Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

Since my bone marrow donation in October, I hadn’t heard anything about how my recipient was doing. Paulette from Be The Match said this happened sometimes, that no news was good news, that we might hear something at the 6-month mark. I resigned myself to not knowing anything about her, other than her age and disease, hoped for the best regarding her recovery, but prepared for the worst should I get an unfavorable update somewhere down the road.

But yesterday, I received a welcome surprise: Paulette called and told me that my recipient had send me a letter and small package, and that “because of the language” I would be able to figure out where my recipient was from. Since knowing those sorts of details before the allotted time period is a no-no, Be The Match had to approve sending the package on to me, and had to black out some specific information that would give away more information that they thought appropriate at this point in time.

In a matter of minutes, I learned that my recipient was not only alive, but doing well enough to put a letter and package together. Not only that, she wasn’t from the United States as I thought, but from another country. When my cells were rushed to the airport, they caught an international flight to points unknown! I was overwhelmed with happiness at these developments. To know that my recipient was alive and relatively well is, well, I just don’t have words.

This morning, I received a FedEx envelope at work containing a typed letter (with names of towns and people blacked out). I started to read the letter out loud to Mr. Awesome over the phone, but I couldn’t finish because I started to get all teary. It’s one thing to think about how my recipient is doing. It’s another to read what she thinks about my contribution. Her words are ones that are burned into my heart, and as much as she tells me I have done for her, she has done just as much for me.

It’s clear from the letter that English is not my recipient’s first language, but it didn’t give away any country of origin. However, included with the letter was a Christmas card and small wooden ornament:

Hmm… what language is that? Maybe there’s more inside…

It’s German! My recipient is from Germany!

The text is from a poem by German poet Arno Holz. Here is the Google translation:

And now again be in the dark,
the stars twinkle their Christmas
Thr lights illuminated even every home
and the Christ Child tells out the gifts.

I took a minute to read a little about Arno Holz. He was fascinated with the work of Charles Darwin and believed it was scientifically possible to eliminate subjectivity from art. He summarized this philosophy in the following formula:

Art = Nature – x, where “x” is the materials needed to produce art

While I don’t agree – I believe art is based on subjectivity and it’s value is derived from the emotional impact is has on a participant – I respect the attempt to quantify such a broad idea.

My patient wants to meet me someday. I would like to meet her, too. Perhaps we could talk about life and art and nature. Or we could just hug each other and be happy for one another’s existence.

I have a little scar just above my clavicle from the central line, and whenever I think about my patient, I reach up and touch it and send a good thought into the universe for her. The scar is my badge of honor, a reminder of my experience and how fragile we all are. I send good thoughts into the universe for my patient a lot. I like to think it helps her heal. I know it helps me. Maybe one day we can talk about that, too.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

Monday night I went to bed feeling a little achy. I slept well and woke up to the sound of a hotel alarm clock at 5:45am on Tuesday morning. I couldn’t have anything to eat since I was getting a central line inserted, so I drank a couple of big glasses of water, put on my comfie clothes and Frank and I headed to the hospital for the last time. We made ourselves comfortable in our own private room, complete with a bed for me, a chair for Frank and a television. One of the nurses came in and drew several tubes of blood, then gave me one last filgrastim injection. The last sting! We waited for the radiology group to call me down to get my central line and as soon as they were ready I headed that way. I was led to a large room that looked similar to this:

I had to put on a gown as four or five doctors and nurses moved around very fast doing doctor and nurse things. One of them put on some music and as I laid on the bed, with the commotion and movement and music that sounded like The Fray, I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and tried to stifle my nerves.

The young Dr. Horner talked to me about going to medical school at KU, then told me that inserting a central line was easy – the easiest, most routine thing they do all day – but that he knew it wasn’t easy for me. He said that the hardest part would be the anticipation, not the procedure, and he was right. One of the nurses hung a sheet near my face so that I couldn’t see what was going on, and Dr. Horner injected some lidocaine in the general area of my neck. That stung a little bit, but not as bad as that first filgrastim shot. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could feel pressure. Not pain, pressure. I felt like a clown’s pocket – like I was getting stuffed full of handkerchiefs. I had no idea what was going on, but it felt weird. Then it was over.

Dr. Horner said something about the Coldplay song playing – that it was “safe – you can’t offend anyone with Coldplay.” He was right, but I asked him what he likes to listen to, if not the safety of Coldplay. He said – and I’m not kidding – 60′s-era jazz organ records. I would have busted out laughing if I didn’t have a thing sticking out of my neck. I asked the room in general if anyone had ever heard of The Mighty Boosh and one awesome nurse answered affirmatively and started laughing. I said that Dr. Horner was Howard Moon, then we talked about Old Gregg and the Crack Fox until it was time for me to go back to my room. I thanked Dr. Horner for stabbing me in the neck and wished them all well.

