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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salad Days

I had my first CT scan since starting Bendamustine today, and it only required three pokes instead of the five I had last time to get the IV in.

Yes, I am being mildly sarcastic.

Anyway, as most of you know, I like to have my test results lickity-split, prior to my next appointment if possible, in order to avoid walking in unprepared. However, this time, I am not scheduled to see my oncologist until next Thursday, the 8th. I am quite sure he will let me know the results beforehand but, even so, I am not in a huge rush to get them.

I guess it is because I have been experiencing an incredible resurgence of energy since mid-way through the first cycle. My cough is still gone and the node on the base of my neck, which is one of the only ones I can ever actually feel, is currently undetectable. Over the past few years it has ranged from pea to baby-carrot sized. Did I mention that I hate baby carrots?

So, whatever the reason, I want to bask in what I believe to be true, that the Hodgkin's is taking a hike right now (I hear hell is a good place to visit).

Now, since we've just been talking vegetables, I may as well post one of my favorite spring "love" poems.

(Wow, that was certainly one of my more bizarre segues...)

I included this in a card to some incredible friends at their beautiful nuptials this weekend, and also dedicate it to the memory of my writer pal, Peter, who so loved to play with words. I think he would like this one too.

Vegetable Love
by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

For Ian

The day is done, and the darkness, Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward, From an eagle in his flight

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

May you soar amongst the eagles, my friend.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Still Groovy

I'm happy to report that I continue to feel well after the Bendamustine.

I still have some dizziness, but my oncologist thinks this could likely be caused by the fairly large dose of dexamethasone I had prior to the infusion, and that it should wear off within a day or two.

Still, I am taking it a little easier after a very full few weeks, which included a day trip to Victoria to see friends...all by myself.

By my very-loved ones' (mom and Ian's) precautions, you would have thought I was traveling to Patagonia...

Make sure you hold the handrail on the ferry...and don't sit near anyone who is sniffling. Have you got your hand wash? You should take nuts and raisins in your purse...and don't forget saltines in case you feel nauseous...

(Don't worry, I know how very, very lucky I am to have them).

In any case, I made it back in one piece after a great lunch with Josefine, Chad and wee Erik at Rebar, Victoria's well-known vegetarian restaurant, and a visit with my talented writer friend, Leah, at her sweet, cozy apartment.

Speaking of writers, I also wanted to mention another little project I'm working on in conjunction with the Lynn Valley Literary Society and Mollie Nye House...

(pause iPod on right if viewing)

The week of April 10th, thousands of cards will be distributed to patients at cancer centres around the world as part of an initiative organized by Spirit Jump whose goal is to provide hope and comfort to those living with cancer.

Here, North Shore Cards for Cancer is gearing up to deliver cards with uplifting messages to individuals receiving care at the Lions Gate Hospital Chemotherapy Unit (where I received much of my previous treatment).

If you or your community group, school, church, or organization might be interested in contributing cards for this event (or starting your own team), please get in touch:

This project struck a chord with me because, as many of you know, I love mail - the cards, letters, poems, stories, photos (and even a recipe or two) I have received over the course of the last four years are some of my most cherished possessions.

Most are from friends and family, but many have also been from people I have never met. I find this willingness to reach out deeply inspiring. Not to mention, the idea of having a thoughtful card delivered right to my chemo lounger beats needles and an IV any day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not Bad...

Just a wee note to say that the extra preventative measures pre-infusion seem to be working.

Thus far, I am quite awake and have not thrown up (joy!)

I was a little dizzy earlier, but seem to be OK now.

Fingers crossed that this cycle of Bedamustine will continue to be smoother than the last.

Thank you for all the good vibes, notes, calls and thoughts - every single one helps me to feel stronger.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Rock n' Roll, Baby

In the words of my good friend, Valerie (hi Val!), I definitely have my "mojo" back.

As a result, I've been going like gangbusters before my second cycle of Bendamustine this coming Thursday and Friday. I think I may have actually accomplished more in the past two weeks than in the last two months.

I really hope that this next recuperation period is a little shorter and my energy resumes again so I can continue having fun. It's been such a wonderfully creative couple of weeks.

In addition to the Callanish writing group last Tuesday (and this coming one), Ian and I also had a chance to get out and shoot some photos with our talented friends, Ryan and Nicol. We've started what we are referring to as our "Dorky Camera Club," or the DCC for short.

Here are just a few of the many photos we had fun shooting last Saturday...

By appears there is a light at the end of the tunnel

Olympic carnage aptly captured

By Nic...(some "dorks" shooting away)

Ah, more Olympic it

By Ian...(did I mention we are dorks with some really sweet cameras?)

Wires crossed...

By me...a self portrait

Puddle (how rare in Vancouver...)


Dork (me) shooting dork (Nic) shooting me...

Yesterday, I also had the pleasure of celebrating the birthday of one of my dear Callanish friends, also named Ian.

We really wanted to do something special for him, so we decided to rewrite the lyrics to a song by the very cheezy 80's glam band, Poison.

Yes, Poison.

Remember "Every Rose Has Its Thorn?" So do we. In fact, it has become somewhat of a tradition amongst the Young Adult group at Callanish.

Thus, with great help from my talented and beautiful singer/songwriter friend, Lydia, we were able to write and perform an alternate set of lyrics, "Celebrating the Day Ian Was Born" (and celebrate we did).

So, for you my friend, on your birthday and always...

"You're one in a million, the star of this sooooong, we're so glad to have you back where you belong (yeah we are)..."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

So, apparently, I have become one of those wackadoos who has lengthy and odd conversations with retail sales associates.

This past week, I have rebounded from the Bendamustine rather dramatically and have more energy than I've had in a very long time. Thus, I keep finding myself initiating conversations with virtually anyone who will listen, including the appliance salesman at Sears, the counter person at Orange Julius and a clerk at the Gap about the virtue of leggings.

I'm not quite sure if it is manic/hysterical energy or if this is just what feeling "normal" is like. Was I like this in the 'ol days before cancer?

The other night, when 2 am rolled around and I still wasn't asleep, I got out of bed, fired up my iPod and jumped on my mini tramp for half an hour listening to Enrique Iglesias.

Yes, I have Enrique on my iPod. Shame on me, I know.

My cough is also gone which is a major victory in itself.

Then, yesterday, the icing on the cake - we had the first session of our latest writing series at the Callanish Society, Callanish Writes IV.

I can't believe that we are beginning our third year of the program, and if yesterday's pieces from the writers are any indication of what is to come, then we may as well start publishing our collections weekly instead of at the end of the eight-week series.

Seriously, they were incredible, as always.

In April, I'll be taking the writing on the road, beginning a second series, this time on the North Shore, in conjunction with the Lynn Valley Literary Society.

I hope all this new-found energy continues to grow. Though, at this rate, I may drop dead from the sheer exhilaration of living.

Things are good.