Hi! I hope this finds everyone doing well. I’m sure most of you are busy getting all of your last minute holiday arrangements checked off as you get ready for the upcoming week. I have to admit there is a part of me that is glad not to be caught up in the crowds and busyness of this time of year that tends to be overwhelmed with obligations and endless to do’s before the year end, not to mention way too much food! But it truly is a wonderful time of year and we have so enjoyed receiving all of your Christmas cards and seeing pictures of you and your beautiful families. It has been so fun to see faces we haven’t seen in awhile from near and far and to see all the new additions to your growing families. You guys have been busy!
Obviously this year will be different for us and we had planned a quiet gathering at the house with our parents and my sister and her husband who are in town for the holiday from Washington, D.C. But early last week we got great news that they wanted to move up my second and final high dose chemo/stem cell transplant to this week. Most people’s reaction is how awful it is to have it over Christmas, but we are thrilled. Our doctors had originally told me it could be anywhere between 5 weeks to 3 months in between the two treatments depending on how quickly my counts recovered, how I was feeling, how I was doing medically and other variables. So we’ve been in somewhat of a holding pattern, waiting to see when we would move forward for the second and final push. Not knowing what to expect with the first one, we took it as it came and I am very pleased to tell you that I have felt absolutely great and apparently what I feel on the inside translates to a gold star by their measures as well. I often get worried looks as I sweat away on the elliptical and do a pared down version of my regular weights routine. While I am purposeful not to push myself, I have learned to listen to my body and honor what it is asking for. I’ve been extremely blessed to feel wonderful and have lots of energy. I often say that I feel better than normal and I am so grateful for that. Although I can’t lie and say I won’t be thrilled to get this catheter out of my chest and go for a nice run come spring…some habits die hard! Anyway, moving up the final treatment means that all of my chemo will be finished by the end of 2008 and I can ring in 2009 with my second and final clean slate and my new life! I can’t think of a better present.
So I have been busy doing the medical work up and getting things ready on my end to go into the hospital tomorrow afternoon. As before, I will get IV hydration that day and start chemo Tuesday morning which will continue through Friday with a break Saturday and Sunday and my stem cell transplant Monday. I will be discharged that day sometime after the transplant barring any medical reasons. And as they told me before, it is most likely (99.9% as they put it) I will be re-admitted within 3 days or so of the transplant and will stay until my counts recover (7-14 days). That means I have a pretty good shot of ringing in the New Year at home with Neil and that would be great!
The way I see it, I have four days of high dose chemo between me and the rest of my life, and that is pretty fantastic! Once this second one is over the clock starts ticking in my favor. The catheter can come out in about 3-4 weeks, three months after I can start venturing out and seeing friends, six months after I can get a dog and fly….exciting stuff! It’s fun to be able to look forward and start making plans as we have a lot of fun things on our list. It’s funny, as we look forward to this final push being behind us, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when I am able to integrate back into the “real world” after all of this. I’m a different person through and through. Some changes will be more obvious than others and some I can’t seem to find words to explain. Some are predictable and some are much more subtle, but just as profound. Some have settled in easily, while others I am still finding a home for. It’s been odd at times to feel as though I should know how to do something, yet the basis from which I do everything has completely changed, the core augmented and redefined. It’s been like learning to walk again at times. There is a sureness and strength to some parts and a sweet fragileness to others as it all continues to emerge, settle and integrate.
Neil and I both continue to feel a wonderful peace and sureness of the course we have traveled and where it leads. We’ve witnessed first hand the beautiful power of prayer, the amazing generosity of all those who have supported us through this and a sense of gratitude that is overwhelming at times. Using the analogy of a snow globe (seems fitting for this time of year), this journey has allowed the “snow” to settle to the bottom and reveal the clear, still water. A lot of times I think we let life, it’s situations and even ourselves “shake up” the globe of our world and it seems to obscure our vision. If we can only allow it all to settle, to distill, we can then see with clarity the beauty of our lives.
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and many, many wonderful blessings for the New Year. It is my prayer every night that your prayers, kindness and generosity be returned to you multiplied and that each of you would know and feel our profound gratitude and love.
“I can scarcely wait till tomorrow,
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.”
-The final lines of “The Round” by Stanley Kunitz