Saturday, June 17, 1995 & Living the Dream

On Saturday, June 17, 1995, I had just returned from an up & down week at South Carolina's Palmetto Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion. It was up & down due to the weird things going on with my body that just didn't seem normal-night sweats, back pains, inability to use the bathroom at times, throwing up after I ate, & being really tired participating in sports activities throughout the week.

I vaguely remember explaining to my mother, an ER nurse of a decade or more, my symptoms on the ride home to Prosperity, SC. As soon as I got home, I  remember still being excited to head out on Lake Murray for a day of water skiing, cooking out, and just being on the lake. Back then I was in shape and had pretty hard stomach muscles, so like any dumb teenager, I didnt mind having those muscles tested with a gut shot, or punch. My aunt was at our house that day when we got home en route to the lake and unfortunately for her she was the one that played around with me to provide that gut shot to the stomach...I can never forget that punch. It wasn't because she really hit me hard or hit me when I wasnt expecting it. It was because when she did playfully hit me, it almost caused me to fall down and start throwing up it hurt so bad.

Twenty-one (21) years ago as I sit here typing this, I can still see the scene:

I was standing right outside the white linoleum kitchen flooring, on the light brown carpeting in front of my mother's decorative bench that sat under the four pane, mirrored decorative piece hanging above it. I was facing towards the side door that lead to the garage and Aunt Mary Kay was bouncing around playfully like a boxer, but unlike a real boxer, she was wearing a black bathing suit with white highlights, while our kitchen table was to my left. She playfully struck with her left hand and then more sternly with her right hand.  Now I recognize the awkward looks between the parental figures, after seeing my animated reaction to such a light &  playful interaction.

My mother decided to let the rest of the family head on to the lake but maybe my complaints of fatigue should just be checked out real quick at the hospital where she worked, Lexington Medical Center. She drove her gray, Mazda 626 with gray cloth seats on a bright, sunny day towards Columbia and tried to console me that this was no big deal, I was fine. ( I realize now she was really trying to calm herself down-she later revealed to me she thought I had mono.) 

When we got to the hospital, we were provided professional courtesies for her many years working in the ER and I went straight back to a private waiting area. A nice phlebotomist, a heavier, set black male, who apparently had won the respect of my mother as a "1 sticker" drew blood for lab work. (I write this narrative for medicinal value so I can help open long vaulted compartments in my psyche, so no wonder I am having some manifestations of those emotions right now as I type, aka crying.).

I didnt realize what was going on at the time but I did recognize my mother's voice in what seemed to turn from surprise, then to aggressiveness in demanding tests be run again as she talked with her colleagues at a nearby nurses station. The phlebotomist came in again and drew more blood work and did so calm as a cucumber indicating another test needed to be run. Shortly thereafter is the scream I can hardly forget from my mother and then her wailing. I started to get nervous at that point as my mother was a pretty stern lady, that showed emotion when needed but to cry openly in her comfort zone and in front of her colleagues kind of scared me. That was not normal & apparently as time would tell, neither was my blood work. My white blood cell count was over 150,000 with normal ranging from 3,500-10,500. 

My private waiting area was quickly transformed as I was asked to go change into a gown all the while not knowing what was going on. That was the part I hated the most looking back. Nobody would tell me what was going on. I was no idiot and at the very least, knew if my lake day was about to be ruined and my mother was screaming, something had to be wrong. Plus,I was the only one getting medical work performed upon. 

As I got my own private room at this point, I will ever forget that coy, son of bitch, white haired doctor whose name started with an "M". He acted like I was interrupting his day, laughed and was joking around. Again, I still had not clue what was going on. He indicated he just had to take a sample real quick. Then he proceeded to take a bone marrow aspiration from me without any anesthesia other than some lidocaine to the skin. That extraction device he screwed into my hip is  probably not nearly as medieval as I remember but I will never forget him stopping in the middle of screwing that device into my hip bone & saying, "Son, you have some strong bones." Then he proceeded to twist harder into my hip. To this day it is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. 

Fittingly, understandably, and realistically, that is where my memories of today, 21 years ago stop.  I was ultimately diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and later told of my two week prognosis. I remember snipets of the days and weeks that followed. More importantly, I remember the love and outpouring support from my family, friends, my church, and my community. I will forever be indebted to them all.   

God is good, life is good, and we can only make the most with what we are given. I hope you all take advantage of the opportunities and wonders given to you every day. Now you know why I say:

I AM LIVING THE DREAM!

 

 

17 Years Of Accomplishments, Reflections, and Experiences

I usually reserve these self reflective articles for Fridays or on specific anniversaries but for some reason I felt compelled to sing to the high hills all the wonderful things life has provided me as I reflected this morning not just on my ripe old age of 34 but on my upcoming anniversary from 17 years of remission with leukemia. You see, I doubled my age. That may not be relevant to anyone that has never had a life threatening scare with cancer or some other trauma but it is relevant to me and therefore very relevant to want to express that joy.

First and foremost I am most blessed to be in a loving relationship with a beautiful woman that allows me to call her wifey, among other adoring names.  Speaking of anniversaries, we just celebrated our first year of marriage and lucky for my chemo zapped brain my birthday, our anniversary, and her birthday all fall within a two week period of each other. Mrs. Kristen Mills has been a life saving relationship, companion, and lover.

