The Story of How I Found Out I Had Cancer

I’m sure many of you have questions about all of this, so for the sake of spreading information quickly I decided to just write this out and make it easy (also, I’ll continue to post here throughout my treatment with updates on how things are going).

On Monday, July 6th, I decided to squeeze in a routine, last-minute physical at the doctor. It had probably been since college that I had went in to see a physician for a checkup, and I probably wouldn’t have gone in in the first place if it weren’t for my mom, sister, and girlfriend insisting I go before leaving the country.

In two days, I was set to go on a trip of a lifetime – a three week long trek to the Austrian Alps, Ireland, and Canada to help film a music documentary that I had been working really hard on with a small team. How this came about is a whole other story in itself, but it was a passion project that had been consuming most of my free time and weekends for months.

At this same time, I was halfway through moving everything I owned out of my house in Seattle and into a storage unit. By chance, my landlord was planning to sell the home I was renting and my last day of rent landed on the same day I left for Europe (yay for no rent during my trip!).

My girlfriend Larissa and I spent the rest of that Monday after my doc appointment packing up clothes, kitchen wares, and all the other junk I’ve acquired over the years. We got an early start on Tuesday morning and while packing up the car to make a run to the storage unit, I had a couple missed calls and a voicemail saying that I needed to come in immediately to talk about my blood results.

At this point, I was concerned but not panicked. I was more preoccupied trying to figure out how in the hell I was going to make a trip all the way back to Federal Way from North Seattle to talk with the doctor, get back to Seattle to get everything in my house moved out, and get packed and prepped for my trip in time for my departure the following morning. Larissa wanted to come back with me, but told her it was no big deal and that I would be back in a bit (she had to work anyway) and I left for the doctor.

I’m not going to go into detail about the moments after the doctor told me the results of my blood test. I don’t know if I can remember them accurately anyway. I called my parents, my sister, and Larissa to tell them the news. I started crying when I heard them cry.

What I have is called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL for short. Essentially (from my understanding), my bone marrow is making too many under developed white blood cells and inhibiting the production of the good white cells,  red cells, and platelets that keep me healthy.

In hindsight, I’ve had symptoms for months but have always just attributed them to some other possible cause. When I got headaches, I would drink coffee. I would get really chills after working out, but figured I was just out of shape. I would get really fatigued, but attributed it to working all day at my job then coming home and working at night on the documentary project. I had a discomfort in my stomach below my lung when I would yawn, but thought it was a result of a strain from a softball swing. I had a cough that lasted a full month, but it came on the heels of two very long bachelor party weekends in a row – knowing my friends, it would be hard not to feel rough after that 🙂

It wasn’t until I started noticing some serious bruising that my mom, sister, and girlfriend suggested I go in to get a check up. The rest is history.

What’s uncommon about my diagnosis is that ALL isn’t really typical in someone my age. It’s more common in young kids where it’s very curable, and then in older adults where it’s not so much. I’m sitting right in the middle, so one challenges has been deciding how to treat it in me – using a pediatric protocol or adult protocol. Kids are tough and can handle more chemo and steroids than most adults. It’s a more intense regimen, but decided to go with the pediatric protocol with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I’ve got a great doctor and team around me that deal with this disease specifically often, so I’m in good hands.

More importantly, I have one of the best support systems anyone could ask for in my friends, family and loved ones. Thank you all for the amazing calls, texts, FB messages, funny Snapchats, and everything else – it really means a lot.

Thanks for checking in – more news as it comes,

Brockton