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Finding the silver lining after my dad's AML diagnosis

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EmilyNeumann21714.jpgBy Emily Neumann

When my mom and dad called me downstairs to talk, I rolled my eyes. My grades hadn't been as good as they should have been my second semester of college, and I was not prepared to discuss it...again. What I didn't realize is the news that would come would shake me far worse than any plummet in my grades: My dad had cancer.

My dad's AML diagnosis and treatment

When my dad was initially diagnosed in El Paso, Texas, he was told he had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) --which could be kept at bay for some time by using daily medications. My parents left for MD Anderson to get a second opinion, where they learned it actually was acute myeloid leukemia (AML)--and much worse than we first thought. My sister and I spent the summer at our home in El Paso while mom and dad went back and forth for treatments.

My dad's primary treatment -- a research chemotherapy that seemed to work on others -- failed on my dad. I vividly remember when my mom got the call with the brutal news. We were walking to the hospital. My mom broke down crying, my sister's shrieks echoed in the parking garage, and I was in shock.

After deliberation, my dad decided to get a stem cell transplant. The odds were about the same as the research chemotherapy that had failed. We were all apprehensive.

Becoming closer to my family during my dad's cancer treatment
The summer my sister, Mikaela, and I spent alone and worrying for my father was also the summer we became closest. We bonded over toilets that overflowed and lawns that needed mowing. We became best friends.

I grew a strong admiration of my sister-in-law, Ali, as she made sacrifices and helped our family in her first year of marriage to my brother.  Striving to make my father proud, the semester he was sickest was the semester I did my best academically. I even made the Dean's List.

My dad was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving -- about four months after the nightmare began. My whole family (three siblings, their spouses and nephews) gathered in my brother's apartment in Houston and celebrated the completed transplant.

Years later, my father is happy, healthy and successful, and so am I. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm pleased that my dad had cancer, but I found a silver lining, and I'm grateful for that.

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