An Unfamiliar, Familiar Place

Taylor and Jaimie

This is part 2 of Taylor’s story. If you missed part 1, read it here.

I saw Jaimie again when I was admitted to the 7th Floor of Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. She was on her second round when I started my first, and she was having a very rough time.

We both had many side effects and spent our days throwing up and watching crappy TV. We’d walk the hallways together and play cards to pass the time. At the end of the round, we each had a bone marrow biopsy (BMB), which showed that the leukemia was gone.

Through our conversations, we discovered that the same intense chemo drug, Etoposide, which we each had had during out first cancers, had CAUSED our secondary AML cancers.

The new AML chemo was very different than what I expected or was prepared for. Although Jaimie had had leukemia both times, the AML was different from her original ALL.

The bone cancer doctor who had been with me every step of the way with my first cancer and who gave me my AML diagnosis in the ER was not to be heard from again. I now had the same blood cancer doctor that Jaimie had. The chemo was different. The side effects were different. The daily routine was different. The familiarity of the 7th Floor was now unfamiliar to me.

Jaimie and I both had complications that needed to be addressed before BMT. We were admitted to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital days apart, and we endured a week of a much tougher chemotherapy – this one designed to wipe out everything to prepare our bodies to receive the new bone marrow.

Since UMMCH was a teaching hospital, the doctors and fellows rounded each day; sometimes more than once. It was difficult to adjust our sleep schedule because they rounded early in the morning. They rarely knocked, which was annoying to Jaimie and me because our BMT rooms were now our “homes.”

Jaimie and I texted because we couldn’t leave our BMT rooms. I didn’t like the intrusions, but I realized that maybe one day I would be doing the same thing because I want to work in pediatric oncology. I could help save lives. I could comfort kids and teens. I could help with the isolation. I could help find a cure for cancer.

The days grew longer and Jaimie and I became sicker.

I was moved to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where I’d lay unconscious with heart and kidney failure. New lines had to be started. Diapers. Dialysis. Delusions. Defibrillator “at the ready.”

It was a very long two weeks.

Written by Taylor Lieber

Taylor, 19, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in October 2012.  A little over two and a half years later, she was diagnosed with secondary high-risk AML. This week, Taylor writes about her good friend Jaimie and their transplant experiences.