Love & Support Make All The Difference
- Anna Tower-Kovesdi has been fighting leukemia since her surprise diagnosis about a year ago that came shortly after her marriage. Thankfully, her husband has proven to be the ultimate supporter for her in her time of need.
- Facing cancer or any sort of health battle can be a very vulnerable and emotionally exhausting experience, so it can help to have a strong relationship to lean on for support. That being said, it’s important to notice what you have strength for and what is feeling like too much during your health battle – and that includes your relationships.
- Leukemia is a type of blood cancer. Symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia, but general symptoms for the disease include: Fever or chills, persistent fatigue, weakness, frequent or severe infections, losing weight without trying, swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged liver or spleen, easy bleeding or bruising, recurrent nosebleeds, tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae), excessive sweating as well as bone pain or tenderness.
Tower-Kovesdi, 35, was sightseeing last December when she developed a series of unusual changes to her health.Read More
Given the severity of her condition, Tower-Kovesdi was airlifted to Denver, Colorado, for treatment in the middle of the night.
“My husband could not come with me so I was totally alone,” she said of the terrifying experience. “I am Hungarian so English is a second language and I felt like I was facing this total unknown after getting a life-threatening diagnosis.
“My husband drove eight hours through the night to be with me at the Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center, Colorado Blood Cancer Institute.”
Tower-Kovesdi was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia on December 21, 2021, but she immediately began worrying about the strain her cancer battle would put of her marriage.
“When they first told me the diagnosis at the ER, I told my husband that I don’t want to die and I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this with me,” she said. “We were newlyweds and had only been married for only five months when I moved to the US from Hungary.
“I was worried I would be a burden to him.”
Thankfully, her husband reassured her that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I was in the hospital and he stayed with me on Christmas night,” she said. “We had dinner together in my hospital room, I had some Christmas decorations, put some LED lights on my IV Tower, and we had some presents to open.
“We were crying a lot and it was so surreal… It was a usual hospital day with some Christmas decorations and sad thoughts about how crazy it was to be in the hospital on Christmas day – and how much we wanted our first Christmas together in our decorated home.”
Tower-Kovesdi began chemotherapy right after her diagnosis. She’ll continue having chemo and other medication until June 2024 – when she hopes to be cancer-free. But her body is fighting hard in the meantime.
“I lost my hair, I lost all of my muscles, I became skin and bones, and when I got a serious infection I lost almost 20 lbs in a week and got dehydrated, confused, and so weak that I couldn’t even walk alone or stand up from the toilet,” she said. “This is not how you imagine the first year of being married to your new husband.”
But despite things not working out like she had envisioned, she’s grown even closer to her beloved husband.
“My husband has been incredible. He gave up his life to be able to be by my side 24/7. He worked remotely as a writer at my bedside,” she said. “He was with me at the hospital all the time, slept there, did my laundry, made me food. He has been with me for each and every appointment and handles everything else like my insurance and the bills and moving admin.”
“Life didn’t stop with my diagnosis, so all the obligations were still there and he has taken it all on.”The couple are looking forward to their second Christmas as a married couple this time far away from the hospital bed.
Relationships and Cancer
It’s no secret that facing cancer, or any sort of health battle for that matter, can be extremely overwhelming. Having physical and emotional support is crucial.
That being said, it’s very important to know your limits on what you can handle – including relationships – as you undergo treatment and recover from your cancer.
“Going through [cancer] treatment is a very vulnerable and emotionally exhausting experience,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin wrote in a column for SurvivorNet. “Noticing what you have strength for and what is feeling like too much… [is] extremely important to pay attention to as you navigate treatment.”
Dr. Strongin does note, however, that having people by your side during this “arduous chapter” of your life can be hugely beneficial.
“Studies have found consistently that loneliness is a significant risk factor for physical and mental illnesses and the trajectory of recovery,” she wrote. “Therefore, it will be important that you surround yourself with individuals who care and support you throughout your treatment.”
For actress and melanoma survivor Jill Kargman, cancer was a true test of the strength for her relationship. In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Kargman says the disease “is a great way to find out if you’re with the love of your life or a shithead.”
“I think it presses the fast forward button on getting to the bottom of that answer, because a lot of people in middle age are kind of at a crossroads, waiting for their kids to fly the coop,” Kargman said. “I think if you’re with someone who is not supportive and kind of emotionally checked out or doesn’t tell you you’re still beautiful with that, this might not be your person.”
Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. These cells prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell including red blood cells and platelets.
“One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and, in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body,” Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at University of California San Francisco, explained.
In a more general sense, blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning properly.
“And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly, it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia,” she said. “Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”
Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of the disease include:
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Losing weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
These signs and symptoms are not exclusive to leukemia, but if you notice them or any other changes to your health you should see your doctor promptly.
Learning about Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, is a type of leukemia where the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It is also called acute lymphocytic leukemia.
The American Cancer Society reports that the risk for developing ALL is highest in children younger than 5 years of age, with a slow decline in risk until the mid-20s. Then, the risk slowly rises again after age 50.
Dr. Olalekan Oluwole, a hematologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, previously talked with SurvivorNet about ALL’s effect on the body and the type of treatments that work to fight it.
“ALL is a type of cancer that is very aggressive,” Dr. Oluwole told SurvivorNet. “It grows very fast. Within a few weeks, a few months, the person will start to feel very sick. And that’s why we will have to give it an equally aggressive type of treatment to break that cycle.”
Dr. Oluwole also says the leukemia often resides in the bone marrow, and because it is an abnormal growth, it just keeps dividing.
“It doesn’t follow rules, and it doesn’t stop,” he told SurvivorNet. “Not only that, because this is part of the immune system, the immune system is sorta like the police of the body. So those abnormal cells that have now become cancer, they have the ability to go to many places. They go into the blood, and they often go into the tissue or the lining around the brain.”