Wrote this on New Year’s, just posting it now.
As the year 2013 is coming to a close, I have been reflecting on what an incredible year it has been. I stopped making New Years resolutions a while ago, because I really never kept the ones I made, and somehow the importance of doing that seems so trivial now. I can completely understand wanting to start the new year with sort of a clean slate, and to hopefully have a more productive, full, enriching, happy year ahead. As for me, I look at 2014 the same way I did last year when 2013 was just around the corner — a most amazing gift.
It has now been 605 days – 20 months- since my bone marrow transplant. If you think it is quirky to count each day and keep track of them, all bone marrow transplant survivors and their medical teams do exactly that. So we have those numbers constantly in our heads, keeping track of each new milestone. This year (2013) has been the best year I have had for a long time. I’m still recovering, but I am definitely as close to feeling 100 percent as I can be. My energy level is high and it feels so good to be busy and do the things that I love. This year has been a true blessing.
Without getting too melodramatic about it, when I spent two months in Hopkins in isolation, I had a lot of time to think. When anyone comes face to face with a catastrophic medical illness, the reality of the situation kicks you in the gut pretty fast. When I was not in my drug-induced and chemo-induced red haze, I put a lot of images in my brain to get through it. I prayed every day, of course, but I did other things as well. I took trips, I painted pictures, I had imaginary conversations, I listened to music, I played a movie loop of my life so far — you get the idea. This was done laying flat on my back hooked up to the largest IV pole I had ever seen. I use the term “red haze” because strangely, when I closed my eyes (and my eyes were closed a lot) it appeared so red. Was it all the brand new marrow trying to take up residence in my body? I don’t know. I only experienced that for about three months.
During this time I also made up my mind to revel in each and every day that comes my way. It’s amazing how much in this world is clutter that depletes our bodies and souls of much-needed love, energy, and appreciation of life. The 24-hour news cycle that constantly bombards us with “important” happenings every day, and then relentlessly replays those happenings until we beg for relief. And all the nastiness that erupts from so many venues about almost everything is so disheartening. I have come to believe that of course there are very important issues in this world that need to be discussed and resolved, but those issues will eventually resolve themselves if good and loving people take the lead. And if those nasty, screaming people would just get out of the way.
The crazy things you think of when you are so vulnerable after being told the diagnosis. My doctor was and is amazing. Here is a man who has the reputation of being one of the best, if not THE best, oncologist/hematologist/scientist in the world when it comes to rare blood diseases at Hopkins. As I listened to him and watched him, I was impressed. He had compassion and very kind eyes with a lot of laugh lines, so I knew he must smile a lot. And he is a hugger. Larry and I have received numerous hugs from him. When he looked me straight in the eye and said, “we WILL get you through this”, I completely believed him and trusted him. And I never once thought about what his opinion was of The Affordable Care Act, gun control, immigration reform, what his religion was or if he even had a religion, what political party he liked, etc. All the hot button issues of our world faded away. All the clutter disappeared. It was just me and Larry and Kellie in that room preparing for battle, alongside my doctor and his arsenal of weapons. The biggest weapon of all was always the prayers from so many people, but the doctor’s expertise and tools at his disposal were very much needed also.
I don’t sweat the small stuff or the big stuff anymore. I feel very much at peace. My family would say that I still get “hyper” about some things, but that is just my personality. I am truly peaceful. I am in contact with two other women, both BMT survivors, pretty regularly. One just passed the two year mark and the other passed the three year mark. It’s good to be on this journey with others who have come before you. They have given me so much support and good information. I am trying in some small way to “pass it forward” to help other people in any way that I can. Amazingly, opportunities have arisen this past year to do just that. People have contacted me about their own challenges with BMT or challenges their loved ones are facing after being diagnosed with leukemia.
So, no New Years resolutions for me. Just reflections on the wonderful life I have, my loving family and extended family, all my friends in art class and elsewhere, and what I would like to experience in 2014. Take a look around. The smallest thing may inspire you. God is truly great.