Thursday, May 28, 2009


Hi everyone: I owe you a long posting after a long silence. And that's part of the problem, I've been putting off this post for so long because (a) there's so much to say and I don't quite know where to start and (b) I have an almost superstitious aversion to celebrating too much for fear of jinxing it.

I went in for my weekly oil change and tire rotation with Dr. Spitzer and the pit crew at MGH's Bone Marrow Transplant center today. My white blood cell count has continued it's steady climb from 3.7 at the beginning of the month to 5.6 today, well out of the neutropenic zone that I was in coming out of transplant. All food restrictions were lifted last week, and I'm down to just three pills a day now, not the 10 to 15 that were part of my routine over the last few months. Today, I was given the green light to return to work on Monday.

I'm coming back ONE MONTH ahead of schedule. When I told Dr. Spitzer that I'd biked 105 miles and run 8 in the past week, he shook his head and said, "That's just unprecedented."

I know and appreciate how lucky I've been through all of this, particularly this last stretch since going into MGH to have my stem cells harvested at the end of March. At every turn, I've exceeded the doctors' expectations. Blame it on me being ultra-competitive, credit it to me being in good shape going into this, or, my preference, recognize that this is a cruel and capricious disease that I've been fighting, and I have been damned lucky to get the better of it.

Wayman Tisdale was not so lucky. The former college and Olympic basketball great died of bone cancer two weeks ago at 44, with a great attitude and in great shape. I opened my alma mater's alumni magazine last week to discover that a member of this year's senior class was not so lucky, dying just three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Kat Eckman was an extraordinary young woman who gave the world a life's worth of blessings in 21 years.

I know it won't surprise you that I read Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike cover-to-cover in about two days back when it came out. It may surprise you that from diagnosis until tonight, I've been unable to take that book down and crack it open. Nor could I read any of the other cancer books out there or wade onto the cancer blogs and read the stories of other fighters like me. Partially, it was just too painful to read other people's accounts, because somehow they made me admit how terrifying all of this was. If I only wrote and read my own story, it could be anything I decided it would be, and you know, I decided it was mostly going to be funny.

But I did pull down Lance's book tonight, because there was a quote in there that stuck with me as I heard people tell me that I got through this because of my attitude and my strength and my fitness:
Good, strong people get cancer, and they do all the right things to beat it, and they still die. That is the essential truth you learn. People die. And after you learn it, all other matters seem irrelevant. They just seem small.
Armstrong went on to write:
I don't know why I'm still alive. I can only guess. I have a tough constitution, and my profession taught me how to compete against long odds and obstacles. I like to train hard and I like to race hard. That helped. It was a good start, but it certainly wasn't the determining factor. I can't help feeling that my survival was more a matter of blind luck.
I'm glad I had a good attitude and that I made the people around me laugh with me. And I'm glad that I willed myself to get on the bike even on days when I felt like crap and could only spin at low resistance while I watched Sport Center. Did it help me get to the other side in such great shape? Like Lance, I doubt it. But what I do know is that the attitude let me get through this more on my terms than on cancer's terms, and that made all the difference.

I'm by no means out of the woods with this, and I will never use words like survivor or cure. One doesn't survive life; one lives it, and cancer is part of my life now. I have to say that returning to life after battling death is an entirely new sort of challenge. I have some sense of what it must feel like for soldiers returning to peacetime society after war. Perhaps there will be something worth saying about all of that.
We'll see how much more blogging I have in me over the next few months. In the meantime, there's a lawn to be mowed, a nonprofit organization to be led, and a few new bike routes to try out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dear all, It's so nice to have Steve home! We got back to the house around 9:30 pm on Thursday night, after Steve gave a great speech to 250+ people at the Youth Advocacy Project gala, via webcam (It's a little scary that I was responsible for the technology set up; am proud to say that it worked!)
Wanted to share a photo of that evening, below, and one from today, right - in true Steve form, he biked 16 miles in the basement, and I took a nap.
Given the outfits, I think I'm going to propose to the Lance Armstrong Foundation that they take him on as a model for their apparel.
We saw Dr. Spitzer today, who was very pleased with both Steve's mental and physical state. He mentioned that the folks on Ellison 14 really miss him, that they've rarely had so many laughs with a transplant patient.
His counts are inching up, the precautions are still quite stringent, but after IVs and isolation, hand-washing and clorox seem like a really easy deal...
Big hugs to all, and thank you for the prayers and thoughts - it is our hope and prayer that you all enjoy health, and that we can start socializing soon... we've decided that "boring and middle aged" is a fine goal!