‘Back in my room, it was donation time. The central line in my neck made it difficult to turn my head – the nurses told me it was fine, but I was scared the line would pop out and blood would gush out all over everywhere and next thing you know it looks like Night of the Living Dead all up in here. So I kept head movements to a minimum. I then got hooked up to this machine:

Sort of looks like some retro Atari rig, right? There were two tubes coming out of my neck, so they hooked an output tube to one and an input to another. Over the next five hours, my blood was sucked out, passed through this machine where the stem cells were separated out and filtered to a collection bag, then the rest of my blood was pumped back into my body. Since I could’t (wouldn’t) turn my head, I didn’t really see much of this happening, but Mr. Awesome said it looked really cool, if not a bit freaky.

During the collection, I did the following:

  • Slept
  • Ate a Denver omelette
  • Read Cooking Light magazine
  • Slept
  • Watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they made the world’s best blueberry muffins
When I wasn’t sleeping, I looked pretty much like this:

That’s multitasking, right there.

Then, around 2:30 pm, a nurse checked the progress of the collection and determined that I was all done. Not only was I done, they were able to collect TWICE as many stem cells as were needed, so the extras could be frozen for use by the patient if she needed more! How awesome is that?!

Here I am, during one of the proudest moments of my whole life:

Shortly after, a courier arrived to pick up my cells and rush them to the airport for a 3:30 flight. It was right about then that I started to get all teary. All the emotion of the day, of the whole experience, was compressed into that bag and the courier and the journey my cells would be taking over the next several hours. It’s unfathomable, really. Ain’t science grand?

It was now time to remove the central line from my neck. Long story short, the nurses pulled it out, and then held pressure to the hole in my neck for about 5 full minutes. Then they put a chunky white patch over the area and told me not to do anything to strain my neck for a couple of days (like lifting luggage, bending over, etc.) No problem, ladies. I didn’t want to see the thing they pulled out of my neck right then, but Mr. Awesome took a picture so I could look at it later. I debated posting the picture here, but decided against it because it’s pretty disturbing. Not that the picture above of me holding a bag of blood isn’t disturbing, but you get the idea.

I got dressed, put on my shoes (without bending over – no easy task), then said farewell to the great nurses who took such good care of me and Mr. Awesome during our stay:

They’re laughing because Mr. Awesome tried to get foam hand sanitizer out of a dispenser, and it sprayed all over him. I sort of laughed, but didn’t because I was afraid of the whole Night of the Living Dead thing. You know how it is.

And that was it. I was officially a bone marrow donor!

The process wasn’t completely painless, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected, either. I didn’t have lots of soreness due to the injections like some people report. I preemptively addressed some of that by having Tylenol at the ready just in case and by drinking lots of water. The donation process itself was very easy. Mine was a bit more complicated because of the central line, but I highly recommend a central line to other donors because it keeps your hands free and because they can collect more cells in a shorter period.

I would donate again tomorrow if I asked. No hesitation.

We went back to the hotel, freshened up a bit, then headed to a celebratory dinner. Yep – I felt good enough to go out to dinner. I wore a turtleneck and you couldn’t even tell I had a huge patch on my neck covering a gaping clown hanky hole.

With dinner, our day went from AMAZING to OMFGAMAZING. How? We had the best sushi we’ve ever eaten. In landlocked Denver. A mile above sea level. On a Tuesday.

Sushi Den is the most incredible sushi restaurant we’ve ever experienced.  Operated by the Kizaki brothers, Toshi, Yasu & Koichi, this is sushi like no other. Toshi and Yasu live in Denver and run the restaurant. Koichi lives in Japan and buys fish in one of Japan’s largest fish markets every morning, then ships it to his brothers the same day. The result is that there is fish on the menu in Denver that was swimming 24 hours before. That’s not something you run into every day in the midwest or mountains. Among the incredible pieces we sampled was some seared fatty tuna. It was a flavor and texture that was entirely new to me and I could have eaten a whole plate of it. We’re looking forward to a trip to Colorado next summer for lots of reasons, including a return visit to Sushi Den.

Donation done, dinner eaten, back to the hotel for a nice, long sleep.

Next up – the day after, and we learn about Shoulder Season.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

Another good night’s sleep, another morning sleeping in – but we almost slept in too much! We had arranged to be at the hospital at 9:30am on Monday morning instead of noon so we could have more time to spend in and around Denver, but we woke up at 8:30 and had no idea it was so late!

