Picking hydrangeas took my mind off the birthday that isn't.
Yesterday would have been my fifth birthday. Instead, I was 100 days old.
To back up: Sept. 18 was the fifth anniversary of my first bone marrow transplant. It also happened to mark 100 days from my third. It was an odd coincidence that made me think.
If I had made it straight through without relapsing, I would have been at the five-year mark, a major post-transplant milestone, at which the chance of relapse is extremely slight. I celebrated my Sept. 18th birthday three times and was a month away from my fourth when I relapsed.
That date is kind of a like a wedding anniversary after a divorce. You look back at all of the hope and promise, and you wonder why everything unraveled.
Yesterday marked the 100th day after my third transplant, which I had on June 10. It’s good to get past 100 days; you’re out of the most critical post-transplant period. Still, you don’t get many restrictions lifted, except for being able to go into peoples’ houses and eat their food. (Is anyone listening? I’m ready to be fed!)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad for the progress I’ve made. But yesterday, I allowed myself to wallow. All of the literature advises us to get past the “why me?” question that we ask when we are diagnosed. We’re supposed to move on to “why not me?” And most of the time we do. Stuff happens. It might as well happen to me as to the next person. But, still, these dates sometimes cause a little regression. You can’t help but ask again, “This happened HOW?”
I figured I was allowed to feel what I felt. I took a long walk with the dog. We went through the woods and up to a field where I sat and let my breathing quiet my mind. The dog sat next to me, looking regal as her gaze followed a butterfly. The sun warmed both of us. I put my arm around her and forgave her for her misdeeds.
Today, with the sadness still lingering, I picked some hydrangeas from my garden and a neighbor’s. My mother used to like the hydrangea harvest when she and my father came for a late-summer visit from New York. She was particularly tickled that you could get the flowers for free here and dry them yourself, while back in the city, florists put big price tags on dried hydrangeas.
Our friend across the street used to hang them in her attic for us, so I never dried them myself. This year I felt inspired. I pulled the leaves off, put twine around the stems and hung them upside down on push-pins from the beams in my kitchen. I’ve raised three children in Western Massachusetts, but I still consider myself a New Yorker, and I chuckled at the thought that here I was, a former apartment dweller, standing on a chair hanging flowers from beams. I actually felt sort of adventurous, like I had stepped into “Little House on the Prairie.” (It doesn’t take much.)
I doubt you could really mess this up, but since I’m not normally artsy-crafty, it did take a little extra concentration.
This gave me an idea for a way to take your mind off of difficult stuff: Do something a little different. I guess it works the same way for me when I try to cook creatively, such as making my own tomato sauce for a change.
Now the hydrangeas are shades of green and pink. It will be interesting to see how they turn out when they dry.
This blog is about falling down and getting up, coping and coming back after four bone marrow transplants for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, or AML, starting in 2003 when I was diagnosed after feeling winded while running a 10-K road race. I have three children, Ben, Joe and Katie, and one Labrador retriever, Maddie, short for Madison, as in Madison (Ave.), in honor of my hometown, New York, New York.