’s the thing … Jeffrey ruled my life for almost 21 years. He left me our little “bully” Camilla, who rules my life in his place. Thinking he did that on purpose. He’s special and had my attention from the “get go”… see, “there’s nobody else here, nobody like you,” Jeffrey. But, all of those struggling with Leukemia and Blood Cancers are very special. Like Jeff, they are strong and courageous. Jeffrey handed me a torch … to find a cure, and I will fight for that until I draw my last breath. No more can be lost to this wretched disease. Visit Jeffrey’s Voice to learn more. Mine is only one story … one song. There are so many others. For all of them, help us find a cure.