K.G. Mills: Memoirs of a Survivor
Below is a brief excerpt from a document my father was writing shortly before his death in July of 2008 from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Although he was writing this for his own website; through which he had planned to share his story of survival and hope with others in similar situations worldwide… that project, remains incomplete.
His story however, is unique and his survival was nothing short of a modern day miracle – as he was first diagnosed with AML in 1989, and then given only 3 months to live. The additional 19 years of survival, were due not only to his remarkable determination, love for life, and will to live, but also to the efforts of an outstanding medical team, and the support of the National Blood Transfusion Service (Blood Bank).
It was the support of the Blood Bank, and indeed, the support of the many friends, and even strangers who answered the call to donate in my father’s name, that inspired me, through my company Chrysalis Communications, to donate this website to the Blood Bank, and by extension, to the people of Jamaica.
This donation is to be the first in what I hope will be a sustainable series of annual website donations, to be made as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility Programme. It is my wish that through increased blood donation, more lives will be saved, and that more families, like mine, will have the opportunity to share even just one more day, with a cherished loved one.
Memoirs of a Survivor
To die a thousand times is to have lived a thousand and one.
One of the most difficult challenges after being told that you have Leukemia or any other terminal illness is to remain on the positive side of all adversaries that will follow, and they will.
All our friends, family and others who mean us good will always tell us to “remain positive” but none of us know for sure how we will react in situations such as these, yet we all seem to have the answers.
It is true, I believe, that when you are faced with near death situation, you have the experience of your entire life flashing back from the present to the very first memory and back to the present again at the speed of light, well almost. This was my experience when I was told that I had Leukemia. Each time I woke from sleep, which was so difficult to accomplish, I felt I had died. But then I would realize that I was now awake and had to go on living.
How could someone living in a small country like Jamaica with limited medical facilities, survive this type of illness?
I remember going through various stages of emotional reactions that now seem to have been a natural experience.
The stages included, but not necessarily in this order, -denial, -questioning why- fault finding- seeing the doctor as a bearer of bad news -awesome worry about my children, and simply- just being out of synch with reality for a while. How could this happen? what caused it?, Was it something that I did or something I was exposed to, or ate?
Acceptance gradually came with hope. Reading of other person’s experiences and realizing that the threat was not immediate, like today or even tomorrow, but surely it was imminent. This type of Leukemia (AML) is very aggressive and was expected to develop rapidly.
Then I had heard about this procedure called a bone marrow transplantation that had actually cured some people and I believe it was then that the seed of hope was planted in my mind
Later I learnt to appreciate and respect what so many people, especially children, had to endure with the bone marrow transplant. But how was I going to get to that point?
A Ray of Hope is Truly the Brightest Light.
The obstacles faced by a family during such an ordeal are many and most seem insurmountable. My story deals with these more specifically as we were able to overcome each one at the right time.
Those persons who are spiritually inclined and visit this site will understand that it was more than coincidental to be able to: obtain the funds necessary for overseas treatment, to arrange time off from my job, to find a suitable donor, to continue with the children’s education and of course to deal with the trauma itself.
The Spiritual Side
The whole experience immediately woke me up from complacency, to the realization that God, whoever we perceive him to be, does exist. It is not my intention to try to convert any one to any specific belief, but for me, and my family, we know that Jesus lives.
I made a promise to God that when I recovered I would go tell it on the mountain and to the world what he had done for me.
Needless to say God held me to my word and my first assignment after recovery was an invitation to the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) annual meeting of the leading life insurance company on the island. This meeting was held at a newly developed resort situated high in the hills above the city of Kingston, Jamaica.
With that accomplished, I had no idea how I would tell it to the world, until only recently I realized that I already had all I needed for this to be done, and it was sitting right here on my desk in my little office at home – the computer and the Internet.
By this time my son had started his own small business as a website developer, hence this site that now enables me to reach out to those persons faced with similar situations, more from the patient’s viewpoint than from the medical perspective.
It is my sincere wish that this site will be of benefit to all who visit seeking information about blood donation, and how, through donation, you can save lives.
Kenneth G. Mills, Jr. (K.G.)