Chutes and Ladders

30 Nov

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 agoThis 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.

Salsa dancing to Enrique Iglesias with Jason, founder of the Marrow Me? Foundation, a fellow transplant recipient and an esteemed ballet dancer

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7 Responses to “Chutes and Ladders”

  1. Be The Match November 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Great news Jenna! Thank you for your support and commitment to Be The Match. When you share your story and help spread the word you are helping to make life-saving transplants a reality for more patients. We shared your blog post on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

  2. cari November 30, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    I’m a minnesota native as well. I saw your blog in the Be the Match feed, Im a registered donor though I haven’t yet had the opportunity to donate. Your story makes me all the more committed to what Be the Match is doing, and to helping more people realize the benefits of this amazing program. Stay strong, and don’t get discouraged, I had the same cold bug last week, on and off all month! It must be a minnesota thing :)

  3. Cate November 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Good posture on the dance floor. Dancing With The Stars score: 9.

  4. Brittany Rask November 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Of course it would be Enrique you were dancing too! so glad for the good news keep them coming.

  5. Robin Wall November 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    I love your “Chutes and Ladders” allusions- makes me think you should expand the scope of your writing. However, I do think you are rather hard on yourself. I am a 40-something potential donor, and I start to drag late afternoon and am bed-ready by 9pm- though that means kicking back w/ a book for awhile. If you lead a full life while you’re awake (which it appears you are), I wouldn’t worry so much about the feeling tired periods.

  6. ladders December 1, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    They call it snakes and ladders in the UK. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Good Riddance and Happy New Year « The Redhead Report - January 1, 2012

    […] right time, when my Mayo doctors had armloads of research to give me the best outcomes, and when Be The Match had 25 years to build an extensive list of committed donors, one of whom would donate to me when she was only […]

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