Just Some Quality ZZZ’s, Please

Squishy

Confession: I’m 31 years old and I sleep next to a stuffed animal every night. More precisely, he’s a unicorn named Squishy. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been tremendously anxious lately. So, in an attempt to calm my nerves, I sprayed Squish (that’s his nickname) with lavender-scented perfume. It helped…a little…but I still didn’t make my big goal of sleeping in until 6am. I made it to 2:22am.

Like a lot of people out there, I don’t sleep well. I tend to be restless. When I do dream, I usually have outlandish nightmares (and not the good kind that can inspire writing projects).

Why am I sharing this? Because I am on the hunt for ideas to help me sleep.

When you, Dear Reader, have difficulty sleeping, what do you do? Do you listen to music? Do you have a glass of warm milk? What works for you? What doesn’t work? I am open to suggestions, so please send them my way!

We go back to Boston this week for another check-up. We will also be going to Burlington for a neurology appointment. It’s going to be a busy week; please keep the light, the prayers, and the love coming. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

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Happy Birthday to Meeeee

ferry tree

Last week I turned 31.

And, yes, like most women, I didn’t take kindly to the new, higher number.

I am not upset because I am getting older—aging doesn’t bother me. I am well aware that not everyone gets the opportunity to grow older. Neither am I bothered by the fact that increased age brings death closer. Truth be told, death and I have been flirting with each other since I was 23. I have lived 8 years beyond my original expiration date (July 2010).

No, 31 is a difficult number because, in my life before cancer, I had decided that 31 was the perfect age to start a family. I imagined I would have a stable, good-paying job. I thought that I would be in a healthy, happy relationship.

Check no, on the job.

Check yes, on the relationship—I have found my soulmate.

But, fast-forward to November 2016, when I was officially diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. This is what cancer treatment can do. It can destroy cancer cells, but it also destroys anything that grows quickly—including eggs. Although still to be confirmed with additional blood tests, 2017’s 8-months of cancer treatment and then bone marrow transplant preparation (which included high dose chemotherapy and Total Body Irradiation) did nothing to help my ovaries.

Every hot flash tells me that any hope for a biological family is now gone.

I grieve for this dream.

2018, however, is not going to be the year that I give up. It’s the year that I am going to move forward. Maybe I can’t have a biological child (who would really want my genes anyways?), but Seth and I will spend time researching adoption. We will make plans. We will move toward that goal, together, and make whatever changes are necessary to be eligible to adopt.

There are so many children in need of a safe and loving home; someday, we hope to provide just that. Until then, we’ll be crazy cat parents to these two majestic creatures:

 

As always, Dear Readers, thank you for your love and continued prayers. You are our strength and the light guiding us on this journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

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.).

aromatherapy necklace

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

For Meme

wreath 2017

 

I’m not writing this blog post to elicit sympathy. I’m writing about this because I think we all need a reminder, every once in a while, that our time here on this earth is precious and short.

Meme is the anglicization of the French word, “memere”. It means, simply, “grandmother”. I, my brother, and all of my cousins lost our grandmother last night (December 17, 2017).

I’m not very good at handling death…mostly because I haven’t had to deal with it often. Sure, I’ve lost beloved pets. I lost a great-uncle, who I absolutely adored, in 2016. I’ve lost cancer buddies. And, still, this loss hurts me all the way down to my soul.

The last time I saw my grandmother was in December of 2016. I visited her in the hospital, but not too long after that visit I was diagnosed with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I started cancer treatment right away and my immune system became a roller coaster. I spent more of 2017 neutropenic (without a functioning immune system) than not, and I couldn’t visit my grandmother in the nursing home like that. Public places are dangerous places for those of us with deficient immune systems…but I still feel terrible that I didn’t see her more often.

I feel even worse that I won’t be able to attend her funeral services because my new immune system still isn’t strong enough to handle close or large gatherings.

I have spent this morning trying to summon good memories of my grandmother. I remember her taking us grandkids down to the river to go swimming on hot summer days. She used to let us brush her hair when she was babysitting us. I remember one sweltering summer afternoon, there was a handful of us grandkids sitting on the steps with her eating watermelon. Meme warned us not to swallow the seeds, because, if we did, watermelons would grow in our stomachs.

Goodness, I thought I would have more time to see her again. In a few months, maybe, after I reached day 100 post-transplant.

I waited too long.

The only comfort I have now—besides my memories—is knowing that she is no longer suffering. She is in a far better place.

 

With Love,

Laura

Scatterbrained, but Thankful

wallace ornament

It’s difficult concentrating this morning. I’m not usually so scatterbrained, but here I am, on my third cup of coffee and still struggling to come up with a subject for this blog post.

