This word I like... We architect our life...
A song, a sigh... developing words that linger...
Through fields of green, through open eyes... It's for us to see.
Interanimate: To animate or inspire mutually

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our little bit of Colorado

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

My health is still improving. I had my second baby bout with some bug or bugs in October and November. The sore throat lasted much longer than normal for me, probably due to my immune system still being in training.
Cat, Maddie and Dylan doing well too, all ready for the holiday vacation.

Last Thursday I had my most recent appointment with Doctor Jeffrey Andrey at Scripps Clinic. I had blood samples drawn on Wednesday. All systems are go. All blood counts are in the normal range with the exception of my Ferritin levels. All those blood transfusions loaded my system up with iron, the core element in hemoglobin. My Ferritin is still above normal, so I will start another 3 phlebotomies started in January. Each unit withdrawn will lower my Ferritin level. By April I should be in the normal range. My next appointment with Dr. Andrey is in May.

On January 9, 2010 I will pass a statistical milestone. The long term prognosis for 2 year stem cell survivors is very, very, very good. The graft took perfectly and I've twice been able to fight off common bugs that plague our everyday lives. But I must be respectful of the fates. I don't want to go overboard and jinx my upcoming birthday by presenting too rosy of an outlook.

Meanwhile, the 'treat' for my blog readers in this post will better be appreciated by those live in the North San Diego area. We have a wonderful scenic canyon here called Penasquitos Canyon. Hiking from I15 to I5 is a beautiful 5 mile, gently rolling, under the oaks and sycamores jaunt. In the middle of the hike is a small waterfall. It is the turn-back point for many hikers and runners who don't want to complete the entire 5 miles. San Diego does not get much rain. So our little waterfall does not make a big show. In fact, you can easily tip toe across the stream above the fall without getting your feet wet. In the summer, some of the flow is fed by a small spring a couple miles east, where the old ranch house still stands. The ranch house used to be the center of the Penasquitos cattle ranch around 90 years ago. But I'm afraid most of the water coming down the canyon in the summer is from urban runoff. The canyon is rimmed with houses built during the last 30 years. Many people over water their yards and have leaks in their irrigation system. Even so, there are places in the canyon where kids still throw their fishing lines.
I always wanted to see the canyon waterfall when it really was a waterfall and not just a bunch of gigantic rocks jutting out of the ground. So, a week ago Sunday morning I grabbed Cathie and the camera and hiked to the fall. It had rained heavy the night before. You can click on these images to see much larger versions.

I see indications by the shore that the river was a foot or 2 higher earlier in the morning.

You would definitely not want to tiptoe across this stream.

Not much, but it's our little bit of Colorado in North San Diego.

I'm going to go back for a visit after a REALLY big rain!

The wild torrents of Penasquitos Canyon.

Bye until next year,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why the Lizard Does Push-Ups

...but more on the lizard later. First, the topical post.

August 13 I probably had my last bloodletting. Another pint of blood drained and discarded. This should bring my ferritin level down to the normal range. My next appointment at Scripps Clinic is with Doctor Andrey in 2 months. At that time we'll decide if I need 1 more phlebotomy.
In my 2 years of MDS, including the 4 weeks of hospitalization I took in around 50 pints of the red stuff from donors; just to keep me alive. In the last year, starting a few months after my transplant, I've discarded perhaps 30 pints of my own blood; just to get rid of the excess iron from the transfused blood. Interesting. My days as a human pin cushion are coming to an end. On this visit, there was a problem with my left arm vein. It was not productive, so the nurse had to stick my right arm. It was kinda like blood prospecting. First, lidocaine was injected with a tiny needle, producing a quick burning; followed by numbness. Soon followed a big needle into which the blood must freely flow from my body. The lidocaine shot into my left arm was the last from it's vial. I didn't feel the burn. The burn is actually a sensation to be welcomed because it means the wild antics from the big needle's insertion will not be felt. Turns out that last of the lidocaine in a vial is weak. On this day, the big needle was felt. My right arm got a squirt of the first lidocaine from a new vial. The small needle's drug burn was quick and shot up my arm a couple inches. Then it was out and the pain was gone. When the big needle came, it did not hurt.

Here's my perspective: An interesting end to what was once a perfectly choreographed string of phlebotomies.

