Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life's Blood

I just got back from a trip to the main branch of the Providence Post Office, the first automated post office in the world. I wasn't there to mail a letter, however. I was there to listen to a speaker from the Rhode Island Blood Center encourage post office employees to donate blood. Several months ago, I volunteered to speak on behalf of the RIBC, and today I had a chance to observe a woman tell her story about why blood donors are heroes.

Nine years ago, the speaker's daughter was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia , a rare blood disorder. This 15-year old girl received hundreds of units of red blood cells and platelets during her treatment. She subsequentally underwent a bone marrow transplant, with her 4-year old brother as her donor. One reason this young lady is alive today is that ordinary Rhode Islanders took the time to give blood at work, at school, in their communities, and at the RIBC itself. My husband is a long-time donor. He started giving blood at the RIBC (Warwick branch) years before I was diagnosed with leukemia. Blood drives are sponsored by the West Warwick Public Library at least three times a year. I mention this because I'm a proud employee of the institution.

I'm ready to tell my personal story, the one in which everyday heroes donated their blood so it was on hand when mine was failing me. If my tale can inspire people to donate a small bag of life-saving fluid, I'll feel really really good.

Imagine how the people who get those bags will feel.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Dedicate This Race

Today's the big race I've been training for.

I began training a year ago in a bed in a Boston Hospital, connected by a jumble of snaking tubes to an I.V. pole, racing nowhere. I was lamenting how I was missing the race I'd done the year before, the one 6 months after my leukemia diagnosis. Mind racing with possibilities, I vowed to run the annual 5k next year.

Next year is here.

I dedicate this race (I should say slightly-faster-than-normal jog, because the only part of me likely to be racing is my heart) to everyone in Leukemia world: those currently undergoing or recovering from treatment, and their caretakers; the medical professionals who provide the weapons with which to fight; the walking and slightly wounded survivors.

Running through the streets of Providence today, I'll be thinking especially about those of you in the hospital counting the days since transplant and waiting for your moment in the sun.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Really Slow Dancing

That's me and my husband dancing at the wedding we went to on Saturday. I wish I had a picture of me asleep in the chair about an hour later. The event was held in a mansion, so there was no dearth of comfy wing chairs to curl up in.

This is what I learned: you can dress up, apply make-up, make your hair poufy and even paint your fingernails, but as Cinderella discovered, time always catches up with you. I performed admirably for the first few hours, and then suddenly felt all the life in me slip away. You know how your lap top goes black while you're in mid-sentence, or a cellphone conversation is suddenly one-way? That was me, completely inert, my battery charger unavailable. This isn't surprising based on what I've been through, but it's still depressing to face your limitations.

We have another wedding next month. It's an afternoon affair, so I should do better. I've always been a morning person. That's more true than ever.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Unlike my house, my bone marrow is "spotless." That's the word my transplant doctor chose to describe the results of last week's biospy. I'm 99% donor in the marrow, and 97% in the peripheral blood. The Colorado cord is still predominating, but the Australian cord shows no signs of backing down. T-cell analysis shows some of mine are still hanging around (18%), but the doctor says that's not unexpected with cbt's.

My immune system is slowly rebuilding. The most recent CD4 count is 355, up a hundred or so since last checked. The CD4 indicates immune system strength. When it reaches 500, I'll be in normal range. For now, I still have to exercise caution, but I can ease up a little bit.

Tomorrow, I'm going to a wedding in Wilmington, Deleware. I promise not to dance on the tables.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

They Say It's My Birthday

Being born is no picnic. I can attest to that because a year ago, I experienced a miraculous new birth day. I guess it was technically a virgin birth, too, but forgive me if I don't wade into theological waters.

On September 7, 2007, two bags of baby stem cells were infused into my bloodstream. Those cells did their job apparently, and here I still am. Believe me, a year ago today, I was barely existing. Today, I went for a 3-mile run, had breakfast with family and friends, and continued planting in my front garden, which is really just playing in the dirt, something my one-year old self naturally enjoys. Last night, my husband and friends threw a surprise party for me, complete with cake and a candle. I think there was supposed to be a ballon, but I've yet to receive it. Perhaps they realized it could be a choking hazard.

As grateful as I am to be here celebrating one year as a mixed-blood person, I think about two dear friends who've walked down the path I'm on: Ann, who had her own rebirthday yesterday, and Leah, who won't celebrate her rebirthday but joins me on mine.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One-Year Post Transplant

It's not officially my re-birthday until September 7, but today I had my one-year check-up, and except for the many holes I had poked in my body, I'm doing very well. My counts are all normal. My doctor, who's as buttoned-up and professional as they come, actually gave me a hug. I'd have preferred a deep tissue massage, but I settled for what I hope is my final bone marrow biospy, #14.

In addition to the lab extracting 16 vials of blood, I was given 3 immunizations. I ache all over, but I intend to go outside and garden anyway, because the doctor says I CAN!!!

I will report the results of the biopsy here in 10 days or so. In the meantime, come see me over at Word in the Woods

Monday, September 1, 2008

You're cordially invited

to join me as I birth my new blog. Fittingly or coincidentally, depending upon your world view, it's Labor Day in the U.S. of A.

The Plog continues, although I expect to post more sporadically than I have in the past year.

Word in the Woods awaits you.