Sunday, April 17, 2016

Deep delve into dark place from a Marathon day

Cancer memories are tied to events, and Marathon Monday is one of them for me. Here's something I wrote on my "Surviving Cancer" blog four days after the bombing three years ago tomorrow. I recalled a great day when I jumped in to help a friend finish the race and a dark day when I was having graft failure after my first allogenic transplant and my second bone marrow transplant all together. (My first was autologous, which did not involve donor cells.)

In grieving over the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, I have been thinking about my own connection to the race.

I "ran" the marathon once, thrilled to be there on a bright, festive Patriot’s Day. The word "ran" is in quotes because I ran only four miles, although I did cross the finish line. No, I was not doing a Rosie Ruiz thing, sneaking in partway and pretending to have run the whole race. A friend who was actually running the marathon asked me to do what many runners asked their runner friends to do: jump in near the end and run with them for support.

Sharing her excitement, I dropped her off in Hopkinton, where the race starts, and then drove into Boston. She told me where to find her and at what time, and sure enough, along she came just when she said she would.

I jumped in, feeling a little conspicuous but game. I wanted to cheer her on, so I said things like, "You're doing great," "You're almost there," etc. I think I was annoying her. "I can't really talk now," she said. I realized she just wanted me to run, so I stopped talking. We crossed the finish line and someone put a Mylar sheath on top of me.

I tried to protest that I wasn't a runner, but the volunteer was on to the next person before I could get the words out. I was thrilled for my friend’s triumph and got caught up in the joy of the event.

A few years later on another Patriot’s Day, I went to Boston from my home in Western Massachusetts in a vastly different state of mind.

I wasn’t running anywhere this time. It was after my first leukemia relapse and second bone marrow transplant. I had a high fever and was feeling awful. A friend drove me to the clinic at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. My nurse practitioner told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital.

I had nothing with me, so my valiant chauffeur went to my sister’s house in nearby Newton and picked up a few things to wear – comfortable yoga pants and T-shirts.

They put me in a hospital room where the window faced a brick wall. The darkness fit my mood. My doctor came in and said I hadn't relapsed again, but my bone marrow was almost empty. It was my introduction to "graft failure." The donor cells had moved out. They would have to address the cause of my fever first. Then I would have more chemotherapy and another bone marrow transplant.

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