On October 15th I celebrated my 4-year bone marrow transplant anniversary. Or, “transplantiversary”, as my friend Tina calls it. Four years! Holy crap! In many ways it seems like yesterday I was undergoing treatment for leukemia. In other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. Either way, I have to pinch myself sometimes to remind myself just how lucky I am to be here at all.
I’m also extremely thankful for the army of people I had by my side and the vital roles they played in my recovery. Here’s a story from an experience I had shortly after being diagnosed.
More than a coin flip
I flipped a coin. Heads I live. Tails I die.
I had just returned home from my appointment with Dr. Lipton at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. It hadn’t been a good appointment. Dr. Lipton told me I had a forty to fifty percent chance of surviving my leukemia, which had just gotten real aggressive, real quick. A coin toss really.
So when I got home, still numb from my prognosis, I wandered into my basement office and grabbed a quarter from the desk. I flicked the coin toward the ceiling and snatched it out of the air.
Though thrilled to have Lady Luck on my side, I would soon discover that I was going to need a hell of a lot more than a coin flip to get me through.
As a fiercely independent person, I had a hard time embracing the idea that I couldn’t handle this on my own. In fact I waited several days before telling anybody about my diagnosis. I’ve always loathed asking for help and preferred the lone wolf approach to life. After all, this was my fight against cancer, and not anybody else’s. I had no intention of being a burden and hated the idea of upsetting my family and friends.
But there are times in life when going it alone isn’t an option. This was one of those times. To beat my cancer, I was going to need an army of supporters in my corner.
And it wasn’t just my doctor. I soon realized my corner included many other people as well. My parents. My brothers and sisters. My friends. The nurses on Floor 15. My pharmacist. Nutritionists, social workers, chaplains, physical therapists, counsellors. Hell, even my dog, Stockie, played a key role.
Best birthday gift ever
This week’s Buddha Belly Badge of Awesome goes to all my family and friends who gave me the best birthday gift ever in March 2008.
It was a couple months after my diagnosis and I was an in-patient at Princess Margaret Hospital, undergoing what’s called the Induction Phase of my chemotherapy protocol. I would spend the month of March on the 15th floor, which included my 28th birthday.
I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t go out and party with my friends. But true to their awesomeness, they brought the party to me. Under the leadership of my friends Rob, Meagan and Royce, and with the support of more friends and family I realized I had, a “human art show” was performed for me on the street far below my hospital room window.
Set to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger,” they ran around the street below, forming words and pictures out of their bodies in an amazing choreographed routine. From high above, I watched them spell out words like Happy Birthday, OneMatch.ca and even make themselves into two giant stick figures playing ultimate Frisbee.
Rob even managed to get CTV to come by and cover the story.
Like I said, best birthday gift ever.
The first thing my nurse said to me the following morning when she came to my room was, “you need to have more birthday parties.” She then proceeded to write down my daily blood counts which had taken a nice healthy jump since epic performance the day before.
I’m a believer that our environment and state of mind can affect us physically. I have no doubt that my little birthday show contributed directly to a much-needed boost in my blood counts.
I’ll say it again: best birthday gift ever.
I often feel helpless in situations where a loved one is sick. But then I think back to my birthday street performance and remind myself that encouragement and friendship are powerful ways to have a great impact.
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