Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +2557

Seventh Milestone

Seven 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.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +2538

Call Me Sunny ⛅, Sonny!

       Let me tell you about this morning's dream. Today was the latest I have risen since my days in hospital, where I was in bed most of every day. My dream was difficult to flee this time. I truly wanted to stay asleep and enjoy the sensations of peace and warmth.
       You see, I was a star 🌟, like our Sun, but in human form. Although it felt as though I had a nuclear fire 🔥 at my core, it didn't burn me to cause pain, but infused every cell of my being with warmth and light. Overwhelmed with joy, I would explode into a massive ball of brilliant fire, but not destroy anything, just become a momentary burst of sunlight. Gold and silver streams of joy would burst forth, and whenever someone was touched by them, they paused and smiled...just a little.
       As I walked about in the snow, I felt the snow melt away and luxurious green grass and feathery moss appeared to cushion my feet. My feet were perfect, unscarred, and felt everything because I wore no shoes. Having known only pressure and pain for all but 18 months of my life, the experience was overwhelming.

Exploration and Investigation

       Although it was snowing like gangbusters, the flakes evaporated as they touched me. I could feel their feathery, chilly caress, a gentle summer breeze on a warm afternoon. The sounds were exhilarating. The hushed whisper of the snow, the rattling of the pine boughs in the wind, and the enveloping fairy cries of life all about tickled my ears. The rushing, hissing, whining, and roaring of tinnitus was gone, as was the patient thrum of my beating heart, and the distinct grinding of bones as I moved about. I almost heard silence for the first time.
       Hunger and thirst were behind me, and yet I still breathed. I sensed that I no longer needed to take a breath, but found some comfort in being able to do so without the pain and distress, so much a part of my daily life. I felt no pain at all, though I could touch things. I soon learned not to touch people, as they apparently could not see me, and it caused them distress. For a time, I simply watched them go about their self-important tasks and selfless expressions of love, as they worked, worried, wished, worshipped, and wondered.
       Few of the folk I haunted were happy. Although most had everything necessary for comfort, sustenance, companionship, and safety, few were satisfied and even fewer were happy. There were moments when individuals and couples would suddenly shine brightly and these ephemeral sunrises were common enough, but they seldom lasted more than a moment as the burning lights within were once again hooded and shut away -- even from each other.


       There were shadows moving among other living folk.
       These individuals and groups of individuals seemed to drain light away from others around them. There were no shadow couples, as even within groups, they shared little and what light touched them was deflected or absorbed. They carried their own personal winter with them.
       Still others seemed broken, their light flashing and surging, and then suddenly dimming -- even plunging into shadow. I came to think of them as distress beacons flashing in the night. Often, shining folk would congregate about such a beacon and seek to share and stabilize. Sometimes, no one helped and the beacon spun off flashing desperately in the distance. 

Fireflies Everywhere.

       Small flashing points of light drifted about, usually in the orbit of an individual or group of folk. It didn't take long to sense these were pets and other animals. They seemed to have a symbiotic relationship with folk, their tiny sparks adding to the glow of their compatriots.
       Larger glowing orbs appeared and disappeared constantly with and among the folk around me. It took a moment to realize they were just like me. Gazing and watching, flaring and shining, occasionally touching living folk. Often, they concentrated on the shadows, but just as often had little or no effect on the path of the shadows or the darkness around them. Sometimes, occasionally in the immediate vicinity of a shadow, sudden flashes and explosions of light would erupt. Instantly, I knew it was others discovering their light.

Coming Home

       As I began to flit and flicker about, visiting and watching and learning, a warm light enveloped me, revealing two paths. One lead to light, warmth, and a pain-free existence. The other drew me with an irresistible force, back to daily trials and a chance to share what I saw. Here I am, so you can guess my choice.
       For a few minutes after waking, the joy and the warmth stayed with me, as I slowly cooled back into plain Ol’ Mick. However, for awhile I was energized, happy, and at peace. Was I once again dancing near death? I wonder why I might have chosen to come back to this cold and cruel world. I also understand why some folks simply die while sleeping.
       Dreams are strange, wonderful, and dangerous things.