Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I don't know why this breaks me up every time I watch it.

Perhaps I recognize the look of canine despair, the one Finn gets when we put antlers on him at Christmas.

I'm sure they're all thinking: My parents are total dorks.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Brush Strokes

Well, I'm here, so I obviously didn't paint myself into a corner.

Last weekend in Seattle was wonderful. The painting workshop was really interesting, but challenging at times.

On the last day, I was having quite a bit of pain in my back and was really pissed off about it. I was hurling all sorts of threats and choice words at the Hodgkin's (in my head) which culminated with tears at lunch.

Recognizing this as an opportunity to work with the energy, I went back and got myself set up with a huge canvas, grabbed the biggest brush I could find and got to work.

First, I painted a spine and vertebrae in a flesh tone, then grabbed another big brush and started stamping the area of my discomfort (on the canvas) with big, bloody-red blotches, all the while thinking, take that motherf*cker!

I carried on well from there with lots of black and more red and, interestingly, my pain subsided by the time I was finished.

Hmm, I'm thinking I may have to repaint the house.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Friday

(Again, you may want to turn off my ipod on the lower right side of the page while you watch this).

This is adorable Angelo the Lamb who was recently rescued and is now living at The Farm Sanctuary. I think he will make you smile.

Don't you dig his orange sweater?

Now off to Seattle to paint, paint, paint!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Move Over, Monet

(You may want to pause my ipod on the right-hand side if you're watching this):

I am excited.

This weekend my mom and I are heading south to do The Painting Experience in Seattle. I'm not new to painting, but I've always found it frustrating not to be able to translate what is in my head onto the canvas. I am much more comfortable with the written word.

The Painting Experience has been around for a long time and appeals to me because it explores painting in much the same way I do writing in my workshops. It is about process, not product.

It is not about judging or critiquing your work, but nurturing the desire within you to create, whether that be something beautiful, dark, sad or totally meaningless. My mom and I have agreed to work on opposite sides of the room so we don't inhibit or embarrass each other if we are suddenly compelled to paint naked people.

In other news, today is Ian's birthday. He began celebrations early when I arrived home last night after dinner with Jenny, Scott, Ela and Zoe (thanks again!) and saw garbage all over our carport. We appeared to be the dinner hosts for some crafty raccoons. After we cleaned up their leftovers, we went to bed and woke up at four in the morning to the sound of our garbage can banging around.

Ian got up to scare them away and I stood and waited to see them pass by the bedroom window. It was totally dark, so when I saw the first one lumbering along, I couldn't really tell how big it was. That was until it stopped in front of the window and looked at me.

My, what big teeth you have, Mr. Raccoon.

Wait, you're not a raccoon...

You're an f*ing bear!

And you're staring at me in the dark.


Needless to say, I shut the curtains very quickly as I thought, at this rate, he's likely to break through the window, eat me, then bust open our refrigerator.

Better hide the birthday cake.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The View From Here

Without retouching...

Lately, what comes more into focus is the importance of defining the values that are important to me and the goals I have for this lifetime, however long.

When it comes down to it, they are not lofty or complex. In addition, of course, to meaningful and loving relationships with my family and friends, it really boils down to the following:

I want to be kind;

I want to encourage and support the creative process in myself and others;

I want to help animals in need.

Of course, I want to laugh, travel, end starvation, complain bitterly about the upcoming Olympics, walk my dog and kiss my husband. I want to do yoga, be sarcastic, eat good food, cure cancer, go on road trips and bring about world peace.

However, I decided to make the list a little more manageable to increase the likelihood of getting everything done. Lists make me anxious. I actually make lists of things I've already accomplished just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing those things off. Yep, total nutter, I know.


To do:

See therapist.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Thumbs Up

I have the go-head to continue on the SGN-35 trial (insert sigh of relief here).

My initial PET/CT results showed, again, a slightly "mixed picture", but overall the impression was stable. I will have my 8th infusion tomorrow.

While we still have to wait for the more specific details of the CT, it is thought that any increases in disease activity are not significant enough to take me off the trial. If I have a 50% increase in the size of even one area, we have to move to plan B (more like plan J at this point) so we will be watching things very carefully.

