Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

I came across this picture the other day:

Looking at this, I finally understand what it means when people say that muscle weighs more than fat. I get it now, how one can gain weight while losing mass. Do you see? Do you get it?

Does it click for you, too?

This clicked so hard for me, that I joined a gym – the North Kansas City Community Center – in order to build more muscle, which in turn will help me burn more fat.

Because, you see, I have decided to try something new. I’ve been fat – had a high body fat percentage – for as long as I can remember. Since childhood. I’ve never not been fat. So I’ve decided to try not being fat for a while and see how that goes. In order to give it a run, I’ve got to do some work in the form of weight training, cardio and all the rest.

Speaking of cardio – I started Week 4 Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program yesterday. After a 5-minute warm-up walk, I ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds, ran for 5 minutes, walked for 3 minutes, ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds and ran for 5 more minutes before walking a cool down. For those keeping score, I ran a total of 16 minutes yesterday, a personal record! Sure, I’m not a speed demon at this point in my running career, but I’m not working on speed. I’m going for endurance. Once I can run for 30 minutes in a row, then I’ll work on how far I run in that 30 minutes.

All of this running and walking and weight training means we’ve been trying to put together quicker dinners lately. Luckily, it’s summer so there’s all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies out there to throw in the mix. Also, salmon sears up fast! Here’s a couple of hits recently:

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice:

How pretty is that?!

Salmon with Peach Cucumber Salsa and Tabbouleh:

No recipe with this one – I had leftover tabbouleh from camping (I’ll post that recipe soon) and whipped up a peach salsa with cucumber, cilantro, red onion, a Serrano pepper, peaches and lime juice. Delish!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Frittata and a salad with spring greens, beets and goat cheese:

All of these meals are fresh, healthy and quick to prepare. That last part is pretty important when I want to spend a couple of hours in the gym each evening.

Tonight we’re having baked fish fillet sandwiches with leftover tabbouleh – I’m on a tabbouleh kick lately – before heading out to the gym for an upper-body workout. My arms are going to smart tomorrow, but I’ll earn that pain.

Remember – sweat is just fat crying. I love to watch it cry.

 

So I’m doing it!

Last Thursday, I started the C25K program. Since I’m new to running, I’m taking it a little slower. So instead of running for three sessions then moving to the next week, I am going to do Week 1 through the end of this week. That way, I can build up my endurance and muscles so when the intensity increases, I’ll be ready!

I’m following a mix of podcasts/apps. On Thursday, I used the C25K app and that version of the program. It had me alternating 30 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, with 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walks. On Saturday and Monday, I followed the 5K101 podcast, which had me alternating running for 2 minutes with walking for 3 minutes, for 20 minutes with 5 minute warm-ups and cool-downs. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to the C25K version, and I haven’t decided what I’ll do on Friday yet. I like this approach because it varies things up a bit to keep things interesting.

I’ve read a good deal of information about proper running form and how to take care of myself before, during and after a run, so I’m not going in blind. One of the biggest things I keep in mind is that this isn’t a race – speed and distance at this point isn’t important. The most important thing at this point in my development is building endurance. So while I may run for 2 minutes, I might not get that far. But I run for the entire 2 minutes. If I start to feel sore or breathless, I slow down, but I keep running. And so far, this has worked really well for me.

Of course, I’ve run about 24 minutes total so what do I know?

I watched a really inspiring video yesterday, and want o share it with you, too:

In the video, Arthur says, “just because I can’t do it today, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it someday.” This is the most inspiring and motivating thing I’ve heard in a long time, and have taken it on as a mantra of sorts. I may not be able to run a mile or two or twenty today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to run that far someday.

By the way – since I started walking (and now running) with my Fitbit and tracking my food with the program (about 2 1/2 weeks), I’ve lost 4.5 lbs. That’s pretty motivating, too.

I’ve been in a weight-loss slump for the last year. I haven’t gained any back (thank goodness), but I haven’t lost any, either. I needed something to get me going again – a jump-start. A kick in the (still larger than I’d like them to be) pants.

Enter the Fitbit.

The Fitbit is a high-tech pedometer that tracks steps, distance, stairs, calories burned and activity levels, then syncs the information via a base station to a website. The website then shows graphs and charts of activity through the day, and can also be used to track food, weight and health stats. There’s a social aspect in that you can Friend others with Fitbits, and keep track of their information via a leaderboard – who walked the most steps, was most active, etc. It will even track sleep patterns, though I haven’t used it for that (yet).

Mr. Awesome and I got Fitbits about two weeks ago and have since turned into walking machines. Our goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, but we’ve exceeded that by thousands every day so far. We see it as a competition of sorts – who can walk the most during the day at work, can we be at the top of the leaderboard – and that keeps me motivated to want to walk further.

It’s also what is making me want to take up running.

I’ve never been a runner. In high school, I avoided physical activity of that sort like the plague, and have never run more than a couple hundred yards in my life that I can remember. That is, until the last few days.

Gradually, as we walk on the trail near our house, we’re inserting short bursts of running. “To the end of the fence!” “To the scoreboard!” “Make it to the big tree – not this big tree – that big tree up there!” Over the last few days, as I’ve been able to run in these short segments and realize that I’m not gasping for air or tripping or keeling over in pain, my self-confidence has grown and I am coming to believe that yes, I can be a runner.

Last night, I ran almost a quarter of a mile in one stretch. I wasn’t fast, but I made it, and when I reached my goal point (a light pole somewhere on the trail) I almost cried.

I can’t wait to do it again tonight.

If you have a Fitbit, befriend me at http://www.fitbit.com/user/234NVL. If you don’t have a Fitbit, consider getting one. It’s changed my life – I really don’t think it’s too soon to say that.

