6 Aug

Today I’m limping around the house, recovering from an easy bone marrow biopsy at Mayo yesterday. The good news is that this one hurts far less than the last one – which really didn’t hurt that badly either – and I’m attributing that to the fact that they didn’t have to dig so far into my hip bone to find a decent repository of bone marrow. This girl has marrow to give. We should find out the results Monday afternoon.

Yesterday was Day 85, a bit early for the routine Day 100 biopsy, but Julia seemed to need bribery when I dropped the “Can I go to our family cabin all next week, five hours from Mayo?” question. She said she gives Day 100 biopsies often in the 80s and 90s, and originally wanted me to get mine next week, I thought I’d offer yesterday as a bait to say yes to my “Up North” aspirations.

Plus, my blood work hasn’t been the greatest lately. My platelets keep falling but my white count is holding steady, and that’s the evidence behind our hope that my up-and-up recovery from HC is to blame for my dwindling blood counts. The real shiner in this all has been my hemoglobin. After my double-transfusion last week I jumped from 7.5 to 10.5. I’ve been running around the house all week with so much energy I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m doing curls with my IV fluids backpack just for fun. I’m reading into all hours of the night because I CAN’T sleep. I don’t understand what I’ll do when I’m a normal person again with a 12-16 hemoglobin. I think this explains my run-tourists-over pace in DC.

One of my new I-have-energy projects is to organize and album-ize every photo I’ve ever printed. That means even the high school cardboard-camera-at-every-danceteam-competition era. I love you dear friends, but the 100s of versions of my face plus your face photos were not necessary. Of course I didn’t write on the backs of them, so figuring out their dates usually involves two factors: 1) The length of my hair. When I was growing it back out the first time, there were many “cut off the mullet, just cut off the mullet” stages. 2) If the my eyebrows were long and spiky. I took very seriously the rule my mom told me about not plucking eyebrows from the top. It took me a while to learn I didn’t have to be so absolute, especially when your eyebrows heighten and bush-ify when they reach your nose crease.

Yesterday I came across a 2005 photo of my dear friend Laura Jahnke and I at Glamorama (a yearly Macy’s socialite fashion show in Minneapolis to benefit the Children’s Cancer Research Fund). It just so happens to be happening tonight. Laura taught me more about poise, gratitude, humor and sincerity in the face of illness than anyone I’ve ever met. Two weeks before she died of osteosarcoma, a death she and her family knew was imminent, I visited her meet-and-greet style along with several others who flocked to Minneapolis when she was in town from her new Ohio home. That girl, already in a wheelchair but displaying her bald head like a trophy, was the calmest, most at-peace person in the room. Expecting to stumble through a conversation about her health, I was flummoxed when she sincerely asked me how I was doing, never slipping her eyes away from mine or wilting that sincere smile.

Laura and me (yes, that's the bad, growing-out hair you can all look forward to again)

I often think about Laura and where she’d be today. No doubt she’d be up to something worth all our while. That’s why when someone says to me, “Ah well, everything happens for a reason,” I force a shuddered half-smile and walk away. There is no reason that Laura died from the same cancer I survived. No reason Alex, Nantedah and Amy died, either. Sure, they taught a lot of people a lot of valuable lessons, but to say that their early departure made their examples more valuable for the rest of us is trite and self-righteous. Likewise, there is no reason there are more than 250,000 children famished in Somalia, thousands that still live in tents in Haiti, and a hospital in Benin that draws all patients’ blood using one needle because they have no others, while my house is plush with food, a secure roof and more medical supplies than that entire hospital. No, everything does not happen for a reason.

Instead, as Laura taught me, with the right support and a thoughtful spirit, you can reason with anything.

4 Responses to “Reason”

  1. Derek August 6, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Thoughtful post. I really miss Laura too. Too many people have fought the good fight and lost. We need to fight on in their memory….. but you’re right, sometimes crappy things happen for no reason.

  2. Lois Guggisberg August 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Three cheers to you Jenna, I’m so glad to hear you are feeling a bit better, and yes to the the comment that everything happens for a reason. You don’t know how much I hate that pharse!! However it may be true, and we just will not understand until we get to see the whole picture, from God’s view, of which I, like you, are not ready for yet. So we move forward and do what we can to make things better. Have fun at the lake. Love lLois

  3. Laurie Pappenfus August 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Amen Jenna

  4. Emily Metzger August 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm #


    I am so grateful for this post. I, too, often find myself frustrated with the “everything happens for a reason” notion. The idea that good fortune or tragedy can visit itself upon one’s life with a degree of randomness is, of course, frightening. Yet the one thing we can control is our response to adversity. Upon reading your wise and eloquent conclusion, I’d like to observe that you reason with difficulty with inspiring grace. Reading your blog reminds me to try harder.

    I am clearly not the only one so affected. I really hope that you consider turning all of this into a book at some point. If you haven’t already thought about that, I hope you will. As I’ve said before, you are a great writer.

    Now that I’ve gotten all of that off my chest, I promise I’ll take the seriousness down a few notches. I’ll have to go back to posting pictures of puppies on your Facebook wall….



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