Red Deer AB
My name is Michael Wark, and I am a blood cancer survivor.
In the early days of June 2018, I was 27 years old and enjoying my active life in the Red Deer community. My wife and I had just returned from a holiday to Disneyland, a celebration in honour of her completing her Bachelor of Education and myself recently finishing my Journeyman Carpenter’s certification. We were both launching into our careers and preparing to start a family of our own. Then without warning, our world was flipped upside down by cancer.
What started out as mild fatigue and flu-symptoms turned into something much more insidious when after some routine blood screening my family doctor informed me that most of my blood counts were almost non-existent and I had no functioning immune system to speak of.
I was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter and two days later following a bone marrow biopsy, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). I was immediately sent to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary and admitted to the blood cancer unit to undergo intensive treatment.
The next several months involved some of the most harrowing experiences of my life, but thankfully, we didn’t have to do it alone. Following an initial round of high-intensity chemo that was successful in reducing the leukemic cells in my bone marrow from 83% to 0.2%, it was determined that the best course of treatment would be a combined protocol of further chemo, followed by an Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant. By the grace of God, a near-perfectly matched genetic donor was found (1 out of 25 million potential donors), and on October 24th 2018, I was given a transfusion of 766 million donor stem cells. In January 2019, following a 3-month observation period in Calgary, I was pronounced to be in full remission, 100% cancer-free.
Recovery continues to be a long process, and oftentimes I struggle with my doctor’s recommendations that I continue to take things slow and allow my immune system time to rebuild itself. But every day, I am thankful to have been given back the gift of life and for the support, kindness, and generosity of the countless people who were there for me when I needed it the most. During my time in treatment and recovery, I kept an online blog of my experiences and thoughts – I entitled it “The Hiccup”, because I intended my experience with AML to be nothing more than a small hiccup in the grand scheme of life. Looking back on it now, it’s amazing to see how far I have come in the last 12 months, and exciting to know that the future still holds so much promise for what is yet to come.
I hope that my story and experiences can provide inspiration to others going through the same thing, and that they will know that they are not alone in their battle. I am participating in Red Deer’s Light the Night Community Walk, September 14th in support and honour of all those still fighting.
For more information on Michael’s journey with AML, visit: https://thehiccup2018.wordpress.com