Tag Archives: making memories

New to Me…

When you are little, everything is a new experience. The first time you (insert pretty much any activity here). The difference is that the majority of people don’t necessarily remember those new experiences if they occurred within their first three and half years. The inability to remember things prior to around this age is called childhood amnesia by scientists, and thought to be the result of the absence of language skills. According to studies, females tend to have an easier time recollecting earlier memories than their male counterparts. The gender difference often lies in communication skills that develop early on, females tend to tell elaborate stories about their days beginning early on allowing them to make connections to their memories. I know I was definitely one of those girls that would recap every part of the day at the dinner table and can generally remember the details of my younger years. My ‘sort of’ brother/ oldest friend always states that he has virtually no recollection of our childhood years. So maybe there is some accuracy to the study. Regardless, right now everything seems new to me. After all if we go by age of my stem cells they are only fourteen days old, which is definitely new to me.

This stem cell transplant experience has been an interesting one and not at all as I expected. I’m not really sure what I thought it would be like, but I anticipated a more caught somewhere between ‘hope and hell’ kind of thing. So much of what I read, heard from my support group or came as a disclaimer from my doctors made this experience sound overall horrific. Now I’m not saying it has been easy in any way but it has not been horrific either. I managed to keep myself occupied and make some new friends along the way. I have also begun an exercise routine in hopes of maintaining strength and shifting my new stem cells to a healthier lifestyle. I started off walking a mile and have since gone to two miles out in the pod. Walking in the pod isn’t exactly scenic so I requested a stationary bike to add to my new routine. I met with PT and was off and peddling. This new level of dedication and consistency is certainly new to me. And I like it, also new. It has been a long time since I can sincerely say that I enjoyed exercise, not since Steph and I took up running one Fall several years ago.

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This new experience has also led me down a path of relaxation, albeit forced, that I am unaccustomed to. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic and have primarily focused on that over the past twelve years, so this forced break is both new and a little scary for me. In the last three weeks I have watched countless hours of Home and Garden TV, movies, a whole Netflix season, read a whole book in a day, scrapbooked and colored. I have to say though that I don not find coloring all that relaxing despite the hype it has gotten over the years. I find that I get stressed out if my picture isn’t perfect. So I may need to practice “letting it go” and “coloring outside the lines”.  I think finding new hobbies and ways to focus my attention on other things may be rejuvenating and actually help me reenergize for work when I can return next year. I may also need to get accustomed to napping, because on days like today I’m exhausted.

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All of the medical ‘stuff’ is new to me as well. It may feel like I’ve been working on my med degree for the last three years, but this experience has led to many firsts. I needed platelets for the first time and they look like orange juice. Creepy and interesting. Apparently they can also have a green tinge if a female on birth control donated them. Again creepy and interesting. I have learned all about cell growth and their functions. My waiting game has officially ended. My cells began engrafting yesterday and by today I had 110 neutrophils or new cells created by my new stem cells that will contribute to my new immune system. I have to say that I am very excited about it. I’m still treading lightly and am cautiously optimistic because there could be snags related to gvhd or graft versus host disease along the way, but for now so far so good. I’m hoping to be home sometime next week as a result of my new cell growth. But before I get to leave, I have to undergo a series of classes with the PAs, nurses, and nutritionist to learn how to get back to life as an allo transplant patient. In many ways I’m excited about this new phase and am truly blessed to have the opportunity to get a chance to start new and the support of so many to help along the way! Only this time I’ll be able to remember all of these new things, even in the next three and half years of my infant stem cell life.

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In the Middle of a Memory

Admittedly, I am one of those people that turns up the radio in their car, sings off key and may even dance a little (who am I kidding, a lot). I often wonder what the driver in the lane across from me is thinking. I’m pretty sure he or she must think I’m insane, unless they too are one of these turn up the radio and turn into the next Carrie Underwood. I use her as an example only because she was one of us that managed to get a spot on American Idol and jettison herself to stardom. I do not see that in my future, mainly because I am secretly tone deaf – not so secret if you have ever actually heard me sing. Anyway, the song I find myself belting out in the car as of late is Cole Swindel’s (sorry if you are not a country fan) In the Middle of a Memory. It just resonates with me and I realized why when I briefly attended Spring Fling at my high school. And yes, teaching high school is like being in high school permanently; you attend dances and games, hear about all the drama, have to figure out the lunch situation, and have homework nightly. The difference is that you actually hope you are not the ‘cool’ teacher. But there I was at this dance because my seniors asked me to come and take pictures since I would be unable to attend prom, when I normally do these photoshoots, and the realization that I was about to pause my life for the next year came with the camera flash.

I am leaving my life, as I know it, in the middle of a memory. That’s what life is all about making memories, some of which are captured on film and many are less momentous but more important to your story. And I am virtually walking away from all of it and even though I know it is necessary and it may be the end to Hodge (who has been both harassing and stalking me for nearly three years now), it doesn’t make that concept any easier. It’s not about what you may be missing. That would have been the worst when you were in high school, the thought of missing out on something, anything that anyone else is doing. It’s about not getting to live your own life…I can’t just walk in the door and except sloppy dog kisses from Jax or Josh for that matter. I can’t just pick up the phone and ask my mom if she wants to come with on a Target run so we can buy things we don’t need. I can’t tag along with my dad on a random errand. I can’t go on road trips to Yankee Candle and Judie’s with my girl friends, or have dinner out with anyone. I can’t even attend my sweet goddaughter’s birthday. Work is an obvious can’t and I will feel left out of the loop there. Weddings are a definite no (which means there won’t be any fun photo booth pictures unless I can convince Josh we need one at home). So in many ways I am walking away from my life in the middle of a memory.

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And I know I will be able to stay connected through facetime/skype and the phone and social media, but it’s not the same. And I will be a terrible hermit, especially because I don’t believe I have the right wardrobe for it. For some reason when I picture a hermit, I picture an aging male with a father time beard and canvas nightshirt with a walking stick. Funny that the wardrobe was the thing I don’t think I have in that scenario. (Steph may have been right years ago, my head IS a scary place). But regardless of the fact I am social, not town mayor social necessarily but social. Just ask my soon to be sister in law, Halley, who got to see first hand my social butterfly tendencies at the Cancer Center. I know everyone, they know me, and we enjoy each other’s company. And yes it may be an odd place to make friends, but nevertheless I did. I am someone who needs that, who thrives on interaction with others and the very thought of 365 days of comparable solitude doesn’t leave me very excited. I know it’s for the best, I know I’ll adjust but it still feels like I’m taking a time out.

Here is what I can say, always be present in your life because you don’t want to walk out in the middle of a memory – what if that memory is one that you will cherish until your old and grey?  What if that moment changes your life and you want to hang on to it as long as possible? Enjoy the moments of your life, sing loudly in the car, do the unexpected because there may come a time when you can’t. In two weeks, I won’t be able to live my normal life, so I will have to find ways to make transplant time memories. I’m guessing they will be interesting and will all include hospital masks (which I intend to decorate) and gloves. Even though I may be walking out in the middle of a memory in one way I’m walking into one in another. This experience will no doubt be the most challenging and rewarding of my life.