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

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.