Warning, there are images and an video in this post that may not be available in the email format. Please see the original post at

Here's one thing about the Western Fence Lizard. They are cute little guys. Way too cute to be feared. Over the years I'm sure everyone has seen them masquerading as dinosaurs in front of very small cameras. Take the 1966 movie "One Million Years B.C." for example. This movie had Raquel Welch running in terror from the little slip slips. I've included a photo of the movie poster and a photo of 2 lizard 'extras' pretending to fight. The lead dinosaur in this movie was a Western Fence Lizard who was deemed 'not terrifying' enough for the trailer shots. Despite their less-than-hostile appearance, the WFLs were very good actors and took their art seriously. In the 50s and 60s, many of them started doing standard calisthenics with the hopes of developing a more menacing appearance. None of the lizard actors actually got paid well. An occasional exotic fly was put into their terrarium between sets, a hot rock to sleep on at night. They had no tiny gym equipment available in their tight quarters so they did jumping jacks and push-ups. That explains the push-up way back then. Raquel got older and became a dinosaur herself while acting in another 1 million movies and tv episodes. Movie directors got tired of cleaning lizard cages. Animation technologies improved. The lizards retired from acting.

Here is the other thing about the WFL, and is also true for many small Lizards. Millions of them across the America still do pushups; on rocks, on dirt, on fences, everywhere. It turns out they've been doing push-ups for millions of years. For those of you who have never seen this amazing stunt, see the attached video. If you sneak up upon a lizard, you may often see it doing quick push-ups. These aren't sissy push-ups. These are military style push-ups. From a prone position to a quick jerk upwards with their heads at attention. Once in a while you may see the more buff lizards doing the one handed push-up. Very rare.

Scientists have debated the cause for lizard push-up behavior for decades. It seems the consensus is that push-ups are some kind of lizard language/display/mating behavior. This article gets very scientific with a study on different push-ups and what they all mean. Do NOT attempt to read that article. If you think my little dissertation is putting you to sleep... Well, I'm here to say 'BUNK' to the common theories. No, I'm not going to say they are trying to buff up any more. Those days are gone. And they know it.
I've been studying lizards for years. By 'studying', I mean that I've momentarily observed and marveled about their behavior several times since I was, like 7 years old. My recently developed push-up theory is so simple I don't know how it could have been missed by the scientific community.

Many small animals have side facing eyes. This is a great advantage when you are small and tasty. You get an advantage of a nearly 300 degree field of vision. With this kind of perspective you are not so easily duped by predators sneaking up behind you. Predators, like humans, cats, dogs, eagles, falcons, owls, etc, have forward facing eyes. This is a great advantage when you are trying to sneak up on small tasty animals. You get stereo vision with 2 eyes looking the same direction. Each eye sends a simultaneous, separate picture to the brain. The brain merges the pictures together to make a 3D image of the prey. This gives you a great advantage when it comes to the chase. You can see depth, the distance between you and your dinner. The animal with side facing eyes has little if no, 3D vision. The lizard can see more objects around it but it cannot sense the object's distance.

The poor, lowly lizard. Who cares? As you know, reptiles are amongst the oldest land animals on the planet. They were once pretty big. They once ruled the earth. When things changed the big ones didnt do so well. The smaller reptiles who could hide in the earth survived a long period of harsh conditions. When they emerged, they had competition; they became the hunted. I like to think of the common fence lizards as One Lizard. One Lizard, with it's body comprised of millions upon millions of independently operated franchises. Kinda like Starbucks. There is one in every corner... of your back yard. After all, the same (almost exact) DNA exists in each and every lizard. They are part and parcel of the One Lizard. To survive over millions of years, the One Lizard had to adapt to changing conditions. But the change could only come from the bottom up, from the feet on the ground. The One Falcon and the One Bobcat, amongst others, were always trying to make life impossible for the One Lizard, by eating him. The Falcon and the Bobcats were getting smaller and faster. The One Lizard was caught in an evolutionary vice. The One Lizard was in deep doo-doo. The Falcons and the Cat were pretty happy cuz the Lizard was easy to catch. All too often, the tasty little reptiles just sat on the rock and didn't make a move to escape...until it was too late.

Here's what I think happened.

Hundred of thousands of years ago one female lizard laid some eggs that had a genetic mutation. The DNA in her eggs had a slight flaw from the normal. Mutations have always been common when cells divide. The copying process is prone to errors. Almost 100% of the time, the errors result in nothing. The new cell, the egg, dies. Once in a great while a mutation survives. Of the mutations that slip by, almost 100% result in slight changes to the lizard that do nothing to help the lizard survive. It gets an extra toe. It gets a slightly longer tail. The mutation neither helps nor hinders the lizard, so the expressed trait eventually disappears.

The mutation on this long ago day slipped by and became expressed. The eggs hatched. The new lizards emerged to face the hostile world. This batch of lizards looked no different from their hundreds of siblings or cousins. All toes accounted for. Same lizard odor. Same lizard size and shape. But something changed in the brain. These sisters and brother lizards had a brain that was able to perform a new trick. None of them knew they were different from the rest of their once huge family. Most of their hundred of brothers and sisters were already gone. In many cases, without ever having laid an egg or tasting their first fly, the siblings were eaten by birds or cats. Only by multiplying in vast numbers had the One Lizard been able to survive over the countless millenniums. Most of this special brood of lizards survived to lay their own eggs, thousands of them. All eggs carried the same genetic mutation. Over time the mutation became part of the One Lizard.