Another Starbucks breakfast, another visit with the nurses and another stinging (but not too bad) injection of filgrastim.

The weather on Monday was much cooler – in the mid-50s – and a little drizzly. Rather than go into the mountains again, we decided to spend the day in Denver, mostly indoors.

We headed to IKEA.

We had never been in an IKEA before. I’d never really even looked around the company’s website. We were in for a very pleasant surprise.

Everything is awesome. Everything is inexpensive. I felt like we rubes in Kansas City are being cheated by the lack of an IKEA in our area. It’s the best store I’ve ever been in. The upper level is room after decorated room of design ideas, including an entire 500-some-odd square foot “house” with multiple rooms filled entirely with IKEA goodness. I could totally live in that space and be blissfully happy. The lower level is room after room of stuff to buy. Kitchen stuff, bedroom stuff, bathroom and office stuff. Wall stuff, candles, picture frames, lamps, rugs – you name it, if it goes in a house, IKEA has the coolest version of it at the best price. As Mr. Awesome said while we were looking around, slack-jawed, “I used to think families on TV were inexplicably wealthy. Now I know they all shop at IKEA.”

There were things in that store that I didn’t even know we needed. And we needed them. To wit, the Ställ:

This shoulder-high shallow dresser looks unassuming enough… until you open one of the cabinets:

It’s a shoe holder! Oh my god! Have you ever seen our garage? It’s full of shoes. Not anymore, though. We bought one of these puppies, loaded it in the Jeep and thanked our lucky stars that such a wonder exists.

Aside from the Ställ (yes, everything has cutesy-sounding faux-Swedish names), we bought a couple of awesome floor lamps, some glass paneled lights to hang on the wall, a blanket, some LED lights to mount behind our TV and a few sink brushes. You can never have enough sink brushes.

Then, we ate lunch at IKEA:

Full-on Swedish lunch – smoked salmon, Swedish meatballs and lingonberry juice. Bork, bork, bork!

After IKEA, we headed across the street to the Park Meadows Mall. What a beautiful shopping center! Lots of wood, vaulted ceilings, wide walkways, huge skylights. We walked around for a bit, and I bought a couple of sweaters.

Then, I started to feel pretty tired, and my back was fairly sore. This was really the first time I had some extended discomfort and I felt like resting for a little bit. So we headed back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner.

Ah, dinner. Another wonderful adventure. This time, we had reservations at one of Denver’s best restaurants, Rioja. We split a black mission fig and goat cheese tart, then I had a delicious roasted squash salad, and Frank had a salad of candied beets and greens. For our entrees, I had veal saltimbocca with polenta and Frank had braised short ribs. We shared a cake pop from Starbucks from dessert before heading back to the hotel once more.

My donation was the next morning, so we went to bed fairly early. I had to be at the hospital at 7am the next day!

Up next – donation day and the best sushi we’ve ever had.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

I slept really good on Saturday night.

Sunday morning we slept in a little, then got up, had breakfast at Starbucks, and went to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center for my third injection. I met with the nurses who would be with me during the donation, and talked to them about how the donation would work.

They checked my vital signs, conducted a brief health history, and evaluated my veins to see what type of collection method would work best for me. When they asked whether I’d had any trouble with blood draws in the past, I told them that sometimes it takes lots of sticks to hit the right spot. One of the nurses said that it might be a better idea if, instead of collecting the cells from my arms, I would get a central line inserted in my neck. This way, there would be one port with two stems – one to collect the cells and one to put my blood back in. The nurse said it was an additional procedure, but that overall it was a better way to go – the cells collected this way were usually of better quality and quantity, and I would be more comfortable during the donation procedure. I was sold.

I got my third injection and again, it stung, but not nearly as much as that first time. Hurray for meaty arms! Again, the injection site itched a little, but I rubbed on it a bit and it stopped being noticeable after about 10 minutes. This part of the day completed, we headed for the hills!

I’d heard that elks like to roam around Estes Park, Colorado, this time of year, so we drove up that way to see what we could see. We stopped at Whole Foods for a quick bite (there’s one on every corner, it seems) before heading north through Boulder then on to Estes Park. The drive was punctuated by sweeping ranch land and splashes of yellow aspen trees among wide swaths of green pines. Colorado may be most popular in winter and summer, but autumn is really a spectacular sight.

