Seventh MilestoneSeven years ago today, right about the time I'm typing these words, lifesaving stem cells from my brother Kevin were introduced to my weary and worried person. Months of chemotherapy leading to several days of conditioning, left my bone marrow barren and my immune system in shambles. Two small bags of stem cells were hooked up to my port and I waited while they slowly dripped into my heart for distribution throughout my system.
No fanfare. No photos. It didn't take very long. I went back to our room at the transplant house and waited.
Did I mention that I smelled like creamed corn for two days? That was interesting.
I've treasured the fact that my miracle was such a low-key event. After all the hazmat gear of the chemotherapy sessions, the machinery of the testing and scanning, and the endless hours of solutions dripping into (and out of) me, the simplicity of the transplant was almost pleasant. It was, of course, an irrevocable step taken in desperation. My blood would no longer be MY blood -- it would be my brother's blood -- and that blood would take on a life all its own.
In various ways, the blood in my body would reject me and attack me in confused fury. It attacked my skin, my liver, my kidneys, my eyes, my mouth and GI tract, my teeth, and my lungs. At the same time, my new blood was generally unwilling to respond to foreign invaders, requring multiple hospitalizations and re-vaccination for childhood diseases. I required cataract surgery, removal of my gall bladder, and treatment for skin cancer. I still take 12 medications.
However, seven years later, I am still here -- alive and writing this depressing narrative! My new normal is unlike anything I could have predicted. That CML would change the course of my life never occurred to me as I was busy making retirement plans. I've learned that, although I need to plan for a future, I need to be flexible enough to absorb a sucker punch and resilient enough to come right back and make necessary course corrections. I also learned to live each day as though it might be my last. I try not to waste time on worry.
Guess what? I am happier now than I can remember, because I know I can take a punch. Like my old Timex watch, I can "take a licking and keep on ticking."
Thanks to everyone who helped us and sent so many (recently maligned) thoughts and prayers. It all helped.