It wasn't until it became a part of our life that I realized there was an entire month dedicated to blood cancer. September is recognized by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as Blood Cancer Awareness month. Although Brad's cancer is not in his blood or bone marrow, we
were told Lymphoma and Leukemia are like sister cancers. The unique difference is that lymphoma is in the lymph nodes or other tissues. With that said, this month is special to us now.
It has been nearly a year since we heard the words " T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma" for the first time. At that time, the doctor might as well have been speaking a foreign language when he uttered that string of words. I would imagine that most people's first instinct would be to turn to Google to answer the questions that instantly begin swirling in your mind: What is t-cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma? How do you treat it? What is the survival rate? How many people have this disease? Don't get me wrong, we thought about it, but to be honest, it scared me. I didn't want to know what Google was going to tell me about his disease. I knew there could be variation in what I read. Sources that shouldn't be trusted. Statistics that could be skewed. So, instead Brad and I swore to each other that we wouldn't research his diagnosis. We wouldn't turn to Dr. Google about anything, not a single search, and we would solely put our faith in his doctor (& Jesus).
I am proud to say that we have upheld our promise to stay away from the internet...that is until we were told we would be journeying down the stem cell transplant path. When we were certain the transplant was happening new questions surfaced: what actually is a stem cell transplant? How does it work? Allo? Auto? What is the difference? Obviously, again, we had his transplant physician to answer some of the questions, but I wanted to know more...
Throughout this last year, I have learned about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Originally, I looked into it as a way to give back to a community we had only recently become a member of, an opportunity to volunteer. As I continued to dive deeper into the lls.org website, I learned this was actually a valuable resource both for patients and caregivers. It had information not only about Brad's diagnosis, but about the stem cell transplant roadmap. The more I read, the more I trusted lls.org was a credited source backed by clinical research. I didn't feel that it was spitting alarming statistics at me, but instead useful information.
When those new questions about the transplant came to mind, I didn't turn to Google, but instead I looked to find insight at my newly found trusted resource: lls.org. By nature I am a reader and researcher. In reality, the fact that I never ever googled anything pertaining to Brad's diagnosis is a true miracle, but again, fear of what I would find outweighed my desire to 'know.' I didn't have that same fear about lls.org and was able to answer many of the transplant questions on their site.
I have continued to connect with their organization, not only for the educational material and research it can provide, but identifying opportunities to support their continued fight against this nasty disease. As we have said before, we wouldn't wish this experience on anybody, but that doesn't stop us from wanting to use it for good. For now, I'll spare you the story of how we stumbled upon what I am about to share, but want you all to be the first to know that we are working on a product, specifically a wallet, with my families company (https://www.kellytooke.com/) that will be named after Brad - The Bradford. The proceeds of The Bradford will be donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The product will be available for purchase at the end of October, right around the 1 year mark of both our wedding anniversary and the day we found out we'd be fighting this crummy diagnosis. If you're reading this, I am counting on you to get The Bradford wallet and support the largest nonprofit organization committed to creating a world without blood cancer, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
We are really, really excited about The Bradford and will be sharing more information soon!
Natalie & Brad