What the One Lizard learned starting with those first few franchises was amazing. It learned how to artificially create stereoscopic vision like that of it's predators; by doing simple push-ups. An image of it's surroundings is taken at ground level, and a second image is quickly taken at the top of a push-up. The 2 perspectives from each eye are sent to the brain and the brain returns the concept of depth, in a nearly 300 degree field of view! The Lizard knows how far away an object is located, how fast the object is moving, and in which direction. Birds and Cats now have a really hard time sneaking up on a lizard.

In short, the Lizard does push-ups to get a new perspective.

Friday, July 17, 2009

18 months - All Green

Yesterday I had my most recent 3 month appointment with Dr. Andrey of Scripps Clinic.
Dr. Andrey was happy to report that All systems are green. Blood counts are all good. Metabolic panel counts are perfect. My white counts are still a little low but are of no cause for concern. My iron counts have come way down. Normal Ferritin counts have a range of up to 400 ng/mL (nanogram per mililiter?) of blood. At worst, my count was around 4,000. Since getting around 20 phlembotomies over the last year my count is down to 614. I had one more phlebotomy yesterday, another pint of blood drained off. I'll get one more phlebotomy and I should be in the normal range.
Lately I've been wondering about the swine flu pandemic. They always say that people with 'compromised' immune systems are in more danger from such illnesses than people with normal immune system. Dr. Andrey now places me in the 'normal' immune system group. That is a big relief. I still carry around hand sanitizer and slop it on my hands, shopping cart handles, everything.
I took this week and most of last week off and took Dylan on a car camping/canoeing/hiking vacation in N.California. We hooked up with Rob in Marin county and he joined us for the weekend activities in Hendy Wood State Park and on the Big River near Mendocino. My energy levels were great, took no naps, did lots of rowing and hiking. Had a great vacation with the kids. Life is good.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet Dr. Jeffrey Andrey

Thursday I had my first round of vaccinations. 5 shots in my arms. These really are small needles so are not a big deal. I'm quite acclimated to needles anyway. This is what I was vaccinated for: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertusis, Polio, Haemophilus Influenzae (Hib), Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal disease. The last one is the biggee. Pneumococcal disease kills more people in the US each year that all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. I'll be joining the ranks of vaccinated in one year after my final doses.

I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but Saturday morning I got up, walked downstair, opened the bathroom door to let the dogs in. When I bent over to pickup a pooch... yikes!, pulled a muscle in my back. It wrecked some activities I had planned for the weekend. I ended up laying around a lot popping Motrin for the pain. I've never pulled a muscle just bending over like this, so I'm gonna suspect the vaccines.

On to the pictures you see here. The first one I took of Dr. Andrey and I at the clinic Thurs afternoon. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to pose while Robin took a couple pix. You can click on these photos to get a larger size. I was going to cut myself out of the photo of Dr. and I cuz I'm not happy with my continuing acne condition. To solve this vanity problem I simply exported the photo to jpg and compressed it 26%. This has the effect of reducing details in the photo. Thus, compression is a marvelous way to get rid of the things about your face you don't want others to see. As I get older, I'll be upping the compression.

The second picture is one of Peter Sarsgaard. I should first mention my purpose here. As a followup to my last post I realized I wanted a picture of Dr. Andrey and I. After all he is also one of the angels who rescued me from MDS. Kind of a 'technical' angel, but an angel he is none the less. I also wanted to show you how Dr. Andrey is a dead ringer for the actor Peter Sarsgaard. The third picture going down the page is one of Dr. Andrey as posted on the Scripps Hospital website. The picture, I understand, was taken around 10 years ago. Dr. Andrey said he grew the beard cuz patients were wary of his expertise, thinking him too young.

The last picture another one of Peter Sarsgaard taken when he was younger as well. I don't know what to tell you. It's kinda like having a celebrity doctor. If I knew how to contact Sargaard, I'd surely alert him to the existence of his angel twin. But then, you know, that's prolly the exact reason why celebrities keep their contact information private. How could he possibly know that I'm not just the run-of-the-mill wacko-stalker fan? I mean, I'm not really a fan anyway. I couldnt even name most of the movies he's acted in. It's just the look-alike thing... Nevermind... Sigh...

