Since Sunday, Day 2, I have visited Hopkins once a day to get my shot which is part of this mobilization phase of growing the stem cells that are now in my bloodstream. Effects of the shot have been miniscule; slight soreness in the bone marrow areas of the sternum and hips, but otherwise no bone pain, which is great! So the only thing that is different these days is fatigue which comes from the chemo I got the first day. I notice it when I walk up the stairs and when I stand for longer than 5 minutes. This is probably nothing like it will be when I get the two days of chemo right before the transplant – so no complaints here. We now go for a daily visit at 2pm for the shot, but starting Sunday we will have to be there at 7:30am. They will do labs and if the volume of stem cells is where they want it, I will be hooked up to a machine and they will harvest my stem cells; this takes up to 6 hours. The stem cells will then be frozen. If the volume is not there yet, I will just get the shot and go home. This will happen daily until the volume is there. The hi-dose chemo is scheduled for February 28th and March 1st, and those dates won’t change, so if the harvesting comes earlier I will have the days following the harvest free until the 28th. The transplant of my stem-cells (also called re-infusion) is scheduled for March 2nd. That’s pretty much the way things will proceed, the effects on me yet to be known. Certainly this whole process has its risks but people don’t normally die from a stem cell transplant. This Hopkins team has me pretty confident that I am in good hands.
I’d like to shift now to how I am dealing with all this mentally and emotionally. My intention for this blog was not just to talk about the medical process; it was more about sharing my inner experience of it all. But first a poem. I mentioned in an earlier post that I brought a lot of comforts with me, blanket, books, stuffed animals, angel picture, etc. Additionally I brought some poetry books. When I was a yoga teacher I used to read a quote or poem at the start of my class, often to set the theme of the class. Through this experience I developed a love of poetry so I have a few favorite books like Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden, and Saved by a Poem, The Transformative Power of Words by Kim Rosen. One particular writer I love is Danna Faulds, a yoga teacher in Massachusetts. I think I have 5 of her small books. I brought one with me and it’s called Poems from the Heart of Yoga – Go In and In. I was reading it Wednesday and this one spoke to me:
” Despite illness of body and mind, in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief, who you are is whole. Let nothing keep you separate from the truth. The soul, illuminated from within, longs to be known for what it is. Undying, untouched by fire or storms of life, there is a place inside where stillness and abiding peace reside. You can ride the breath to go there. Despite doubt or hopeless turns of mind, you are not broken. Spirit surrounds, embraces, fills you from the inside out. Release everything that isn’t your true nature. What’s left, the fullness, light, and shadow, claim all that as your birthright.”
I took some reflective time on Wednesday to just BE. Up to that point since my move here I hadn’t taken any time to just be quiet and by myself and I felt a need to get away from phone and TV and the everyday distractions of life. I lay down on my bed in a room streaming with bright sunlight and deep blue sky and just felt such a sense of contentment. I thought of my two grandsons (ages 11 and 12) and the texts they had sent me wishing me well and my heart just filled up. I thought of other encouraging cards, texts and phone conversations that left me feeling so loved and cared for. I realized I didn’t miss my usual home routine of always going, whether it be store, exercise class, friend’s, movies etc. – I really didn’t miss any of it. I could just be here and connect with the seemingly smallest things of life and be happy. I thought of all the various people I see at Hopkins as I come and go and could feel compassion for their suffering – I could relate to this human condition – and I could also feel compassion for myself. Before I had moved here I had bought yet another book by Stephen Levine for my Kindle. This one is called Healing into Life and Death. I had started reading it the night before and just like his other books, it really spoke to me. He wrote a little about people who “battle” their disease by fighting themselves and their disease, perhaps feeling their disease is a failure somehow. So there is a lack of tenderness and mercy for themselves as these holdings of the mind don’t allow them to discover the healings of the body. I think this is why those sayings people use, like “keep on fighting” or “fight the good fight” just don’t work for me. What I am cultivating is heartfulness and peacefulness – I want to love myself through and beyond this experience thus opening to my complete wholeness, as the poem reminds us. I do believe this is our birthright and we just have to delve deeply to know it and then embody it. I’ve also realized in the time I’ve been here that rest is essential for my body’s healing – and not rest where I lay on a sofa and watch TV, but rest that is quiet and peaceful and honors my body and what it is going through. The same goes for my mind. I need either that reflective time or meditation or even reading of someone like Levine, in order to allow the old churnings of the mind to calm so that my heart can be more revealed. Levine says “..hindrances of the heart are hindrances to healing. We need to let go of what blocks our path to the heart.” This might be years-old stuff but it’s worth exploring in order to let it go.
Wow, guess I got carried away here but it does help me a lot to put words to how I feel inside, so thank you for allowing me to share with you.
Unless nothing significant develops with the shots, I will probably blog again when we move into the harvesting phase. I will be very much subject to infection then but should be strong enough at that point to write. Not sure that will be true after I get to the hi-dose chemo on the 28th – we will see!
With love and gratitude for your interest and caring, Kathy