When it all started
Updated: May 19, 2020
My name is Vic Pichette and I am a 56-year-old leukemia and heart attack survivor. My journey starts back when I was 42 years old. At 6 feet tall I weighed approximately 215 to 220 pounds. I always went to the gym and worked out, but I was never in great shape, I was just big and bulky. I'm not sure exactly when it was but it was summertime when I started feeling sick with flu like symptoms. I was tired and couldn't really function. I had a couple of businesses that were successful and I lived in a beautiful home where my kids went to private school. Life was decent, and things were pretty good. Because of some of the pain I was in, I want to see my chiropractor a good friend Doctor J. Korsen and he took an X ray and I went home and waited for him to get back to me. By the time I got home I was even sicker than I was earlier in the day. I will never forget; I was sitting in the kitchen with my wife and I was in absolute agony. I was starting to get pain in my stomach and my back, it was excruciating. Then I got a phone call from my friend Doctor J and he informed me to immediately get to a hospital. I asked him what it was, and he told me to go now. Within an hour I was keeled over in such pain that my wife had to call an ambulance and I was picked up and taken to South County Hospital where they had no idea what to do with me. They were not equipped to handle someone in my condition and they were really confused. At one point they were talking Lyme disease, at another point they were talking cancer, they just didn't know what was going on. Now my wife at 37 was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and we had one of the best doctors in Rhode Island and his name is Raymond Chaquette. My wife called Ray and he immediately told her that he was sending an ambulance and getting me down to Rhode Island Hospital. Within 24 hours I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which didn’t have a very good prognosis for somebody when you're an adult. So there I was in the hospital with my wife who had already gone through cancer the year before, and here I was now in a hospital with a very serious blood cancer. Besides the possibility dying, I was thinking how are we going to survive, how are we going to make it financially, how are the kids going to deal with this. I had a 7-year-old daughter at 12-year-old son at the time who had already seen their mom sick. My daughter was too young at the time, but my son remembers him his mom being sick. What if I died, what was my wife going to do, what were my kids going to do, I was so sick at the time I didn't know what day it was to be honest with you.
So my journey began.
You go through a thing called the induction stage which is 30 or 40 days in the hospital where you become neutropenic. Neutropenic means that you don't really have any red or white blood cells or platelets to fight off disease, it's like having I guess to some degree aids back when people were dying from it. You could die from a cold; it was devastating, and I was scared to death every minute of every day. So here I was in the hospital and within two weeks I was down to about 175 pounds from 215 and it didn't take long to lose every ounce of muscle that I had. I couldn’t get from the bed to the door without a Walker. The chemo was rough. I have to say, every time they injected me with anything, I was afraid that I might die just from having a reaction to it. But you're so sick that you just going through the motions and you’re in such mental anguish just trying to get through the days that you do what they tell you. You pray that hopefully you can get through the induction stage and move on to what they call the maintenance stage. There I was receiving serious chemotherapy the kind that makes you lose your hair, the kind that makes you sick, the kind that is absolutely eating your body alive. It is truly amazing to me how much the human body can endure, and I endured a lot. My doctor said to me that he was going to hit me heavy because he felt I had the strength and stamina to handle it, and he did. I remember that besides the chemotherapy and all the anti-nausea medications and all the things that go on, the worst feeling for me was the massive amount of Prednisone that they give you. Prednisone not only made me sick, but it made me psychotic. Most people who go on Prednisone start with 20 milligrams and then wean themselves down 15, 10, and 5 milligrams until they're off it. I was on 120 milligrams a day for 7 straight days and had to go cold turkey which caused bizarre pain and insanity. I do remember in the first day or that first night while on bended knee praying to God asking why me and asking God where he was that I need you, and I'll never forget above my head something showed up and I heard the words “I am here, I have always been here you just haven't find me”., For an moment, I was never calmer.
After hearing that, I thought maybe I had some hope that there was an Angel following me and that I could get through this, and I did.
So after the 30 or 40 days that I was in the hospital going through the induction stage I'll never forget what one of the older oncologist who had been around the block and was one of the best in the business said to me. He said "Vic, I have never seen anybody go through the induction stage better than you did". I couldn't believe that because I was so damn sick. I don’t know how but I did know this, I ate as much food as I could, and ate much protein that I could. I also made sure that I tried to walk the aisles and had goals. The goal was to get to the door and back without feeling like I was going to stop breathing, and then get out in the hallway, and then walk around the corner and come back and rest and then walked down to the nurses station and come back and rest, these were milestones. Of course, I had to use a walker because I could not walk on my own, I was too weak. I also remember the doctors checking in my mouth because I guess one of the toxic side effects of the chemotherapy is that you get these massive sores down your throat and in your mouth where it's so painful to eat and drink. I never had any nor did I need a bone marrow transplant. That's one of the things that I never understood, if I was someone who went through the induction stage better than anybody that this doctor has ever seen, and I never had the sores in my mouth like most people get, and didn't need a transplant, why didn’t they do research on me to possibly discover why.
This is my first blog post about my first experience with Leukemia. I'm only going to do one or two posts about the past and what I went through and focus more on the future and how I got to where I am today after the leukemia, after a heart attack and then divorce. Here I stand today at 56-years old in the best shape of my life. That's what I want to focus on so I can help others by inspiring with living examples of how I did it and to avoid the pitfalls I allowed to do to myself. I wasted ten years of my life being afraid that I was going to have another heart attack or cancer, and I lost ten years. My goal in this life is to make sure you don't waste a moment of a quality life like I did.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the blog and videos. Please visit my YouTube site and subscribe. I will be putting up new videos weekly. And please tell me your stories. Let’s inspire each other. Thank you, Vic