At any rate, this post is my Thank You to Dr. Jeffrey Andrey of Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego for his wonderful care, his dedication to his patients, his encouragement, his positive attitude, saving my life, and oh, his good looks. His sense of humor is very endearing as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not My Blood

A strange thing happened to me on April 16. At a routine visit to Scripps Green Hospital, Dr. Andrey alerted me to the results of a lab test done in January.
The test indicates that the blood flowing through my veins is not my own. In other words, the report shows that the DNA in all of my various types of blood cells is not my DNA. After his announcement Dr. Andrey had to quickly leave the office for a minute. Unfortunately this left my imagination alone to run wild.

My knowledge of medicine is not extensive. I studied biology at USCD during college. My interest in biology waned when I studied Biochemistry; something about the Krebs Cycle. My foray into Genetics the previous year should have warned me that all was not well with my choice of Biology major. I achieved a 'B' in the study of Mendel's pea plants. At any rate, I'm pretty sure from all my reading that each organism possesses only it's own DNA. Therefore, I had to search elsewhere for an answer to Dr. Andrey's startling news.

First up. Was my body snatched? Had alien beings and taken over my body? I discount this theory because mentally I feel the same. Although, that might be part of the process, not to think you have been taken over. On a similar thought, had I been snatched up by an alien spacecraft and become the subject of their experiments? If this was true then there would be a gap in my presence at home. Surely a family member would have noticed my disappearance for a few days. Unless; they had also been abducted at the same time and do not know it themselves. If I had been abducted how and why did the aliens replace my blood with that of someone, or something, else?

Before I could start thinking up really crazy reasons for my alien blood DNA, Dr. Andrey came back in the room. I dont actually have a picture of him to show you. But it turns out he is a dead ringer for the actor Peter Sarsgaard when Peter is sporting a beard. I found the picture to your left on the internet. Apparently Peter is married to Maggie Gyllenhaal who's brother is Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake starred in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow", which had a scene where Jake gets into a New York Taxi driven by Rik Magon, who I worked with for a year in 2001. Rik just happened to be in New York the day they were filming in 2001. The director picked him out of a crowd to be the taxi driver. What does this have to do with anything? I don't know. Just thinking I guess. Anyway, Dr. Andrey had the explanation for my strange blood. I don't know why I didn't think of it before, other than the fact that it was a lot more fun telling you this way. It turns out... that I had a stem cell transplant 462 days prior. Yes, the alien spacecraft was actually my room at Scripps Green hospital overlooking Torrey Pines golf course! Because my own bone marrow had decided to retire without consulting with me, the doctors performed this procedure that only used to be the stuff of science fiction.

They pumped me full of nasty chemicals that killed what was left of my old derelict marrow stem cells, then they pumped in some stem cells from an angel who now happens to be living in human form, in the same town I was born; Pensacola FL. Steve donated his stem cells though a simple process in Baltimore Maryland on January 8th. Less than 24 hours later his gift was on the opposite coast, being transfused into my vascular system through a plastic tube coming out of my chest. You see, the Body Snatchers explanation seems much more believable, eh?. Last weeks chimerism report results are very good. No sign of my old stem cells coming back. Steve's generosity has given me new life. All else looks good. I feel that I am totally back to normal. Healthly. Energetic. Thankful for life, for friends, for family. Thankful to God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NOT GUILTY! Citizens Shocked!

San Diego, CA; March 24, 2009
County Superior Court Finds Offender 'Not Guilty'

In a surprise twist to the lengthy legal saga involving James Anderson, a resident of Penasquitos, and the County of San Diego; a supreme court commissioner found Anderson not guilty of a section vc22350 crime. The much anticipated trial ended in the favorable verdict for Mr. Anderson, and a black eye for the Sheriffs department. The lone sheriff left standing in the court was clearly dismayed and had this to say, "This isn't over yet. Our city is not safe with Mr. Anderson on the street and unpunished for his heinous crime." Many parents with children in the 4S Ranch area seem to agree. A community activist, Elba Mayhem, present for the trial stated, "This man is, and will continue to be, a menace to our community and our kids. We will seek to pursue greater protection from Mr. Anderson by consulting with the San Diego Sheriff and perhaps the Department of Homeland Security."
So, yeah. That's my foray into newspaper journalism today. Gotta work on it. Like more and more cities across the country, our fair city may be without a major newspaper soon. They are falling like flies passing over one of Maddies volleyball shoes removed immediately after a weekend tournament. News will have to start coming from your average citizens. Like me. Except for me. I won my traffic court case in which the County charge me with driving 52mph in a 25mph school speed zone. Winning such a case is rare, or so the bailiff says.