Upon arriving in Estes Park, we were greeted by a large bull elk in the center of an intersection. It was just like the opening scene of Northern Exposure, when the moose is walking through the center of town, only this was real. Also, elk are really, really large and we were glad we were in a vehicle. The elk looked around a bit before a policeman chased him off into a lawn. We then noticed a large group of people gathered around a fence by a golf course, and pulled into the Estes Park Visitor’s Center next door to find out what they were looking at. Elk. Lots and lots of elk had taken over the golf course. There must have been 20 females, 5 or 6 young and one huge male. Occasionally other males would try to approach and the huge male would chase the interloper off into the hills.

Did I mention elk are huge? They are also loud – the males anyway. At one point as we were watching the action, the big bull male turned toward us spectators and let out this loud, long call. It started off low, then pitched higher and higher until it sounded like one of those obnoxious plastic horns found at sporting events. Local volunteers did a good job of keeping the crowd back and answering questions about the animals.

I had hoped we’d see one elk off in the distance. I had no idea we’d get up close and personal with dozens. So, so cool.

I had made dinner reservations at Jax Fish House in Boulder (where Top Chef Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg worked for a while) for that night, so we headed out of Estes Park and took the long way back to Boulder, through Boulder Canyon and stopped to see Boulder Falls. By this time, my lower back was hurting just a bit, and every once in a while I’d get these twinges in my back and thighs that lasted for just a couple of seconds but were sort of surprising each time they occurred.

Dinner at was just wonderful. The atmosphere in the restaurant was vibrant, but not too hipster, and even though it was Sunday night, the place was packed.We shared a Charcuterie Trio of smoked colorado trout pate, tuna confit and sockeye salmon pastrami. I had Char Grilled Alaskan Salmon with wild rice griddle cake, curried cauliflower, heirloom squash and pickled cherries. This dish tasted exactly like this rice dish my mom makes for holidays, so I planned on recreating the spirit of it when I returned home. Frank had Skinned Colorado Striped Bass with duck fat roasted yukon golds, eggplant agrodolce and cumin yogurt. For dessert, we split a slice of Key Lime Pie.

After dinner, we walked around Pearl Street Mall for a bit before heading back to the hotel for another good night’s sleep.

Next up – Injection day 4 and the most wonderful store in the world.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

We didn’t take any pictures of our drive to Denver on Saturday, so here’s a photo of dinner from Friday night (October 14th):

This is Baked Italian Salmon with Lemon Spaghetti and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Y.U.M.!

Friday evening we took Finnie to the kennel, packed our suitcases and went to bed nice and early.

I sort of tossed and turned during the night and didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, but I can’t attribute that to the filgrastim. It was more before-roadtrip nerves.

On Saturday, October 15th, we got up bright and early, packed up the car and drove to the downtown Denny’s.

Although it was 6:30 in the morning, the parking lot was packed with all types of people, some scary and some not-so-scary. A Denny’s in the dark is much more frightening than a Denny’s by the light of day, and that’s saying something. After a few minutes, the home health nurse arrived to give me my second filgrastim injection. The injections stung again, but not nearly as bad as they did before. I realized it was because the nurses on Friday gave me the injections towards the front of my arm, and the nurse at Denny’s gave them to me in the meatier back part of my arm.

It was at this point that I began to examine the choices in my life that lead to me sitting in a stranger’s van in a seedy Denny’s parking lot with a needle in my arm. After a few seconds of thoughtful self-reflection, I thanked the nurse for meeting us and we headed out of town. The injection sites itched a tiny bit for about 30 minutes afterwards, but I just rubbed them a bit and it stopped pretty quickly.

The drive to Denver was a bit different than our trip over the summer. Because it’s closer to winter, we drove our Jeep instead of our Camry. The Jeep is awesome, and better yet, it’s paid for. But the Jeep doesn’t have built-in navigation, so we bought a mount for Mr. Awesome’s phone and used that for navigation. It took some getting used to, but it worked out really well. The other thing the Jeep doesn’t have is a stereo system that will play MP3 discs. So instead of one CD with 20 This American Life episodes, I burned 20 CDs with one This American Life episode on each disc. That also ended up working out better than expected, since we didn’t have to remember which track we were on.

During the drive, I was tired, but again, I can’t attribute that to the filgrastim, since I didn’t really sleep well the night before. Nothing a Starbucks couldn’t fix.

We arrived in town around 4:30 (I love the whole “losing an hour” thing that happens when we go west – it’s like a whole extra hour of vacation) and checked into our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn in Cherry Creek. Really nice place – valet parking! Comfortable beds! Great location! Highly recommended, this one.

