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Times with family members are irreplaceable and the stuff my happiness is made of. Now I try to make these opportunities rather than wait for them to happen.
I want to hang on to the feelings of my new life - it's a fresh start. I work at keeping these thoughts and feelings close to the surface of my mind, readily available when things don't go well.
Going through a bone marrow transplant in 1987 changed the way I look at my life. Of great importance to me now are my priorities: my family, expanding my interests now that I am retired, painting, travel, and helping others get through what I went through.
I'm spending time alone with each of our kids whenever possible. A year ago, our daughter and I spent a week together on Cape Cod, just the two of us. February: Cold, rainy, windswept, we loved it, and we decided to fit in a little time together alone, somewhere, anywhere, each year.
Last summer, I went to Massachusetts to help one of our sons settle into his new apartment. We had great fun at the discounter's buying things he needed. He's a bachelor and lives like one. We had dinner together in the evenings and told each other how terrific we were to get such bargains. These times with family members are irreplaceable and the stuff my happiness is made of. Now I try to make these opportunities rather than wait for them to happen.
About the time I had my bone marrow transplant, the hospital university offered a special program. This project allows anyone over 60 years old to take courses free of charge. I've been taking courses ever since - Chinese language, music appreciation, Mozart operas, religion courses, and, most important of all, painting. All my life, I've been looking at paintings. I taught high school art but have never painted. Looking back, I think I was afraid to paint - it meant too much to me. I could never produce a painting I would like. But there is something about the cancer experience, and the transplant in particular, that shaved away the veneer of my inhibition. What really matters became obvious to me. I keep three big words pasted on the inside of my brain: NOW! DON'T WAIT!
As a volunteer on the bone marrow unit, I am acutely reminded of the discomfort, fear, and just plain boredom I encountered while undergoing my transplant back in 1987. I understand what the patients are going through and I empathize. As I began volunteering, I had hoped to encourage patients through the tough times of treatment. I have learned, however, that I am the one who benefits most from attending these support groups. The patients' courage, optimism, and mutual support are inspiring. As I watch the protocols become more streamlined, how can I not be optimistic?
I had such a fine support system when I went through the procedure. Our daughter, Chandlee, found out about transplants at a medical school lecture. Our son Jeff transferred his residency to my hospital so he could help me get through it. Our other son, Mitch, taught me guided imagery, and my husband visited me every day and was remarkable in his thoughtfulness. I am very lucky.
All these experiences have made me want to hang onto the feelings of my new life - it's a fresh start. I work at keeping these thoughts and feelings close to the surface of my mind, readily available when things do not go well. In Bob Woodward's book, The Choice, he quotes Elizabeth Dole: "I've had to learn that dependence is a good thing. Then, when I've used up my own resources, when I can't control things and make them come out my way, I'm willing to trust God with the outcome." She said so eloquently what I feel.
Ten-year bone marrow transplant survivor
From Silver Linings: The Other Side of Cancer, published by the Oncology Nursing Press, Inc.
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