The 2015 Big D Climb is honored to have Chief Tim Tittle of the Lewisville Fire Department serve as its First Responders Honored Hero. He is a leukemia survivor and is passionate about raising money and awareness to help The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to achieve its mission of creating a world without blood cancers. Below he describes his blood cancer journey.
"WOW, where do I start? This has been an incredible journey, a very moving experience that has been life altering in the way that I view things today, but let me back up and start where it all began for me and what my journey of being diagnosed with Acute Leukemia has been like.
I was promoted to Chief of Department for the Lewisville Fire Department on September 1, 2011, and it has been a very rewarding position. I am the first Chief of this Department that came from within the ranks, and it is a position that I don’t take lightly. In late 2012/early 2013, I started noticing that I felt winded very easily while doing normal, everyday tasks. Of course my first thought was that I must be getting older and out of shape, but I also couldn’t believe this was happening because I really wasn’t that old and I still led an active, healthy lifestyle. I was working out regularly, playing league softball, and working in my yard as much as I always did. But, I was still feeling winded
During August of 2013, we had several major multi-alarm fires in Lewisville. I went to all of those fires and tried to function as best I could. I found it extremely taxing to just put my protective gear on and walk down the street to the scene, let alone try to perform an active function without being totally exhausted afterwards. I woke up with bruises all over my torso just from the pinching and binding that occurs while wearing bunker gear. The bruises were out of the ordinary for me and they wouldn’t go away in a normal time frame. We always say that the Lord has a way of taking care of those that need taking care of, and this was the wake-up call I needed to make me realize that something was wrong with me…“Go see a doctor dummy.” I went to my Primary Physician on September 23rd; he drew blood to help determine the cause of my symptoms, and thought I was probably anemia - a relatively easy fix.
The “big day” for me was on September 24th. I got a call from my nurse asking me to come right in; and, “oh by the way, can you clear your schedule for the rest of the day?” I knew I was in for some bad news. I arrived an hour later, was quickly roomed, and I could tell by the looks on their faces that I was about to hear something that I wasn’t prepared for. My doctor came in and started to explain my test results, and then he stopped. He just handed me the papers and said “look at this.” He couldn’t even tell me; I had to read it for myself. After reading a bunch of blood work numbers that made no sense to me other than they were really low, I came to the last line on the second page that read “has all the markers for Acute Leukemia.” I looked at my doctor and said, “Is this telling me what I think it’s telling me?” And I’ll never forget his response, “it sucks, but yes, that’s what it’s telling you.”
As you can imagine my head began to spin. I was thinking “Am I going to die? I want to see my youngest son graduate from High School and see what he pursues in life. I want to see my granddaughters grow up and get married. I love my wife too much to leave her with this mess. I love my job as Fire Chief for the City of Lewisville and I’m not ready to leave my guys. They would end up with an outside Chief, I can’t do that to them.” While all this was going on in my head, my doctor was telling me how lucky I was that I hadn’t gotten sick recently because my blood counts were so low that my body couldn’t have fought off any illness, and it would have killed me. He also said “I know you need to make some phone calls, but we need to get you in the hospital, in a safe environment within the next two hours.”
Now my thoughts quickly turned to “who do I call, who do I call first, what do I tell them?” I knew I needed to call my wife, my oldest son, my parents, my boss, but how do I tell them and how can I hold it together? But I knew I was in for a fight--I wasn’t ready for this to be my end. I just prayed to God, “I’m putting this in your hands, and I know that if it is your will, I will come through this.” This is happening because He has a greater plan for me, and I’m to learn something from this journey and He will take care of me.
I made the calls, and two hours later I checked into the hospital, my family rallied around me, and my journey of living in the hospital for the next five and a half weeks began. We met my oncologist and he explained that the next few days would consist of tests and medications to determine the type of my leukemia. He gave my family marching orders about how protect me from germs to keep me from getting sick. “If you can get through the next two weeks without having a heart attack or stroke, your chances of survival will be a lot greater.”
I started oral chemotherapy and later found out that my strain of Acute Leukemia was “the one to get” with a treatment success rate of 90%. I started an immediate round of intravenous chemo over an eight day period; one day on, one day off. After the final day of treatment I still felt pretty good. But, two days later, I was sick as a dog and wouldn’t have wished this on my worst enemy. My oncologist and the entire medical team took great care of me, kept me updated, and made it clear what needed to happen before I could go home.
That was definitely the longest five and a half weeks I’ve ever endured in my life. I was getting close to my mental breaking point when the day finally came that my counts were in a range that my oncologist said I could go home. Now I know what it must feel like to be released from jail and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Getting back home was just the medicine I needed, but I still had another four weeks of outpatient chemo treatments and twice weekly visits for blood draws before I was able to go back to work for half days, be around my guys again, and just get back to some sort of normalcy.
From that point on it has been a few days missed here and there when I felt run down or weak from continued treatments. But I have continued to get stronger and feel better, and I am now seven weeks into remission! I have to do maintenance treatments for two more years, and hope at that time, I will be completely done with this part of my journey. I want to move on to my new journey of helping others get through the same type of experiences.
I say this because while I was in the hospital, other leukemia patients that are now in remission for several years would stop by to tell me their stories and experiences. They helped me understand that there are going to be some tough days, but it will get better and I have to stay strong, mentally positive, eat right and take care of myself, and know that I can get through this.
I want to do the same thing to help others that find themselves in my position. I also want to help LLS raise funding for more research so that those affected after me may have an easier or better treatment someday. I still feel I am going through this journey for a reason, and I want it to be a positive one with something good coming out of it in the end."
Registration for the 2015 Big D Climb is now open. Register today.