We were both worn out from the long drive, so we decided to go to dinner someplace close. The Cherry Creek Shopping Center was right up the road so we headed there to look around and had dinner at Kona Grill. It was just okay. I realized while eating that I can make the same type of food much, much better. The portions were way too big, and the presentations were a little over the top. They try to please everyone and end up not pleasing us at all. After dinner we shared a bag of Doc Popcorn (the cinnamon and sweet butter mixed together is so good!) and tried not to spill it all over the mall as we walked around. Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Next up – injection day 3 and and elk yells at us.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

And… they’re off!

This morning I had to go LabCorp to get more blood drawn – this time, it’s to set a “baseline” of my chemical blood counts before the injections of filgrastim begin. My veins, while visible and pretty easy to find, are apparently “rolly” and don’t particularly like getting stuck with needles. The lab tech had to stab me twice before she hit gold, so to speak. But – no bruise. YAY!

After the blood draw, I dropped Mr. Awesome off at work and headed to the Community Blood Center on Main street. I’ve driven past the blood center probably hundreds of times, but I’d never been inside until today. It’s a big, two-story building with lots of rooms inside. It’s obvious the place has been remodeled again and again – it had the same “I was once interesting and now I’m blah” feel that remodeled business spaces tend to have. But the furniture in the waiting area was modern and comfortable, and all of the people I met who worked at the center were nice.

A nurse took me into a small room and asked me general questions, like if I had any skin rashes, or had thrown up or fainted in the last 24 hours (So if I threw up for 6 hours two days ago, but not in the last 24 hours, all is well? Okie dokie!). They took my blood pressure and temperature (both normal) and then we headed to the second floor of the building.

I was weighed to see how much of the drug I needed to receive, then we headed into an “apheresis room” for the injection. The room had a couple of those big reclining leather dental-type chairs that are associated with blood donation, a couple of small televisions, and a conference table with some syringes and cotton balls and stuff on it. Those, it turned out, were for me.

I had a seat, and the nurse asked where I wanted to receive the shots – I would be getting two shots, because all of the dose wouldn’t fit in one. I asked her where she recommended since she is the expert, and she said the upper arm. Alrighty.  I pulled up my sleeve, and she injected the filgrastim.

Honesty time again.

Filgrastim is, apparently, the consistency of corn syrup. It’s thick. You know what that means? It means it hurts like a mutherclucker when it’s injected into an arm. It puts up a fight. It felt like I was getting stung by a bee for about 7 seconds, and just when I thought I could take no more, it was over. The stinging stopped, and the pain was gone. Then I got to do it again in the other arm.

So, the truth is, this first injection of filgrastim hurt. But it only hurt for 7 seconds, then it was over. I’m not looking forward to hurting for 7 seconds on each of the next four mornings, but 35 seconds is practically nothing.

After the injections, I had to wait around for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a horrible allergic reaction that required the use of the EpiPen that the nurse carried with her from the first room upstairs into the apheresis room. Nothing terrible happened, so I was free to go.

It’s been about three hours since I had my injection, and I feel a tiny, tiny bit fuzzyheaded. Sort of like how it feels when you wake up from a nap in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t think I can attribute this to the filgrastim – I think it’s because I didn’t get to have my coffee as early as I normally do. The injection sites on my arm itch just a itty-bitty bit. Other than that, no issues. No bone pain, or nausea, or anything of concern. I hope I can still say that later on today.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

And… they’re off!

This morning I had to go LabCorp to get more blood drawn – this time, it’s to set a “baseline” of my chemical blood counts before the injections of filgrastim begin. My veins, while visible and pretty easy to find, are apparently “rolly” and don’t particularly like getting stuck with needles. The lab tech had to stab me twice before she hit gold, so to speak. But – no bruise. YAY!

After the blood draw, I dropped Mr. Awesome off at work and headed to theCommunity Blood Center on Main street. I’ve driven past the blood center probably hundreds of times, but I’d never been inside until today. It’s a big, two-story building with lots of rooms inside. It’s obvious the place has been remodeled again and again – it had the same “I was once interesting and now I’m blah” feel that remodeled business spaces tend to have. But the furniture in the waiting area was modern and comfortable, and all of the people I met who worked at the center were nice.

A nurse took me into a small room and asked me general questions, like if I had any skin rashes, or had thrown up or fainted in the last 24 hours (So if I threw up for 6 hours two days ago, but not in the last 24 hours, all is well? Okie dokie!). They took my blood pressure and temperature (both normal) and then we headed to the second floor of the building.

I was weighed to see how much of the drug I needed to receive, then we headed into an “apheresis room” for the injection. The room had a couple of those big reclining leather dental-type chairs that are associated with blood donation, a couple of small televisions, and a conference table with some syringes and cotton balls and stuff on it. Those, it turned out, were for me.