Secondly, my family and her family remain close and constantly involve each other in their daily living. Dealing with clients for a living I see so many instances of where families are not supportive or sustainable for a litany of reasons. I am happy to have my father, step-mother, and more immediate family members along with Kristen's family to be so loving and caring about any time that can be spent as a family.

Thirdly, I am fortunate to have had the professional opportunities to be a partner in a law firm that shares my last name. There are no long lines of doctors or lawyers in my family. Just me. How I got here and down this path to legal litigation, God only knows. More importantly, I am fortunate to absolutely love what I do for a living when I see so many struggle day in and day out at something that makes them miserable. Couple that with the fact that every income I earn comes directly from the operating account of insurance companies and I almost feel like I have a connection straight to heaven where any misdeeds in my life have been erased. Like the crusaders of days past, I am truly doing God's work.

In 17 years after my cancer diagnosis with a two week prognosis and worrying how my family could afford the medical bills and treatment if the health insurance company got its way in wiggling out of their responsibility in paying for them by trying to find loopholes in my parents' benefits:

  • I am fortunate to have my health;
  • I am fortunate to have my wife;
  • I am fortunate that we are so blessed with with such loving families. 

Insurance companies are not so fortunate because:

  • I love what I do;
  • I hate everything about what they do;
  • My wife and I like nice things, vacations, and giving back to the community (all paid for directly from insurance companies).

I will never forget someone saying that "insurance companies are just untouchable" when all that was going on and my parents were trying to figure out how to pay for my treatment. No they are not.

You just have to hit insurance companies in the wallet where it hurts because they don't have hearts.  --Trey Mills

 

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 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's South Carolina Man & Woman of the Year!

Hello 15 Years of Remission from Cancer, So Good to See You


Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's South Carolina Man & Woman of the Year!

Now-a-days people always talk about everyone being a winner and I am not someone that subscribes to that theory. In competition, not everyone can be a winner. However, participating in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society South Carolina Man & Woman of the Year Fundraiser may be a more appropriate time to indicate everyone as winners.

There were five contestants, two females and three males, vying for the title but more importantly they were doing so by raising money for the fight against blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. The South Carolina Boy of the Year was Josey Hale. The South Carolina Girl of the Year was Nadia Morris-Young.

The turning point in all this was realizing close to 15 years ago, I was a patient that was recognized to give a face to the fundraising and physical efforts to a Team in Training as they prepared for a marathon.

As I talked with Josey and Nadia last night, it struck me how many blessings I had been given to be healthy and in a position to help an organization that assists so many. It's nice to be reminded of the wonderful opportunities every day brings.

The opportunity to see life come full circle from patient to Man of the Year was amazing. No doubt a wonderful reminder of God's grace, glory, and presence. I certainly felt a momentary shudder as I had a sense that my Mom was looking down on me, as well as, a good friend that lost her battle with cancer as we were going through the trenches together.  Peace be with you.......

 

Celebrate National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week with Me!

The week of April 5-11, 2009 has been recognized nationwide as Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. This is important on so many levels but more importantly for myself and my family, because we recognize it every day.

I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 17 and given a very poor prognosis (I'm going on 31 now and "Living the Dream".)  I have watched my mother die a slow and painful death with lung cancer, in my mid 20's. My family has currently been hit again with my Uncle's diagnosis of cancer. This illness has no eyes to see color, sex, or economic background. It simple invades our lives and affects each and everyone of us in some direct or indirect manner. Live the dream every day because no one is promised tomorrow, regardless of their situation.

Earth Times reported:

Nearly 70,000 young adults in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed with cancer each year and it is the leading disease killer among 20 to 39 year olds. Young adults with cancer have had less survival improvement than other age groups and strides made in cancer treatment have bypassed young adults, who also have the lowest participation rate in clinical trials of any age group.

Vital Options International has provided a plethora of resources and information through their website to better educate and bring together the cancer community. They have a wonderful collection of videos and trendier marketing materials for young adult cancer survivors.

Planet Cancer is another wonderful resource for young cancer survivors. These websites take the edge off being diagnosed or dealing with cancer.  Take it from someone that knows, truly knows.

If you want to support your local cancer groups please donate your time, money, or resources to any of the following:

 

Floyd S. "Trey" Mills III awarded 'Star of the Quarter'

As printed in the "Anderson Independent" on February 8, 2009:

Floyd S. “Trey” Mills III of the Trammell Law Firm was awarded Star of the Quarter recognition by the South Carolina Bar for his efforts in assisting the Young Lawyers Division with a fundraiser for Children’s Chance.

Children’s Chance is an organization established to raise money to fund a variety of programs to meet the financial, emotional and psychological needs of pediatric cancer patients and their families.

The fundraiser took place Nov. 29 in Clemson before the Clemson/Carolina football game as a networking and tailgating event for the Young Lawyers Division. All donations went to Children’s Chance.

Mills suffered from leukemia as a teen and also lost his mother to the disease. For more information on Children’s Chance or to make a donation, visit childrenschance.org or contact the organization at 609 Sims Ave., 2nd Floor, Columbia, SC 29205.