Learn, Then Overcome.

Easter 4 2018

Did you know that a cat with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will associate the pain of the infection with his/her litter box, thus leading to undesirable behaviors (i.e. urinating outside of the box)? Treatment with certain steroids will also lead to urinating in inappropriate places.

Alderaan is currently doing this.

I think, though, that we all do it on some level—associate our personal pain with things/places/people/specific dates. Either consciously or subconsciously, we alter our behavior to avoid what we think will cause more pain. Which, in light of my life experiences, sounds a lot like anxiety. Someone once told me to imagine anxiety as living in a box. The more you try to avoid the things/people/places that make you feel anxious, the smaller your box becomes.

This year of post-transplant isolation has stuck me in a very small box (fortunately, there’s just enough room in here for a laptop and I’ve been writing my heart out).

When this year of saying “no” to visiting friends and family comes to an end, I’m going to be in a situation not at all unlike Aldie’s:

Aldie will have to relearn how to use the litter box (which is why Mommy and Daddy bought him a new one with special litter that apparently smells irresistible to cats), while I am going to have to learn how to trust my puny immune system.

I will have to overcome the social awkwardness that this year of isolation has impressed upon me. Similarly, we are doing everything we can to help Alderaan overcome his fears and return to health and appropriate behaviors.

September, after all, is coming.

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Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. For those of you who knew about my struggle with unexpected weight loss (a big no-no in transplant land), I can assure you that I put some pounds back on and am now at an acceptable and healthy weight. My doctors are pleased with my progress and we will be starting my pediatric shots in May!!! I know; it’s an odd thing to be excited about. But I am excited.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me through this.

 

With Love,

Laura

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Punxsutawney Phil is my B.F.F.

Sunshine pours through the windows. The sky is a brilliant shade of azure. This is the sort of afternoon wherein the promise of spring can be felt on the breeze. And, yet, here I am, just finishing a cup of hot cocoa. I’m securely wrapped up in blankets; feeling wintry. I think this is how the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, must feel every February when we wake him up. Disorientated. Disgruntled. No wonder why the little guy always seems to see his shadow—cursing us with yet another 6 weeks of winter.

I don’t think Phil is a spiteful groundhog. The poor guy is just trying to do his job.

I feel as though Phil and I in the same boat. Except, unlike Phil, my job isn’t to predict the weather. My job, in this current moment, is to heal. Today, healing looks like sitting on the couch and writing a blog post. Tomorrow, healing might consist of something completely different. The day after that—who knows?

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For now, though, I’m going to follow in Phil’s footsteps, curl up, and take a much-needed nap.

Please continue to send light and love, Dear Readers. It makes an enormous difference in our lives.

 

With Love,

Laura

Mile Marker 44.8

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I have forgotten names, events, the order of things. I don’t believe, however, that I will ever forget this number: 44.8.

It started on Sunday morning, around 10:30am, when Seth woke up. He admitted to having left-sided chest pain. He admitted to having had it for three days. I’m not sure how I did it (because as much as I love him, he is a stubborn, stubborn man), but I made him go the Emergency Room to be checked out. He didn’t want me to go with him, because of my lack of an immune system, so I called his best friend. Thankfully, he was able to accompany Seth to the hospital.

Seth returned home by three. The ER doctors had checked his heart and he appeared to be okay. They gave him their blessing to drive me to Boston for a transplant check-up. The appointment was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but we had booked a hotel in case the weather proved to be cruddy.

We made it to the rest stop in Williston, Vermont. Seth was tired and wanted to take a quick 10-minute nap. He fell asleep immediately.

We crossed the state line into New Hampshire, and stopped once again at a rest stop. This time, Seth needed to walk around.

I noticed that he kept checking his pulse.

We pulled out of the rest stop. Within minutes, Seth began to panic. He pulled the car over, gasping, and saying that he couldn’t breathe, that he felt like he was going to pass out. He told me to call 9-1-1. So, I did.

The dispatcher was calm and reassuring. He asked me where we were; I told him we were parked next to mile marker 44.8 on US-89 South.