I had a seat, and the nurse asked where I wanted to receive the shots – I would be getting two shots, because all of the dose wouldn’t fit in one. I asked her where she recommended since she is the expert, and she said the upper arm. Alrighty.  I pulled up my sleeve, and she injected the filgrastim.

Honesty time again.

Filgrastim is, apparently, the consistency of corn syrup. It’s thick. You know what that means? It means it hurts like a mutherclucker when it’s injected into an arm. It puts up a fight. It felt like I was getting stung by a bee for about 7 seconds, and just when I thought I could take no more, it was over. The stinging stopped, and the pain was gone. Then I got to do it again in the other arm.

So, the truth is, this first injection of filgrastim hurt. But it only hurt for 7 seconds, then it was over. I’m not looking forward to hurting for 7 seconds on each of the next four mornings, but 35 seconds is practically nothing.

After the injections, I had to wait around for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a horrible allergic reaction that required the use of the EpiPen that the nurse carried with her from the first room upstairs into the apheresis room. Nothing terrible happened, so I was free to go.

It’s been about three hours since I had my injection, and I feel a tiny, tiny bit fuzzyheaded. Sort of like how it feels when you wake up from a nap in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t think I can attribute this to the filgrastim – I think it’s because I didn’t get to have my coffee as early as I normally do. The injection sites on my arm itch just a itty-bitty bit. Other than that, no issues. No bone pain, or nausea, or anything of concern. I hope I can still say that later on today.

(This is a cross-post with my cooking site, Sit. Stay. Cook. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

I made someone cry today.

There’s a woman who works in the same place that I do who works closely with a person who needs a bone marrow transplant. We ran into each other a few months ago, and we talked about the registry, how our workplace had a drive, etc. and I told her I’d been registered for a couple of years and what a great thing the registry is. We talked about how difficult it is to find matches for certain ethnic groups, especially African-Americans and Hispanics, and how the co-worker, who is black, hasn’t found a match yet. A couple of weeks after this conversation, I got called by Be The Match. Coincidence, huh?

I ran into her again today for the first time since that conversation months ago. I told her I’d been thinking about her and why, and that’s when she started to tear up. She thanked me, told me what a great thing it is that I’m doing and hugged me. I wish I was donating to her co-worker, but that’s not how things work in the world. Somewhere, a 58-year old woman has a co-worker that’s glad their friend has found a match.

Speaking of the 58-year old woman…

This is about the time that things are getting very, very real for her. If she hasn’t already, she’ll soon start on strong doses of chemotherapy that will kill her immune system, so it can’t attack when my transplanted cells enter her system in about a week. If something happens to me between now and then, and she can’t get a transplant, she’ll probably die. I’m being extra-careful this week. No walking under ladders or base-jumping for me!

In other news…

Last Friday, I received a package in the mail that contained a dose of the drug that I’ll begin taking this Friday - Filgrastim. The dose I received is now safely in my refrigerator, where it will stay until next Saturday morning.

Filgrastim increases the amount of  hematopoietic stem cells that my body will produce, and that overabundance will be harvested during the donation procedure.

There are side effects to this drug, the most common of which are bone pain and headaches (because what’s a headache but a big pain in the skull?). I keep reading that the pain is sort of like the aches associated with the flu, and are relieved with Tylenol. We’ll see…

Last Friday night I went to a mini-family reunion where I saw some family members I hadn’t seen in many, many (too many) years. We had a great time laughing and catching up. It was determined that Mr. Awesome looks like this guy:

It’s true. He does. I’m a lucky woman. ;) Also, my family is wonderful.

On Friday of this week, I have to go to a blood lab near my house (the same one I went to when I got my initial blood work done in September). They will draw lots more vials of blood, then will send those to Colorado for analysis in preparation for the donation procedure. After they take my blood, I head to the Community Blood Center on Main Street where I’ll get my first dose of Filgrastim. I have to hang out there for a bit to make sure I don’t have any allergic reactions to the drug, then I’ll head off to work. Hopefully I’ll make it to work in time to meet with a knitting group that’s gathering around lunchtime – yarn therapy is so soothing!

Saturday morning, a home health aide will come to my house and give me the dose that’s currently in my fridge. As soon as that’s done, we hit the road for Denver, hopefully arriving in time to have some dinner. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the bone pain won’t be so severe that I don’t want to do anything other than rest in the hotel room, but if it is, it is. I’ll have my computer and knitting and magazines and Frank to keep me from getting too bored. And Tylenol. Lots and lots of Tylenol, just in case.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

On Wednesday, I woke up around 8am and decided to take a shower. I turned on the water, adjusted the temperature, and commenced to showering. After about 2 minutes, I noticed that the shower wasn’t draining as well as it should, so I kicked at the drain stopper, thinking it must have been down. When I did so, I thought I noticed some orange spots in the water. I can’t see anything but colored blurs without my glasses, but after a second the orange went away, but the water still wasn’t draining. I washed my face and as I pulled my hand away, I noticed that my hand was completely covered in blood.

