One more reassurance.
“Good news! Your chimerism results came back and you’re still at 100%,” affirmed Julia as I wrestled Lucy with my non-phone hand. That means my blood DNA is still 100% my donor’s, leaving no room for my cancerous DNA to come roaring back.
These reassurances are slowly building, each time adding another rung to the ladder that will one day get me high enough to declare “all clear.”
But in the last month there have been a few “chute” that chute me down a few rungs, making me question the real-ness of my recovery. I was on-and-off sick for most of November. Sickness in the chilling of November leads to de-motivation. At first I was proud of my immune system. It recovered a heck of a lot faster than my mom’s, which left her down-and-out with the same bug that provoked me. But just as I was doing victory laps around the dining room table it struck again a week later. And then again a week later. Concerned, Julia ran the gamut of tests only to come out empty-handed. More reassurances. It was just a bug after all.
So even though my hair is still less lush than the locks of most newborns, and even though I still get tired at noon, again at six and bed-ready by nine, I’m starting to let myself look up and maybe even over the ladder.
Be The Match is starting to see over, too. This month they celebrated having facilitated 50,000 bone marrow transplants since the National Marrow Donor Program started 25 years ago. This video says it all:
I was lucky enough to celebrate this milestone in the company of dozens of recent bone marrow donors at the Marrow Donor Appreciation Dinner in San Antonio. I’ll admit, my Minnesota mom and I definitely came up short in themed Texas swagger for the event. But what we lacked in wardrobe I hope we made up in appreciation (and attempted line dancing). Speaking at the event, I was almost at a loss for words. First of all, I couldn’t help but dream that my own donor was seated around one of those roundtables and that, after hearing the familiarity of my story, would leap up to the podium and embrace me while the country band played some gleeful Dixie Chicks song. It didn’t happen.
But the more I thought of it, the more inclusive my dream became. All of these people in front of me were my donors. They would have donated if it had been me on the other end just as they did for another stranger. One person donated despite having been in a serious car crash days before. Another had donated twice. Another kept donating white blood cells in the hopes that extra immune boosters would help their recipient survive.
The responsibility of thanksgiving hit me. Most of the donors in the room had donated less than a year ago, all of us in that in-between, can’t-talk-yet stage. And after that many wouldn’t meet their recipients because of international barricades, travel impediments,an unsuccessful transplant, or other reasons.
As one of those 50,000 transplant recipients, I’d like to think I have enough appreciation to go around. But I don’t think anything I could have said could convey my gratitude.
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