Living with Leukemia

On October 3, 2013, my wife Karen was diagnosed with Acute promyelocytic leukemia.  Its a day that changed both our lives forever.   She woke up that morning with bruises all over her body.   Already suffering from fatigue, and what we thought was older age creeping in (at 40), ....we were told to rush her to the emergency room because her platelets were so low she was at high risk of bleeding out in the brain and death.    After a few hours and blood tests, a team of white-coat doctors came into the room, sat down, and delivered the news.   In the matter of minutes Karen was told "you have cancer, we're going to save you, and you're being admitted to the hospital immediately so we can administer chemotherapy."  Her new home was to become the hospital for 30 straight days.  Because of the brutal side effects that leukemia patients undergo, she couldn't see her family, she couldn't see or touch her dogs and she couldn't eat or drink like a normal person. Karen would have to take nearly a dozen medications to fight off infections - due to the destruction and rebuilding of her immune system.

When they discharged Karen a month later I was told that we had to limit visitors.  She couldn't be around children and she couldn't be around dogs.
Anyone that has ever met us knows we have two kids - well, they are like kids, .....our two dogs.   And the doctor told me that maybe I could find someone to take them for a few months while she recovers.    Immediately, the 'every problem has a solution' trigger in my engineering brain kicked in.   My reply was simple.   "Doc - is the problem that Karen can't touch the dogs, or is it she can't see the dogs?"   - answer:  touch.   That night I devised a plan to convert our entire first floor into a petting zoo.   I proposed to the doctors that I would build a half wall throughout our house so that Karen could live on one side and our two dogs could live on the other side.    The doctors were sold and I was on my way to Lowe's home improvement that weekend.   

When the petting zoo was complete the doctors and nurses mentioned that my solution could help a lot of families living with Leukemia.
We had the zoo project installed for about 4 months and it worked out perfect.    Its easy to build, its affordable, and its temporary.
When I removed it there was literally four small holes in our drywall, that's it.  No damage or holes in our hardwood floors and no modifications to doorways or fixtures or anything that we had in place beforehand.

Another piece of the story was the loss of summer fun.   Most everyone gets to enjoy summer by swimming in the ocean or swimming in a lake or swimming in a backyard pool.   Not leukemia patients.   The concentration of bacteria is too high and too risky for those who have to rebuild their immune systems.   
This triggered my brain again - there's got to be a solution!   And there is called a stock tank.    Stock tanks are affordable, durable, lightweight 
and perfect for filling up with garden hose water to cool off in.    They have drain plugs as well that make it easy for changing out water quickly each time.
There is even a wood stove modification you can install in the cooler months, converting the system into an outdoor heated soak tub.   The best part - no chemicals needed.

For those of you who know someone living with Leukemia and would like my help designing and/or installing either of these two projects, please feel free to contact me anytime.     As for Karen, she is beating the disease, and we are forever grateful to her doctors and her nurses at U-Mass Memorial that are saving her life. 

- Jeremy Luchini