Now I first have to quickly do serious damage control. Speeding in front of a Middle School makes people wince, especially those of us with kids. I have 1.5 kids and it makes me wince. It must have taken the commissioner a lot of nerve to find me not guilty of the charge.
When interviewed about his stunning acquittal Anderson said, "I don't know what the big deal is. I was charged with a Basic Speed Law violation when no such violation actually occurred. I simply pointed this out to the commissioner and he agreed."
There was no community activist, no dismayed sheriff. But there was a trial on my case, it was very interesting, and I did prevail. I decided to fight the charge because, going 52 in a 25 is a 'major', two point violation that would have caused my insurance premiums to become large enough to support the bonus packages of several AIG executives. Not to mention the $400 fine and the 'no traffic school' flag. In addition it kinda bothered me that the charge hangs on a sign that cuts the legal speed in half "when children are present". At 7:48am Monday the posted speed is 50mph. 10 minutes later the posted speed is 25mph; "when children are present". I did not see any kids. The Sheriff positioned his cruiser in front of the only area where kids start getting dropped off, and near impossible for people approaching from behind him, to see. He apparently starts issuing tickets as soon as the first car drops off. Not fair I say. Besides, why dont those flashing yellow warning signs just say "School Zone. 25mph when flashing". End of story. My driving record remains unblemished. Sometimes you gotta fight for it.

Based upon the days court session and listening through several other cases, Anderson gave the following advice to California motorists, "First of all, when stopped, be very respectful to the officer. But also say as little as possible. I guarantee that whatever conversation goes on between the 2 of you will be repeated word for word by him/her at a trial. Most of all, do not admit guilt. Even if you feel like you are guilty you may not be. If you are cited for CA vehicle code 22350 (basic speed law) you may be in luck because that is the broadest code and easiest to contest. But be warned; in any court contest of only your word against the Sheriff - you will lose. Be prepared. Full stop vs. rolling stop. Fugedaboudit, you rolled through. For this reason, you may want to look into getting a camera mounted in your car that records video and audio automatically as you drive. As the economy worsens, look to see more revenue generated for local governments by traffic enforcement activities."
Today I watched several people swear they made full stops at their respective stop signs. They were all found guilty. But, hey! No need to get paranoid, right?,

Friday, February 13, 2009

Only Bad Witches are Ugly

"Only Bad Witches are Ugly" -Glinda, Wizard of Oz, 1939

No bad witches in my most recent, and final, bone marrow biopsy report.
I got a copy of the report from the nurse yesterday at my phlebotomy. The report is prolly meant to be translated by a doctor, but I can pick out the key news. Since this was my 6th BMB I know what to look for.

"bone marrow is normocellular with orderly hematopoiesis"
- red blood cell production is active and normal

"significant dysplastic features are absent from all three lineages."
- Red, White, and platelet cells are NOT abnormal (dysplastic)

The final report that I dont have yet from the BMB is the 'Chimerism' report. Somehow, the lab analysts can count the stem cells in the sample and group them into 2 categories;
1. Stem Cells of Donor DNA.
2. Stem Cells of my own DNA.
As far as my marrow stem cells go, it would be far greater if they all showed the DNA of my donor. My last 2 Chimerism studies showed 100% donor. I cant imagine this will change.

I have only a few phlembotomies left now. My iron levels (Ferritin) are rapidly returning to normal. The procedure takes only 15 minutes. The silver lining is that I get to visit with my wonderful nurse friends I've known for almost 3 years now.

Well, finally got my first 'cold'. I'm happy to report that it is a lot less severe (so far) than my last cold in November of 2007. I've taken off work the last 2 days in order to recover properly. My new immune system is handling this bug very nicely. Yay!

So why the leading quote from the Good witch of the north? I dunno. I got kinda fascinated with the Wizard of Oz last month in terms of it's many messages of hope and redemption. I thought Glinda's quote was kinda funny. I re-watched the movie, read the screenplay, and read the original story by Frank Baum published in 1900. It's amazing how different the screenplay is from the original.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Weekend of Oz