My first thought was that I must have hit my face on something and cut it, but I couldn’t recall doing so, and my face felt fine. I finally realize that my nose is bleeding. A lot. Meanwhile, the tub isn’t draining, and there’s blood all over the water, and the towel, and my hand, and my face, and it looks like someone died in the bathroom.

My second thought was, I have to give a whole lot of blood today, and I can’t spare any, so I have to get this to stop. So I stuff some Kleenex up my nose and search for “how to stop a nosebleed” on my phone. I learn that nosebleeds can occur in higher elevations, and to stop it I have to squeeze my nostrils together for 5 minutes. That did the trick, but the bathroom was still a crime scene. Even after 20 minutes, the water still hadn’t drained completely.

This was how I started off on the day of my physical.

After we cleaned up as best we could, we headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. It was your standard hotel breakfast buffet, with greasy omelettes and strange-tasting pancakes, and it would have been passable for free. However, we paid $12 a person for this because we were hungry and there was no where else to go. Not a good deal. Even the coffee didn’t cut it, so we walked across the street to a Target that thankfully had a Starbucks inside. Suitably caffeinated, we bought a couple of bottles of water and headed back to the hotel to rest until it was time to head to the hospital for my physical.

I drank two of these in two hours before we arrived at the hospital. I don’t recommend doing that on a regular basis.

When we arrived at the hospital, we went to a place called the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. The staff was really nice and helpful, and I was introduced to Betsy, the person who works most with Be The Match at the facility. I also met another coordinator named Rebecca, and several really nice nurses and doctors. I had to fill out a little paperwork before things got going:

Note: my hair looks especially awesome in this photo because I didn’t get to wash it thanks to the Great Nosebleed Disaster of 2011.

Once all the paperwork was in order, I had to get lots of blood drawn. First, they took my blood pressure, then prepared to suck my blood. Here’s the pile of stuff for that before they started that process:

All the water helped a great deal, although I was left with a little bit bigger bruise (i.e. a bruise at all) than last time. Also, the nurse said that my vein, while big, was “insubstantial,” meaning it was sort of shallow and she had to be careful. However, the actual blood draw didn’t hurt and in the end it took about 5 minutes to get all this blood:

It looks like a lot, but the nurse assured me I still had plenty left in my body. Although I wasn’t so sure, what with the preceding nosebleed and all. But I felt fine, if not just a tiny bit weak. Nothing that a Bit O’ Honey candy, courtesy of the front-desk candy dish couldn’t resolve.

After the blood draw, they took my height and weight, asked for a urine sample (another thing made easier with the ingestion of about a gallon of water) then led me to an exam room for my EKG. I’d never had an EKG before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It was an incredibly simple process. First, the nurse stuck these little “leads” about the size of a quarter on me – one on each calf, one on each upper arm, one on the right side of my chest and five on the left side of my chest. Then she clipped these cables that were attached to what looked like a small dot-matrix printer on a rolling card to each lead. She flipped a switch on the cart-thingie, told me to take a couple of deep breaths, then said my EKG looked great and removed the cables and sticky leads. Easy peasy! I could see where someone with lots of body hair would have a harder time with this than I did. Sorry, men (and hairy ladies)!

After the EKG, a doctor came into the room and asked about my health history. He talked to me about the PBSC collection process, the fact that some donors have to get a central line put in their neck if their veins aren’t able to support the traditional apheresis procedure, and gave me some tips for dealing with the eventual bone pain and other side effects that could be caused by the filgrastim injections. He spent about 10 minutes talking to me and making sure I didn’t have any questions before releasing me to get a chest x-ray.

For the x-ray we headed to the main part of the hospital. We had to meet with hospital Admitting, fill out a little bit more paperwork, then they took me to get the x-ray. Then that was it. It took about 2 1/2 hours from the time I arrived at the hospital at 12:45 until I was done with my chest x-ray and ready to leave.

The hotel shuttle picked us up, took us back to the hotel and we immediately jumped into another fancy Lincoln for the trip back to the Denver airport.

It took about 30 minutes to get through security (compared to about a minute and a half to get through security at KCI) and once through, we had some Wolfgang Puck pizza for dinner before boarding another plane for the return trip home.

