My name is Timeka Phillips and I was born in 1979 in Maryland and moved to Virginia with my mother on my 1st birthday. At the age of 14, my freshman year in high school, my mother passed away and my grandmother and aunt was granted custody thereafter. A week prior to my senior prom at age 17 my grandmother passed away. I attended Virginia State University and graduated Cum Laude with my B.S. in Psychology in 2001, and my M.S. in Clinical Psychology in 2009. I entered the helping profession where I worked with adults and children that suffered from mental retardation, mental health, and emotional disturbances.
After careful consideration and prayer, I moved to Texas in 2010 to take a job offer working at a Juvenile Prison System. As the time went by I changed my mind about getting my Ph.D. and in 2011 decided on changing my career. I enrolled into a 2nd Masters program in Cybersecurity with a concentration in Computer Forensics/Intelligence. However, a year into my program I began to start feeling really ill. There were non-stop headaches. I began going to doctor after doctor and everyone sent me to a new doctor. It started with the primary care, to the ENT due to the thumping in my ear, to the neurologist and then to a physical therapist. They all said the same thing, “it is stress” because they literally saw and felt knots in my shoulders. The doctors said with being in a stressful work environment, being on-call for our department in a rotation schedule, being on-call for the facility, and being in graduate school full-time was the problem. I went on FMLA for a week and it helped to decrease the headaches and some of the tension. However, that was short lived and sometimes during my one hour commute to work, I would have to pull my car over on the side of the road and vomit.
In August 2012, I went to NY for 3 days for classes and became sick on the last day. Once I was back in TX I slept for 12+hours on the floor and was still exhausted when I woke up. Talking to a colleague, a nurse, the following week, it was suggested to get a blood test. Between all these doctor visits over 9 months, no one took a blood test. So, I had a blood test and found out that my blood count was a 5 and the normal blood count for women is 12. I had to get my first blood transfusion. Medical staff couldn’t understand how I was walking because they said that typically people would have passed out by now. I was admitted into the hospital for a week and had several tests. The results showed that I had Hemolytic Anemia and Autoimmune disorder and Stage 3 Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer, which was over 90% of my body. This all happened two weeks before my 33rd birthday.
I began chemotherapy in October 2012, about 2-3 or 3-4 weeks later there was one medication that was administered that did not agree with me. Zometa a medication that is supposed to help strengthen the bones, which is necessary because Myeloma can cause lytic lesions on the bones. As the days went by I began to feel sore and was moving really slow. That Sunday following October 16th I was really tired. After church I ate some food, talked to some people on the phone, and then went to sleep. I think that I hit the wall and don’t remember much after that.
The next thing I remember was hearing people leaving messages on my answering machine, but the medication had me paralyzed and I couldn’t get up to answer the phone. On October 24th my neighbor’s son knocked on the door and I responded. Once he told his mother, she went to the rental office and told them. They contacted the fire marshal down stairs and he dispatched his team to drill me out. I had been missing for 3 days. I was found unclothed with a fever of 104.4, very low blood pressure, a blood count of 4.2, dehydrated and hungry in a very hot apartment. They were not sure if I had hit my head because the shower curtain and shower rod were found pulled down in the bathroom but I was found on my sofa with my dog sitting beside me that ironically I adopted three months before my diagnosis. I was rushed in the ambulance and it was said had I not been found I would have been dead within the next 12 hours. I was in the ICU and didn’t open my eyes until two days later.
On top of all of that I began dialysis on October 31st because I had no kidney function anymore. The nephrologist did his research and felt that is was the Zometa because I had full kidney function in September and then all of a sudden in October I had none. So he told my oncologist to never give me that again. Once I was taken off of that there were no more problems. While in the hospital, I had to learn how to walk all over again, and complete breathing exercises because I had a partially collapsed lung.
I was released after 3 or 4 weeks. I had one colleague that helped a lot at the time. My days were spent at chemo and dialysis. Around the second or third week I asked my neighbor to back my car out of my parking space, and drove slowly to the vacant parking lot down the street and re-taught myself how to drive. My kidney doctor told me that I would probably never come off dialysis, but I was taken off of dialysis 2 weeks before Christmas 2012.
In June 2013, I met my stem cell doctor at MD Anderson in Houston, TX. I was admitted into the hospital and had high dose chemo, this is when I finally lost my hair…and yes I proudly rocked my bald head! I had my transplant on the 13th of September, yes, Friday the 13th! In the world of stem cell transplants, you are said to have a new birthday on the day you have your transplant. It was successful and on March 18, 2014, I received the “official” word that I WAS IN REMISSION, and I am counting down the days that I can get off all this medication since I am still on a maintenance medication for the next few years.
My kidney function will never be 100% because of the type of renal failure that I had, which is called FSGS. However, I try to stay as active as possible I can along with eating right and drinking a lot of water (which I always did) to keep that creatinine number as low as possible to keep me off dialysis. In order to remain positive throughout all of this I continue to rely on my faith, pray, participate in social and volunteer activities. Lastly, I try to surround myself around only positive people and stay away as far as possible from those negative people especially those that may bring stress upon me. Sometimes you may feel alone because there are people around you who do not understand, or they treat you like you are already dead. Just remember that sometimes God gives his hardest battle to his strongest people, and with God by your side you will make it through this fight so DON’T GIVE UP!