On the night of Jan 9 I was looking forward to a nice dinner with Cat, Maddie, and Dylan. I had been on the phone with Cat during the day and she said we should celebrate the 1 year aniversay of my new stem cells. I'm way up for that, I thought, maybe even drink some beer and toast the wonderful donor who made it all possible. After getting home from work (yes, back at work now), the fam seemed to be ready except there was a glitch. It seemed that Cathie's very good friend Anne had her mother flying in from Colorado, but Anne could not pick her up. To convince me of the predicament, Cathie had me listen to Anne's message on our answering machine. Anne was really in a pickle and sounded desperate (I'll leave it at that). I was ok with the whole thing anyway, cuz the plan was to pick up Anne's Mom and then go to a restaurant near the airport. Anne's son Cody would pick up his grandma soon thereafter. It was a small favor we could do. We drove down to the airport but I had not taken my jacket. Upon arrival, I wanted to remain in the car with the heater on. Cat said, "No, I dont get to see you enough during the week, you must come into the terminal with us". Wow, what a sweetie, heh? I did not put up a fight, went along, but thought it was kind of strange. We walked into terminal 2 to the foot of the escalators where there are also some arrival/departure monitors. Mmm, no flights scheduled to arrive from Colorado. Hey Cat, "where is she arriving from?". "Dallas". Mmm. Only a few minutes passed and I saw this gentleman at the top of the escalators, starting down. I noticed him because he seemed to wave down to the four of us, no one else was around. When he got down to our floor and walked towards us I realized that we would have more company to toast my donor. Walking towards us was Steve Evers. I hadnt recognized him at first from the picture I took off Inka's blog last August. But this was the man who made it possible for me to be standing there that night, with my family. This was the man whose blood now literally flows through my veins. And now he was conducting secret operations with my wife! Ha! Well, they had me totally fooled they did. For the record I did NOT EVEN REMOTELY imagine that that was about to happen. You can rest assured that you can now hire Cathie to arrange your future surprise parties. I truly hope that her talents continue to be used only for 'the force'. If she ever decided to use her talent for duplicity to benefit the 'dark side', I will be in deep doo doo. The encounter with Steve at the airport set one of my surreal mental bookmarks. I'm still very choked up about it. Steve gave me a hug right off the bat and made me feel like a brother. I was beside myself, whatever that means. But really; Steve's blood and mine are an identical DNA match so... I was beside myself. Um, Yeah... I wanted to wait around for Anne's mother but Cathie said, "It's alright honey", as she patted my head and showed me to the automatic doors. "Cody will pick her up later". Well, I guess that was awright. My head was spinning anyway. As we made our way up i15 to dinner at The Claim Jumper, the 5 of us talked like a group of monkeys who've discovered a new mango tree. We had a great evening. I've been holding this tidbit back cuz I wanted to establish how we spent some serious time with Steve before I developed an impression. Steve is a total angel! This may still be a little pre-mature because there is more to this story, but I have to tell you. He and I got along like brothers. He is such a gentleman and a kind, caring, patient soul. My heart was really taken by this guy. Cathie said it best a couple days ago, "I'm going through Steve withdrawal". He took a big chance when he accepted Cathie's invitation weeks ago to visit here for this surprise, to spend a weekend with people he's only known from 2 letters and 2 phone calls in the last 6 months. I picked him up at the Double Tree and drove him to the airport for a 6:20am flight home Monday morning.

Sometimes, things work out totally different than they first look. Going back to the diagnosis of my bone marrow disease (MDS) 3 years ago. It seemed so final. The many sick days ahead, the early end to my life, the ensuing chaos for my family. After last weekend I cant imagine my life taking any better route than it has. It was such an incredibly enriching experience meeting and spending time with Steve.

Back to the weekend story. Friday night, discussing the weekend, Cathie suggested Steve and I spend some time in the morning. After that, the family would take him to lunch and see some sights in San Diego. Steve was stationed here 20 years ago. The city has changed so much since then and he's been living in Pensacola, FL for many years.
I picked him up at the Double Tree at 9am Saturday morning and we drove to Torrey Pines beach and parked the car. We hiked to the Del Mar power station along the Coaster tracks trail. I was a great morning. We got to know each other better, sharing stories about working for the Navy, families, travel. I kidded with him about Friday night, how Cathie was able to pull off such a surprise without raising my suspicions. I jokingly said I'd never be able to trust her again. Har dee har. After all, I was talking to her accomplice. After the hike I took him back to the Double Tree and waited outside while he got some things. It took a while. It was around 12noon. I received a call from Cathie asking if I could stop by Costco to get a bag of dry dog food. No problem. I ran the errand by Steve when he got back to the car and he was cool with it. It'd be kinda fun he said, cuz they don't have Costcos in Pensacola. They have Sam's clubs in FL. Hey, I've always wanted to see a Sam's club, I thought! I get it. Mmm. What a guy, this Steve. So nice, so agreeable. So, it was off to Costco. While I was there I thought, buy a pizza too! I phoned in the idea to Cathie. "Sure!", She said. "Great idea". What a gal, this Cathie. So nice, so agreeable. Gad, I was living a charmed morning. I Spoke to my dad on the cell phone around 11am to tell him about Steve's surprise visit. He was overjoyed, said he would tell Mom. After Costco, Steve and I drove back home. Parked outside my house was my Dad's car. How nice, I thought. So nice, so agreeable. Dad decided he wanted to meet Steve so he drove over from La Jolla. His car was flanked by a couple other cars I did not recognize. We usually dont get many people parking on the street outside our house. Must be people visiting neighbors I thought. I could not park in the garage, cuz, drat that Dylan. He parked his car up against the garage door on the side I usually drive in. Mmm. I'll have to talk to that young man, I thought. I parked on the driveway behind Dylans car. I took the pizza box out of the car, Steve grabbed the huge bag of dog food and we walked to the front door. Unlocked. Cool. As the door opened I first saw a table with food off to the left. How about that Cat, fixing a nice lunch here, I started to think as the door opened. "Surprise!", everyone shouted as I stood there gaping at the scene. Drat! Duped again! I quickly thought, before I was overcome with emotion at seeing the faces of most of the people who made it possible for me to be standing there. Another mental bookmark. These are exactly the kind of moments I want to remember the rest of my life. This is how I felt; like Dorothy, at the end of 'The Wizard of Oz'. In the scene, she's in bed, finally awake after getting hit in the head by flying debris tossed by a tornado days before. Awake from a fantastic dream she finds herself surrounded by the people she loves, people who aided her to get home in her dream. They are all looking at her asking her how she feels, "we were all so worried", they said. Back at my door, I stood aside and let Steve come in, the (kind of) Wizard of my Oz. Everyone was eager to meet him. In a span of 4 hours, Cathie, Maddie, Dylan, Anne, Jennifer, Pat & Dave, had put together a fantastic party. There were several tables of great food, newly planted flowers inside and out, balloons, drinks. I had the opportunity to thank many of you in person who were critical in helping me maintain a positive outlook in the first few months of my recovery last year. Thank you all again and again.

