We recognize and celebrate milestones. It's how we measure both the passage of life and our collection of legacies. Many are extremely personal, as is tomorrow's milestone. It's one that seemed impossible more than five years ago.
Saturday, August 13 (tomorrow) is the 2000th day since my blood and marrow stem cell transplant (BMT) on February 21, 2011! On that day, I received the gift of stem cells and T-cells from my brother Kevin. Those cells engrafted into my bone marrow and began producing the necessary blood cells to keep me alive.
The event itself was remarkably benign and rather boring — I was party to the delivery of a couple of bags of cells attached to the port in my chest, an examination to make sure I wasn't allergic to anything delivered, and a quick trip back to the Gift of Life Transplant House — surrounded by the unmistakable odor of creamed corn. The fragrance was from the chemicals used to preserve the cells. It didn't make me hungry.
I have often written of the journey of the next 100 or so days, in preparation for going home in June 2011, and of the many battles since coming home. My dance with both acute and chronic Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) is ongoing, and the stories about the bewildering variety and potency of my medications would bore you to tears. We've had some very close calls, and additional problems and surgeries since 2011, but with the grace of God and the prayers and good thoughts of my friends and family, I am still here, and Marian is still taking care of me. I often wonder how she does it. I'm not sure I could have put up with me.
I've lived one-day-at-a-time, always with the proviso that any day could be my last. Although that threat remains, it seems distant now, after so many gifts. Problems still pop up (Tuesday night, I broke another tooth — I think some of my meds weaken them), but we fix what we can and march forward.
Here's a few things I learned along the way to day+ 2000:
- The physical cost is immeasurable.
- The financial cost is ruinous.
- The emotional cost is enormous.
- I can survive prodigious pain, and fortunately, morphine can reduce that pain to tolerable levels.
- Life is precious and worth fighting for.
- Friendship and love are real superpowers!
- Don't waste a second of your life, because it can slip away in a moment.
- Keep your fear in your back pocket. If it bothers you, sit on it.
- Hate is an expensive hobby that creates only pain and leaves you empty, hollow, broken.
- Never go to bed without saying, "I love you," to those who share your life.
We made many friends at Gift of Life, and we lost more than a few. This caused many long nights brooding over why I was spared. Somehow, I managed simultaneously to feel excited, happy, grateful, blessed, confused, frightened, sad, loved, and lonely. At times I thought my heart might explode. Add high-dose steroids to the mix (prednisone), and my behavior could, at times, be frightening. It was a time for tough lessons.
Well, I just wanted to share my milestone, and to jump up and down and point at my growing life legacy. Thanks to you all for your prayers and good thoughts, and for continuing to share this journey with us!
Good night and God bless!