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‘Don’t worry about Mimi’

By Kay S. Pedrotti A bright-eyed woman with hardly any hair, Laura Sue Fleming said when she lost her hair to chemotherapy she ‘never felt more beautiful.’ Fighting for her life against APL leukemia, Laura Sue said she felt that having no hair was ‘my statement of bravery … that loss may make some people uncomfortable but it made me feel strong and powerful.’ Back in April, Laura Sue, a lifetime nurse, noticed a quartersized bruise on the top of her foot. By the next day it covered the whole top of her foot, she said. Then the fever started: 104 degrees for four days straight. ’Nurses are the worst patients,’ she said. ‘I just thought I was getting the flu and I could treat my symptoms.’ She went to an already scheduled doctor’s appointment April 28 and by the 30th she was in Northside Hospital with a preliminary diagnosis of leukemia. The definite diagnosis and type of leukemia was determined May 1 after bone marrow biopsy; her treatments started immediately. ’They went right to work,’ she said. ‘My white blood count was out of sight and I had no more than one-tenth of the platelets needed for blood clotting. There was a horrible bleeding problem. When the oncologist on my case, Dr. Lawrence Morris, first came in my room he kept saying he was astonished and he expected to see ‘˜a much sicker-looking person.’ There I was smiling. That was my faith. I knew it was bad and so did my family but I wasn’t afraid. God was with me and my improve­ment, I believe, was his special touch.’’ For seven days Laura Sue had IV chemo 24 hours a day; then she had other kinds of oral chemo and five vitamin A tablets every day. She stayed at Northside 27 days then was home in Barnesville five weeks but confined away from everybody because of her fragile immune system. She went to the Northside clinic regularly during this time. ’The first five days were very bleak,’ she said. ‘Through all this, I never doubted I’d get well. I began to be depressed when I couldn’t go anywhere or see anybody but then I told myself getting better was more important. The people are great at Northside ‘“ they encouraged family to be with their cancer patients, even providing meals, free parking and other things to make it easier for them. Having family around to love and care for you definitely makes an impact on survival rates.’ Her husband Kelly works remotely from home so he was able to be with her all but about three days since April. She said, ‘I was in awe of that. I kept encouraging him to complain if he needed to; he was doing so much for me as my caretaker, handling the household, dealing with insurance, driving to the clinic in that horrible traffic every day, just everything.’ She said one of the nurses asked him how he managed to do all that, and he said, ‘We took vows, but it goes deeper than that.’ Laura Sue said, ‘I’m so grateful for that really deep love and total commitment.’ Kelly gave the hospital 27 units of platelets during the treatment, she said. The whirlwind of her life during treatment included 30 injected doses of arsenic, which ‘repairs the protein n the gene that causes that kind of leukemia, believe it or not,’ she said. APL leukemia can start suddenly without any symptoms ‘“ all her blood tests were good just four months before she was diagnosed. ’That’s the main reason, along with my encouragement, I want to share my story with others. I want them to understand: don’t ignore your symptoms. Get checkups regularly. If you have a family history of cancer ‘“ which I do ‘“ get ahead of it by taking preventive measures and establishing a relationship with an oncologist. Eleven of 12 siblings in my mother’s family died of cancer then it moved into my generation when it killed my brother,’ said Laura Sue. The Flemings have a unique and close blended family ‘“ it has three guys named Jeremy. There’s her biological son, Jeremy Ogletree; her husband’s son Jeremy Fleming and her daughter Lacy’s husband Jeremy Worthy. They have two grandchildren, Brantley, 13, and Laura Grace Worthy, 11. She added, ‘That was one of the hardest parts for me ‘“ talking to Brantley and Laura Grace about my having cancer. I just asked them to go on with their lives but wherever they were, whenever they thought of me, just stop and say a little prayer. ‘˜Don’t worry about Mimi, I’m going to be fine,’ I told them.’ She is. Her last biopsy showed she is in complete remission. She’ll have some more preventive treatment but it doesn’t scare her a bit ‘“ ‘My faith has beyond strengthened beyond anything I ever thought it could be.’

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