Saturday, September 14, 2013

Walkin’ the Green Mile

I ain’ committed no crime, yet I’m on death row in ‘cell #6,’ waitin’ ta walk the big ol’green mile. I’ve been given six lethal infusions that are systematically killing my capability to produce blood. Without intervention, I will surely die. This is by design of course, but it is nonetheless, very much factual. Let me pause while I swallow the very big lump in my throat. This latest infusion packs a pretty big wallop. I’m feeling a bit lightheaded, my ears are ringing above authorized levels, and I have this funny sensation in my sinuses. I have developed rashes in the crooks of my elbows and knees and I had a rather bad day of “shake ‘n bake” (chills and fever) and I don’t feel well enough to eat without throwing it up again.
Tomorrow, things change forever. Or you so might think.            
I’ve already begun an infusion of an anti-rejection drug called Tacrilimus so that at some point tomorrow, I will receive stem cells from Hans, my mystery donor. Those cells will immediately go to the ‘iCells’ and become the ‘0’ required type I need.
The day those cells that look little more than ketchup push into my veins, many consider my new “birthday.” So, while I will have walked that green mile, I will also have found a new life after considerable struggle. My new ‘birthday’ turned out to be pretty nonchalant, but it presented a new chance at living. It was a very quiet 10-15 minutes, yet powerful in significance.
So, why ponder on the details of a procedure that is considerably uncomfortable and one that has mortality figures attached to it? Because life, at the risk of coming across as a wee bit glib, is important and those of us who have threatening situations should recognize that in truly the starkest of terms. It sucks, it hurts, and there’s no fun involved at all, but I will survive. I’m profoundly grateful to you all for your best wishes, your kind smiles, gifts to my family, and for all the small details that (I guarantee you I don’t miss attention!). In truth, I didn’t realize that anything I did had anything to do with those of you who had offered up your own well wishes until I had emerged from my own ‘hovel’ of sorts. After all, this all seemed liked it was most assuredly, all about me! Even though that was true to some extent, I was about to learn that wasn’t quite true.

There are a lot of people at different stages of their treatment shuffling through the MTU each morning, but only about half a dozen inpatient rooms as most of the transplant procedure actually takes place outside the hospital. It makes things overall easy to keep track of everyone. Once I went inpatient for my actual transplant, I lost track of a lot of my compadrés going through this loveliness with me. Much like my first hospitalization, I lost my strength and just felt like watching the birds when they happened to cross my path. Still, part of my daily regimen, is to take a walk. On returning back, I met up with a wife of of a guy going through an “auto [providing one own’s stem cells]. The two of them had just been home for a couple of weeks fishing and had recently returned back to the MTU to finish the deal. Each regimen has its plusses and minuses, inevitably leaving you with the “I couldn’t do that!” expression on your face. In this case, it was full body irradiation.  That was the hurdle I struggled with, yet for their relationship, that’s what he would do for her.

I think that’s when it struck me. It isn’t all about me. In her very simple, pleading voice, she explained to me about her husband sleeping in one of the adjoining suite of rooms. She told me, “I can only imagine what he’s going through, but it’s the least I’d do for him. That’s what love does for one another. So, at that little alcove at the end of the hallway, I saw it wasn’t about a single person. Going through the extreme sacrifice of cancer treatment is as much for others as it is for oneself.


The day before leaving for Seattle, we all gathered for a BBQ in Park City. A large version of this picture hangs at the foot of my bed at the hospital, reminding me that I have a lot of people I am living for and a lot of people who love me. This is only a fraction of the who' fam damily!
We walked each other back to the MTU where her husband was asleep and I had some new things to think about. The day before I headed out from Utah for this grand adventure of healing, this pic was snapped and deemed “Team Todd 2013.” It has most of my local family and it was blown up to poster size so it can look down on me during some rather lonely nights. I am without a spouse and my children live on the other side of the country, so the poster is significant. My children and indeed those smiling down on me from the solitude of Team Todd 2013 are those whom I have to garner the strength to keep living and fighting for. It is indeed not just about me. Happy new birthday, sure…but it means so much more, especially to those who walk with me. The only crime I will have committed will be the one of supreme selfishness to ignore this birthday.

Be well, stay strong J, and much love to you all!

Today's music:  Magia de Amore by Vitorio Grigolo
 
Te recorro lentamente por la piel
Te acaricio tiernamente las mejillas
Y mis manos se enloquecen al llegar
Lentas en tierras perdidas
Suaves colinas dormidas
Y mi boca que no deja de besar
Y se pierde en las arenas atrevidas
Y tu playa se confunde con mi mar
Anchas, ondas compartidas
Sabias, gaviotas amigas
Magia de amor
Juego inocente
Loca ilusiòn que escapò entre la gente
Y que vuelve a mi lado
Sin otra intenciòn que vivir
Sin pedir un por qué
Ni olvidar el perdòn
Me fascina tu manera de querer
Y me entrego a tus malicias decididas
Me abandono a la conquista de tus pies
Bellas palomas prohibidas
Fiesta de miel escondida
Magia de amor
Juego inocente
Loca ilusiòn que escapò entre la gente
Y que vuelve a mi lado
Sin otra intenciòn que vivir
Sin pedir un por qué
Ni olvidar el perdòn
Que vuelve a mi lado
Sin otra intenciòn que vivir
Ni olvidar el perdòn
Sin pedir un por qué
Ni olvidar el perdòn