It was a magical weekend that I will remember forever. I guess there isnt much more to say on that.

But not so fast. Hee hee. Please allow me to indulge just a bit on the Wizard of Oz.

Isn't this the story of the endurance and triumph of the human spirit? This is the story of a severely head-injured girl who has lapsed into unconsciousness and possibly a coma. To get 'home' to her family and friends she realizes that she will have to muster all her courage, intelligence, and heart. She has much doubt about her ability to do it. In her dream state, she hears the voices of her family around her bed providing encouragement. If she stays where she is, the wicked witch of the east (her illness), means to consume her. She strikes off to find her way home. When she finally gets close to what seems to be the way out (emerald city), she finds that she must reach inside even deeper to free herself of the illness if she is continue on. Only with the help of the voices of her family and friends, she is able to conquer her fears and vanquish the darkness trying to take her. Her magical journey home is finally threatened when the voices around her seem to be giving up hope. The wizard, who was going to take her home in a balloon (a friend who was at her bedside) flies off without her. Realizing that the way home was not going to be provided by anyone other than herself, she reaches even deeper inside and wills herself to wake up. She passed 3 increasing levels of personal challenge. At any level she could have assumed defeat, given up, and been consumed.

And finally...
For possibly the last recovery report in a while, I have some news. My 1 year visit with Dr. Andrey at Scripps Green hospital (but at the Rancho Bernardo clinic), was Jan 15. Cathie came to this appointment. During the appointment Dr. Andrey congratulated Cathie and I on my rapid and remarkable recovery. He took me off my last prescription medicine, informed me that my iron levels were coming down very nicely due to the ongoing phlebotomies, and set the next appointment for 3 months hence. After that good news, his assistant stuck an auger in my lower back to collect a bone marrow sample. Cathie held my hand. In a few weeks I expect to get a report showing that my marrow stem cells are 100% donor!

Since this blog was created as a means to communicate with friends and family regarding my stem cell transplant I'll definitely be running out of newsworthy events. Thanx for staying with me during the last 15 months of this blog. You know how important your support has been to me and my family. I will continue to post updates when there is news. I have a few more monthly phlebotomies and will start my re-vaccinations in 3 months.

I'll post a slide show this week with pictures from last weekend. The slide show will only have pictures of people who have given me permission to include them. If anyone wants a CD burned of the 89 pictures just let me know.
Love you All!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Smart Kids

The picture below is of Cathie's great nephews, Samuel and Parker. They were over in July for a Roedl family reunion. In the picture, they were watching TV on our couch. Sooo cute. Cathie's nephew Cory, added the captions. You might have to click on the picture to see a larger version in order to read the captions.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day +365 A Year in the Life

It's been exactly one year today.

