Friday, June 9, 2017

Mick McKellar Update — Day +2300

Small Milestones Matter

Today marks 2,300 days since my blood and marrow stem cell transplant on February 21, 2011. I celebrate small milestones like these, in part, because each day is a gift and I look for reasons to consider each day remarkable. It helps me find significance in each moment and reasons to live in the "now," rather than trying to dwell in the future, which isn't here yet which makes living there an exercise in futility; or trying to live in the past which remains fixed and unchangeable. I took a few moments to reflect on my own milestones and those I missed...

I think we all must disappoint ourselves, at least on occasion. When I was much younger, I used to berate myself, beat myself up over missing a possible milestone or achievement. Sometimes it was a better score on an exam. Sometimes it was losing a promotion or a pay raise. Sometimes it was missing a chance at a special event or spending more time playing with my own children. I was truly awful at that last one, not because I didn't have the time, but because I didn't know how to play.

All of these mini-milestones began to accumulate, to collect, and to matter. So quickly it still takes my breath away to think of it, the time and opportunities swept by in a blur. Suddenly, I was a grandfather who had never mastered the art and science of being a father. Oh, although I'd supplied what safety and support I could afford, even some limited luxuries and technologies, wisdom was wandering far afield and foresight was focused far from the family.

You see, I wasn't living in my family's "now." I was focused on my future and reliving my past. One was pulling me forward and away from daily problems and the other was holding me back and stoking my fears of failure, illness, and uncertainty. I was the father who really wasn't there...

The More You Complain, the Longer God Lets You Live

Mostly, I complained. I grumbled and griped so much, and so often, that my family eventually tuned me out and just ignored my grousing which infuriated me. I grew resentful and withdrew even further. By this time, I had access to technologies that permitted, even encouraged me to pull away and move my life online. As early as 1993, I was posting more to chat rooms and discussion lists than having conversations around our dinner table. The kids also had access, and they were drifting off as well into the game universe and into the ether.

Time flew by, jobs were eliminated, and I found even more to bemoan and bewail until Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at about 9:00 AM. I was working when the hospital called and in a few seconds my life focused on the startling reality of leukemia. The past became immaterial. The future was startlingly foreshortened. Like it or not, I was pulled into my new "now." The initial view was grim.

Milestones, Beautiful Milestones

I'm afraid I've become a milestone junkie. I pay attention to each little step along my path now. I live as much as I can in the moment, because I am fully aware of the precarious nature of my existence. Today is day 2,300 since my transplant, and those are a small number of days compared to the 22,312 days of my life that preceded them. Still, 9.3% of my life has been lived because of the miracle of surviving with my brother's blood in my veins.

The first successful bone marrow transplant with a related donor was accomplished in 1956 between identical twins. Earlier attempts at treatment failed because the bone marrow was given by mouth. In 1958, the first non-related BMTs were done for workers after a nuclear reactor accident and the first studies of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) and the subsequent debilitation and wasting conditions were first documented. (See: Science Learning Hub). By the time I had my transplant, a lot of science had flowed under the bridge, but the current is still strong and deep. Much remains to be studied and patients still die for reasons not completely understood.

For all these reasons, I celebrate small milestones. They encourage me to remain focused on the moment and to remember the wisdom of these experiences: It is what it is.

Thank you for reading this far, and God bless you.