I blame my distractibility on how excited I am about several things:

  • I had my first slice of take-out pizza this past Wednesday (and it was absolutely delicious).
  • In less than 30 days, I’ll be able to eat fresh food again (salads, grapes, apples with peanut butter, oh my!).
  • I engaged in risky behavior and went to a bookstore (I’m supposed to limit my contact with the public, and had to wear a mask and gloves to stay as safe as possible from unwanted germs. It was my first-time shopping since September.).
  • I summoned the courage to ask a friend about training therapy dogs (a future goal of mine).
  • Seth and I visited my family and our boys (Wallace the Wonderful and Alderaan)

18891810_10214934063844316_7487254699483362299_o

You don’t realize how much you miss places, people, food, and cats—until they’re temporarily taken away from you. If I have learned anything from this particular cancer journey, it’s to try to never take life for granted. Try not to obsess and/or worry about circumstances you can’t control. Just breathe. Just love. Savor those special moments with your loved ones.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for continuing to send light and love. You have given me the strength to endure this treatment. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Seized

leia and r2d2

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

 

Why Pieridae?

moth bw

Dear Readers,

I didn’t have an appointment in Boston this week, so I don’t have any cancer/post-transplant news to share with you. Other than spilling my Magnesium Oxide all over the floor (thank God it wasn’t my anti-rejection drug), my week has been quiet. It’s given me the opportunity to diversify my daily routine. For instance, in an effort to build some stamina, I’ve started taking walks outdoors. It’s cold and wonderful and I can do it mask-free—like a normal person! As long as I don’t encounter construction or someone doing yardwork, I’m golden. Safe.

This week, then, is the perfect occasion to share the post that I had planned to write immediately after launching my blog. As most of you know, my life took a detour and the post was never written, never shared.

In the not-so distant past, I received several inquiries about the title, “Of Pieridae & Perras”. I chose Pieridae for a couple of reasons:

a) I adore alliteration. I use it in all of my writings—articles, fiction, my blog. It’s magic to me.

b) Pieridae refers to a family of (think scientific ordering of species) butterflies. What better word to accompany the opening proverb, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”?

c) I’m not a caterpillar or a butterfly, of course, but I can relate to feeling lost in the darkness of a cocoon. I can relate to biding my time, waiting for a transformation to occur. It is, for these reasons, that the cake celebrating the end of my cancer treatment (the first time) was embellished with the above quote.

cake with quote

We all go through dark, difficult periods in life. I have found that when these times finally come to an end we have a choice: we can regroup, recreate and fly, or we can remain immobile in the remnants of our cocoons. Flying is not an easy skill to master. I’m still trying to figure out just how to do it. Writing blogposts every week has helped. It’s helped me to connect with others. It’s been an outlet. It’s nudged me toward more positive-thinking.

When my days have been particularly rough, it’s given me a purpose.

We head back to Boston next week for another check-up. Please continue to send light and love. Your encouragement has kept us going. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,
Laura

So Much to Be Thankful For

autumn leaves

I had another checkup in Boston this past week.

As some of you may already know, one of the changes that occurs after a bone marrow transplant is that the donor’s DNA and the host’s DNA (mine) combine. This combination of DNA is called a chimerism and can be determined by simple blood tests. Eventually, the donor’s DNA takes over. At this point in my recovery, the doctors were expecting that only 90% of my DNA would be my donor’s.

The results of my chimerism test, however, showed that all of my major cell lines have been completely taken over (100%) by my donor’s graft.

I couldn’t have asked for better results! This is yet another indication that the transplant has worked. While I still have a long recovery ahead of me, there is so much to be grateful for—including your well-wishes and prayers. I couldn’t have done this without your support. Please keep the love and light coming. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,
Laura

Finding Magic

dried flowers

Dear Readers,

I have a rash.

It’s not just any rash; it’s the outward manifestation of Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD). Sounds serious, right? It can be, but I learned at my second check-up in Boston that a mild case of GVHD is not only expected, but desirable. GVHD demonstrates that, by fighting my immune system, my donor’s immune system is working. Should my body ever produce Leukemia cells again, the new immune system will be ready and able to destroy them.

It’s unpleasant, but GVHD is proof that the bone marrow transplant worked.

When I am not focused on how itchy I am, I have been pondering the question, “what do you do for fun?”. I have had a number of loved ones ask this question recently. In 2011, a fellow cancer patient, sitting across from me in the infusion bay, asked me about it. I didn’t have an answer then and I might not have one now.

I spend my time napping and doing the few household chores that I am still allowed to help with.

I’ve been dabbling with restorative yoga again.

I’ve also been watching Christmas movies.

I swear I’m not trying to rush the season—but these movies make me smile. I try to find the corniest ones imaginable, simply because they make me giggle. They remind me of the magic of December—and I think it’s important on dreary days (especially) to find and feel magic.

little things desk

What do you do for fun?

As difficult as the question is for me to answer, it’s one I need to find an answer to. Fun, after all, is how our spirits heal.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for all of your support and love. I can’t begin to express just how much it means to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.