One day last month I was at Costco standing in a checkout line. I have been in Costco checkout lines many times over the years. They are not moments that normally produce mental bookmarks. December was a busy month. Every checkout station was open. Lines of shoppers snaked around the last parallel product isle into the 2 long pedestrian isles that run the length of the store. It was busy. It was noisy. There were lots of people. Carts were full of gifts. As I looked out across the heads of shoppers I decided to stop thinking about the things I normally think about. I stopped reviewing, for the umpteenth time, what was in my cart and whether I was forgetting something. I vanquished thoughts of what I had to do later in the day; putting up Christmas lights, checking email, checking on my Mom's welfare. I stopped it all, except for the thought of moving forward in the line when it moved. I decided to focus on the people. What was there? What could I learn from them? What were they thinking? I should say that I've done this kind of thing before. In previous years I vaguely remember similar experiments lasting only a few moments. I never knew why I did it, maybe from boredom, maybe from some desire to learn. But on the prior occasions I quickly resumed thinking about the usual things.
This year has been different.
As I focused on the people waiting in line and I shut out my own usual thoughts, I became aware of a very different scene than what I previously described. First, I was aware of a mental bookmark being made, almost like the slow shuttering of a camera lens in low light conditions. The visual image I had of the shoppers changed. I sensed and then saw an energy around each person. Stop. Obviously I'm getting into a weird part here, but I'm going to forge ahead cuz it's my birthday. Each person waiting in line began to reflect light as they stood there checking the contents of their carts, fidgeting in their purses or speaking to their kids. The reflected light from each person was not constant and was not the same intensity. Suddenly I realized this scene was similar to another scene in my memory. Sitting on a cliff over a beach at night; slight breeze, clear skies, full moon out over the ocean. As the breeze slowly glided over the surface it pushed the water into little waves that broke up the reflection of the moon. On a quiet and still night I knew I would see a whole reflection of the moon on the water. But on that night, the wind broke the reflection up into thousands of reflective pieces. Each wave, with it's own energy from the wind, reflected a different aspect of the one moon; into my perspective. Yet the moon itself was reflecting light from a higher source, the sun; which was located 91 million miles to my back. It was a dazzling display, that day at night; at Costco, on the beach. All the shoppers were luminous beings emanating energy in the form of glowing and reflecting lights; yet with no visible source of illumination. No moon. No sun. It was just us people. I really don't think the illumination was coming from the overhead halogen lights, even though one of them was kind of flickering. The light reflections were not of a halogen origin. They were of halo origin. By that I mean I realized that each person has an inner light, their own halo. I've only recently learned to get a glimpse of them once in a while. In fact, when I can see this phenomenon, I feel an immense affinity with each person. I want to communicate with everyone. I feel that if I could get in a conversation with someone, unbeknownst to them, they would be giving me a gift of themselves, a piece of their light. This might appear selfish of me if it is not assumed that such gifts must travel in both directions. That is my hope. I feel I have the same gift to offer. It just may not be readily apparent. And this is the point to my story, but not the cause. The point is, that, I've found more and more over the past 20 years, what people have to offer me, and what I have to offer them; may not readily apparent. I do not always see the value until I take the time and effort to know them. When I take the time and effort, there is always a great reward. I think people are all diamonds on the inside. But that fact is often hidden from view by what looks like a rough surface. The rough surface (in this very lame analogy) is only a perception created by my own self preoccupation, preconceptions, biases, and proclivities. So that's the point of my story. This year, I've really been learning how wonderful people are and how important they are in my life, and to the story of my life.

Now I can talk about the cause to my story. The cause has a name and her name is Cathie.

A year ago on this date as my body was being slowly poisoned by liquids running into my veins from plastic bags hanging on a metal tree with pig tail branches, I felt the cord of life loosening it's grip. There was no pain. There was just this increasing feeling of impending doom. Technically, all cell division in my body had been stopped by the chemicals. The biological party was over. The gas tank was running dry. The generators were coughing on fumes and the lights were beginning to dim. It was a nightmarish feeling. And it may have resulted in a nightmarish end if not for the fact I had a guardian angel with me in the flesh. Cathie. Those of you who know Cathie will understand what I'm writing about. As she has done so many times since I met her almost 23 years ago, she poured on the love, affection, and hope. I could easily have let that silver cord slip away if not for Cathie's encouragement and insatiable cheer. For the last year, she has been my care giver, my light, my angel. She has been the source of my awakening. She is the cause for my story today. To this day she has not flinched from her optimism. I have a lot yet to learn from her so I am determined to stick around.

Since this is my birthday I will share another quick story. This is the story of an artist.
Again, this one was inspired by Cathie.

One Artists Story.
I was born into life with an immense empty canvas. I was provided with paints, brushes and an easel. At the end of my life my goal is to have my canvas filled with the paintings of other people; family, friends, strangers. I am not concerned with how 'good' they paint. There are no qualifications for someone to paint on my canvas. They can paint whatever they want; fun, serious, angry, happy. I only ask that people paint what they feel. People can paint over other peoples paintings on my canvas. However, I may protect certain painted areas on my canvas from re-painting because I like what is on that spot. There will always be new places to paint on my canvas. People are welcome to come back to finish a painting started on an earlier date. People are welcome to continue painting a design started by someone else. I will never paint over what someone else has painted on my canvas because the paints and brushes I was provided were not meant for my canvas. At the end of my life I will show my canvas to everyone I know and say, "Look, this is the story of my life".


Thank You Cathie. Next week I get my 1 year bone marrow biopsy. This will be my 6th one. I'll need you to hold my hand again.