The fire department and the EMTs that came to rescue us were wonderful. They took Seth in an ambulance to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). Due to my seizure history, I am not allowed to drive. One of the EMTs was kind enough to drive me, in our car, to the hospital.

“It’s the hospital in the woods,” he said, turning down one of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s tree-lined driveways.

Seth was admitted overnight so that his breathing and heart could be monitored. He told me to find a hotel, because, once again, someone with zero immunity should probably not spend the night in an ER waiting room. I found a hotel (that thankfully had a free shuttle service since I couldn’t find a taxi or an Uber). The shuttle took me to the hotel, where I was given the medical rate and a king-sized bed. I promptly piled the extra pillows on my right-hand side, where Seth would usually have slept.

I, a cancer survivor, have never been so scared in my life.

What if it really was his heart? What if he didn’t make it? These were the questions that haunted me. It was uncomfortable, to say the least, to be filling the chair beside the bed, instead of the bed itself. I am so accustomed to being the patient, the sick one, that I didn’t know what to do. I also realized that, as close as Seth and I are, I know very little about his family’s medical history or even his own. I also couldn’t name a single medication that he was on, other than Protonix. What kind of fiancée was I?

The next morning, the shuttle brought me back to the hospital. I found Seth in a small unit connected to the ER. To pass the time until his scheduled stress test, we watched television in his room. Seth was taken away for the stress test at 8:30am.

He aced it.

Seth’s heart, fortunately, is just fine. Neither of us could drive, though, so my father and brother came to pick us up. My brother drove us and our car home. We somehow managed to pass our father twice on the highway, even though he had left the hospital first. We flashed a notebook at him, with the word, “Ferry” scribbled in it. Our father doesn’t have a cellphone—and someone needed to drive my brother home after he delivered Seth and I to our front door—so this was the best mode of communication we had:

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Our father received the message, boarding the ferry soon after us.

Although Seth’s heart is in working order, he is being treated for pneumonia. How does living with a sick person work when you’re immunosuppressed? You wear a mask and wash your hands like it’s your job. Lysol wipes and spray are useful, too. I am dying to hug Seth, but it’ll have to wait until he’s healthy again.

I am going to marry this man, after he provides me with a detailed med list.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your prayers. I hope you know that your kindness, love, and positive thoughts helped us through this harrowing experience.

 

With Love,

Laura

A New Year, Another Chance

 

2017 is now gone.

2018 has arrived.

I would like to think that this new year will be better than the last. I would like to think that it’s a fresh start. My gut, however, tells me that neither positive change nor happiness magically arrive when the calendar starts over.

Happiness requires perseverance.

Positive change requires work.

Both require deliberate action.

For instance, and I doubt this will be much of a surprise to anyone, but I want to be healthy in 2018. Most of that is beyond my control—since the cancer I keep developing is the result of faulty genetics. I’ve had a lot of chemotherapy and radiation over the past seven years. Neither of these treatments are consequence-free. Late side-effects continue to pop up.

There are, however, some things that I can do to encourage healing. Now that I am 100 days post-transplant, I can start eating fresh fruits and vegetables again. I can reduce the amount of processed foods that I eat as well as limit my sugar intake. I can attempt to better manage my stress levels through reflexology, a modified yoga practice, and writing. I can experiment with essential oils via the aromatherapy necklaces that my brother gave me for Christmas. I can establish a consistent sleep schedule. I can go to physical therapy and relearn how to walk correctly (bye-bye cane! It’s been real.).

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Will any of these changes single-handedly make my 2018 a year of good health? The pessimist in me says, “no”. The realist in me says, “just try it. It can’t hurt”.

I wish for you, Dear Readers, a wonderful 2018. I hope you make your resolutions come true. Please keep the light and prayers coming this way (recovery from the transplant is a long, long road). As always, thank you for your support. You have been our strength.

 

With Love,

Laura

Christmas Day

 

cuddling

Above: Wallace and Alderaan caught cuddling. 