The following day I had to go to Columbia, Missouri for training, so by the time Friday rolled around, I was pretty-well done for. Thankfully, Frank and I had reservations for dinner at Michael Smith Restaurant, and it was just what the doctor ordered. A great dinner, followed by a relatively quiet weekend at home. Lovely.

Paulette is already making arrangements for my return trip later this month. Frank and I are planning on driving so we can do some Colorado sight-seeing (provided I’m feeling up to it). I’ve got a break from donation stuff until the middle of next week, when I have to get some more tests. Then, if all proceeds as expected, I’ll get my first injection on Friday, October 14th.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

Last Tuesday, my mom and I boarded a plane and flew to Denver, Colorado.

We packed light for our overnight trip, limiting those liquids and gels to 3-ounce containers and making sure our baggage was security-ready. We flew in an Embraer ERJ 145 on both flights. I normally don’t pay attention to such things, but Mr. Awesome let me know that the plane had an excellent safety record, so that was good :)

Upon landing in Denver, we maneuvered our way through the enormous airport (seriously – the airport makes KCI look like a bus stop) towards the Ground Transportation area, where a fancy black Lincoln was waiting for us. The driver was really nice – told us about how he used to live in Vail until he had kids and needed to move somewhere more “real” – and we were at our hotel in about 30 minutes.

Paulette from Be The Match had booked us at the Holiday Inn Select in Cherry Creek, just south of downtown Denver. The hotel was rather new, and had a comfortable and contemporary lobby. However, check-in was a bit… weird.

Does anyone remember the character Beverly Leslie from the show Boston Legal?

The front-desk clerk looked and sounded just like that character. I liked that character. All was well.

Until he asked me why we were in town and I told him I was a bone marrow donor here for a physical.

Front-desk Leslie, in a thick Southern drawl rather out-of-place for the high plains, proceeded to tell me that he wanted to be a bone marrow donor, but he has hepatitis and can’t donate and that “really bothers” him. Actually, he goes on to say, he has two types of hepatitis and they won’t let him donate blood, and he really wants to, and it “really bothers” him.

You know what “really bothers” me? Being told, loudly, at check-in, about your communicable diseases and made to feel a little guilty that I, by virtue of higher standards of discretion in the realms of sexual partners and/or shellfish, can still donate life-saving materials from my hepatitis-free self.

Strike one against the Holiday Inn Select in Cherry Creek.

The room was standard, but comfortable. The beds were more comfortable than I expected. After unpacking our few items and resting for a few minutes, my mom and I headed out for lunch. The hotel was a 1-mile walk down a very nice trail to one of the fanciest shopping malls ever. Sur La Table? Check. Apple Store? Check. Louis Vuitton? Check. Swanky.

We had a good lunch at Brio Tuscan Grill – I’d never eaten there before and love Italian food – where we had bruschetta and eggplant Parmesan and strawberry-basil lemonade. Delicious! For dessert, we shared a bag of cinnamon popcorn from a place in the mall. Also delicious! Then we headed back to the hotel for a nap.

When I was a kid, my mom and I would spend a week each summer at a Unity Church retreat at the YMCA of the Rockies. She would drive us from KC in the middle of the night to avoid heat and traffic, and we’d get to Denver sometime around sunrise on a Saturday. The retreat didn’t start until Sunday, so we would check into the Brown Palace Hotel for one night before the retreat and for one night on the way home. We’d stay in a suite up on the 9th floor and order room service breakfast (Irish oatmeal) and wear fluffy robes and pretty much live like queens. For dinner, we’d eat in the Ship’s Tavern, the bar and grill just off the hotel lobby. The last time I was in the Brown Palace was when I was maybe 14, so we decided we’d go back for dinner to see if anything has changed.

Thankfully, just about everything was exactly the same. Same big, beautiful lobby, same friendly and helpful doormen, same feel, same charm. We planned on eating at the Ship’s Tavern, but that’s one thing that was a bit different – it was full of businessmen watching sporting events. Not exactly the vibe we were going for, but luckily they serve drinks and appetizers in the lobby, where we were serenaded by an excellent pianist:

He even took a picture of my mom and me together:

Dinner was excellent. My mom had a martini that was made with honey from bees that have hives on the roof of the hotel! We shared crab cakes and a cheese plate, then made our way back to the hotel to call it a night.

I didn’t really think much about the physical on this day. I just enjoyed being in Denver with my mom, with the mountains in the distance. The one thing I did do was drink lots of water throughout the day, since that’s what saved me when I had to give blood the last time.

I slept really, really well, except for having to pee every 3 hours. Chalk that up to all the water-drinking. But my veins were hydrated!

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)