While I was very relieved to get this news, it is still, obviously, difficult to jump for joy. Still, it's good enough. It almost seems as though the Hodgkin's is trying to decide what to do right now, whether to wait out the onslaught of the SGN-35 or take a hike. Hmm. Here are your boots, mother f* get lost.

Pardon the salt on that last cracker.

Now, back to me...

Today, (drum roll please), I also "officially" cracked 100 with my hemoglobin - finally. To quote the 80s band, The Parachute Club, (and I'm not sure why I can)...

Rise up, rise up
Oh rise and show your power
Rise up, rise up
Were dancing into the sun
Rise up, rise up
It's time for celebration
Rise up, rise up
Spirits time has come

Wow. Even I am dumbfounded by that sudden outburst of cheeziness.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Well, That Was Weird

As some of you well know, prior to having a PET scan, it is necessary to "relax" or lay still for forty-five minutes while the radioactive tracer makes its way through your body locating areas of disease activity.

At the Cancer Agency, they have an assortment of CDs on hand that you can choose from to achieve your mellow. New age and instrumentals are largely represented and I usually go with a little Orinoco Flow to put me to sleep. This time, however, I noticed a new title, Campfire Classics, so decided to shake it up a little.

It turns out it was a burned CD so the volume of the songs was somewhat inconsistent. I started off with Pink Floyd - appropriately "Comfortably Numb" - which seemed to do the trick. I was out like a light.

However, forty minutes later, I woke with drool on my pillow and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" blasting away at full volume. It was at the part of the song where the boys just give 'er and, in my haze, I hadn't yet managed to turn down the volume. The technician came in and said, "Well, well, party down!"

Yes, my brother, party down.

He was probably surprised the whole room didn't wreak of pot when he opened the door.

Sensing he had a "wild one" here, he asked if I'd like to continue the party in the scanning room.

Hell yeah!

Though, I must say, it was a tad weird to be having a scan that is intent on finding cancer in my body while listening to "Dust in the Wind."

Next time, I think I'll stick to Enya.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Lucky 13

So, today I will have my thirteenth PET scan. Here's hoping it's a charm.

I had to start fasting at 10:30 this morning so at least I got to eat breakfast, but now I can't eat until 7pm. Grrr, I likes me food!

It being the Friday before a holiday, I have to wait it out over the long weekend for my results. However, I have already arranged with my doctor to speak Tuesday morning. Anxious? Just a tad.

While I try not to give too much heed to each scan, it is hard not to, particularly at this point in my treatment. One minute you're on the trial, the next you're off and trying to figure out what your options are, trying to figure out how hope and acceptance can coexist.

Monday, October 05, 2009


My parents lost our family dog, Jordan, yesterday.

For the last twelve years, he's played a big role in our lives, and a loud one.

You see, Jordan suffered from an anxiety disorder, as in I-want-your-toast-anxiety, give-me-your-carrots-anxiety, and you-are-having-a-conversation-and-not-paying-attention-to-me-anxiety. When in these situations, he would whine faintly, then louder, reaching a full-bark crescendo until you gave in.

This was especially enjoyable when riding in the car. For years my parents have taken road trips with Jordi whining over their shoulders from the back seat. No amount of rawhide or rescue remedy would turn down the volume, but he loved to travel so they couldn't bear to leave him at home.

They brought Jordan home more than a dozen years ago from the SPCA after my mom saw an ad describing his year-long stay in the shelter. We called him our "junkyard dog" because no amount of grooming or primping could make him look otherwise. Yet he had deep, dark, soulful eyes and adorable little triangle ears that could hear the sound of the biscuit jar half a block away.

Recently, we discovered he had hemangiosarcoma (a form of cancer somewhat common in dogs) that could not be treated. He did have some chemotherapy to make him more comfortable, but yesterday his gentle heart gave out.

Long may you run, sweet boy.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

for Adrienne, Alison and family

A Parable of Immortality
by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
"There she goes"
Gone where?
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
"There she goes"
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
"Here she comes"