 

Let me preface this by saying that I’m really not complaining; I love winter. I am currently wrapped up in two blankets—and contemplating dragging a third one onto my lap. Or, I might just warm up with a cup of hot cocoa (topped off with whipped cream, because, why not?).

It amazes me how quickly Christmas seemed to arrive and, then, pass by. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the beginning of December. Where did it go? What was I doing? I expect this week to be just as hectic as last week was. And, that’s why, Dear Readers, I am going to leave sticky notes around the apartment to remind myself to:

breathe;

smile;

laugh;

and hold happy memories close.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of December. I hope you’re able to frolic in the snow. I hope you’re able to stay warm.

We’re back in Boston late this week for another check-up. Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. Your kind thoughts and prayers make a difference.

 

With Love,

Laura

Seized

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Photo Caption: From the creative LJ (Princess Leia and R2D2 in the basket of a hot air balloon).

 

I had two seizures this past week.

One took place in our apartment, on the couch. The other took place in the Emergency Room.

I can’t tell you what the seizures felt like…or what exactly happened…because I can’t remember them at all. I know that I bit my tongue (because it hurts). I know I foamed at the mouth (because Seth witnessed it and told me about it). I know I had an MRI of my head, but, again, I have no memory of it.

The timeline of what happened and when isn’t clear to me. I can only vaguely recall the back of the ambulance and its flashing lights illuminating the front of our apartment building. I remember my parents and two of my friends (LJ and Sarah) visiting me in the hospital. Ironically, I was placed in the same room that most of my inpatient cancer treatment was administered in last winter.

I’m a bit on edge—afraid that, even though I am now on anti-seizure medication, it’s only a matter of time before I seize again. The cause of the seizures? My anti-rejection medication. The same pills that have facilitated the engraftment of my donor’s bone marrow—and thus saved my life—have shaken me to my core.

I feel as though I have forgotten something vital…that I’ve left something unfinished.

My sense of time has been affected, too. I feel as though time is slipping through my fingers, faster than ever, and I can’t grab onto it. I can’t make it pause. I want it to slow down—if only for a moment—so I can catch my breath, so I can decide what to do next. I think I expected the transplant process to grant me some insight (i.e. what to do for a career when I’m given the okay to return to work and/or if I should go to graduate school). I’m still waiting for a nudge in the right direction.

Life is short and I want to make sure that mine counts; that I am of help to others, that I leave this world a better place than I found it.

We return to Boston this coming week for another check-up. Please, Dear Readers, continue to send love and light our way. You have been our strength throughout this process. We’d be lost without you.

 

With Love,

Laura

 

Procrastination: Part of a Well-Balanced Life?

I try not to procrastinate when it comes to writing my blog posts. I like to write them at least a few days in advance:

a) To give myself some time to edit them, and/or
b) To compose completely new posts because I am immensely picky when it comes to my writing.

Sometimes, though, writing in advance simply doesn’t happen. Sometimes, like this morning (Sunday morning to be exact), I will wake up at 2am and realize I haven’t written anything. Or, worse, I realize I don’t have any ideas for a post.

I am not one of those writers that can easily force creativity.

I have yet to come up with a formula for making blog magic happen.

I thought drinking my coffee out of Seth’s Harry Potter mug might help. I turned on the Christmas tree. I looked longingly out of the porch window for the snow showers that my phone promised as being inevitable. Still…nothing (on either the idea or the snow front).

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So, I did the only logical thing I could think of: I procrastinated some more and went for a walk. I tried to keep my eyes and ears open for blog ideas. Procrastination did two things:

1. It gave me the opportunity to breathe the crisp, almost-winter air.
2. It cleared my anxious mind.

While I am not proposing that we procrastinate about everything in our lives, it may be beneficial (even healthy) to occasionally leave the rat race, to take a walk outside, and to just breathe.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the ongoing support and encouragement. You have been a source of light and strength to me. We return to Boston for a check-up this coming Wednesday. I will do my best to keep you up-to-date on what happens there.

With Love,
Laura