All this new activity requires proper fueling for the body. Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of salads for dinner…

…like this one with spring greens, smoked salmon, beets, blue cheese crumbles and candied walnuts:

Or this one with baby arugula, beets and imitation lobster:

Those are goat cheese stuffed dates in the background. Which, by the way, are about as delicious as it gets.

Sometimes, we want a little more than just a big salad. When that happens, an egg makes an appearance:

Don’t forget the Sriracha!

I’m planning on starting the Couch to 5K program in a few days. I’m optimistic – for the first time in my life I can actually picture me not just slimmer, but active and physically fit. This is really exciting – I’m going to be a runner!

I love seafood. I love cooking it, I love eating it, I love looking at it all laid out in a fish counter. Seafood can be temperamental, if not treated right. But when you do get it right – and it’s not hard, once you have a little practice under your belt and know some basics – it’s divine.

We pan-sear lots of salmon in our house, because we love salmon, because pan-searing is easy, it’s versatile, and it’s a great way to get stunning results with little effort. You’ll need a good, non-stick skillet, and we’ve found that a cast-iron skillet works the best. So long as you use the minimal amount of oil possible to cook with – cooking spray is perfect to help monitor oil use – you’ll end up with a beautiful, healthful, delicious piece of cooked protein.

To perfectly pan-sear salmon fillets, pre-heat a cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Pat the fillets dry and season with a little salt and pepper about 1 minute before they are ready to go in the pan. Spritz a little cooking spray in the skillet and immediately lay the fillets in the pan. Set a timer for 3 minutes, and leave the fillets alone until the timer goes off. After three minutes, flip the fillets over, set at timer for 2 minutes and leave the fish alone again. Remove from the skillet to whatever plate you’re eating on and admire that gorgeous, golden crust.

This will cook your salmon to medium doneness. I prefer mine a little on the less-done than more-done side, so adjust your time by about 30 seconds either way for each level of doneness you prefer.

We usually cook some rice, make some sort of sauce and serve our fillets on the rice with sauce and veggies, like so – Red Curry Salmon with Peppers and Bok Choy:

A meal like this, if you have some Trader Joe’s frozen rice, can take about 15 minutes to put together, from the time you open the fridge to get the salmon, to the time you sit down and take your first, luscious bite. So quick. So easy. So, so mouthwateringly good.

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.)

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.)

I’ve gotten a couple of questions about how much it will cost me to go to Denver for the donation. The answer: nothing.

The National Marrow Donation Program pays all travel expenses for me and a companion including airfare, mileage, hotel, meals and even dog boarding for Finnie. They book all the plane tickets and hotels, and I keep my receipts for the rest. I don’t have to pay for one thing. Pretty cool, huh?

Today was just beautiful – sunny, 68 degrees, just a hint of autumn in the air. We don’t get many of these days around here – it’s either too hot or too cold or too wet – so we spent lots of time outside and doing errands around town. When we got back this afternoon, a large envelope from Be The Match was waiting on the porch. Inside was a book about the donation process, along with a stack of forms for me to read and sign:

I spent about an hour this evening reading through everything and signing where necessary. The booklet included was really informative and well done. You can read it in PDF form here: You’re A Match PDF

I learned quite a bit while reading through the materials. First, I can exchange letters and small gifts with the patient, but under strict anonymity. I can tell her generally my occupation, but not where I work, for example. I can knit her a hat, but can’t send her a bag of Roasterie coffee, as it’s too local.

This is, of course, assuming that all goes well for her. Because another thing I read was that I have to be prepared for her to not survive. I hate this thought, but it’s a very real possibility. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is really awful, and the older the patient is, the more difficult recovery becomes. So while I am sending good thoughts into the universe for the best possible outcome, I have to be prepared for the worst – if the worst happens, I’ve done all I can do.

An emotional roller coaster, I tell you.

So moments after I posted that I am going to be a bone marrow donor, I got a call from Paulette in Omaha (from Be The Match) with some dates.

Next Tuesday I will fly to Denver with my mom and will have a physical on Wednesday. We’ll fly home Wednesday evening.

I’m tentatively scheduled to do my donation on Tuesday, October 18th, so Frank and I will probably drive to Denver the weekend prior and drive back later that week.

Those two paragraphs are so small considering what’s contained within them.

I promised to tell you about the donation process itself. Be The Match has a lot of information on the subject here, but I’ll give you the 10-cent tour.

There are two types of donation: Bone marrow donation and peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. The patient’s doctor decides which donation method is best for the patient.

The type of donation most people have heard of is the bone marrow donation. That’s the one where donors are knocked out while doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the donor’s pelvic bone. This method is kind of painful and has a bit of a recovery period for the donor.

The most popular type of donation (about 80% of donations), however, and the type I am doing is PBSC donation. This requires that for 5 mornings leading up to donation, I get injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in my bloodstream. On the fifth day, my blood will be removed through a needle in one arm, passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells, and returned to my body through the other arm. It’s a similar process to donating blood plasma.

The primary side effect of PBSC donation, according to the online reading I’ve done, is that during the 5 days of injections my bones will ache, like when you have the flu. Most people report that they have back aches, or headaches, but that these are eased by taking Tylenol.

There aren’t any long-term effects of PBSC donation that I am aware of, and most people report feeling 100% back to normal in less than a week after donation.

That’s the black-and-white. The grey is the part where I can read all of this stuff, and sort of be aware of what’s going to happen, but still not have a clue, really. I won’t know until I’m going through it. Most of the accounts of donation that I’ve read are almost comical in their lack of information about the reality of donation – “It doesn’t hurt AT ALL!!” “It was a tiny bit uncomfortable, but no worse than a little headache…” “Shots are no picnic, but they weren’t that bad.” I’m trying to read between the lines and form an honest picture, but it’s not easy.

That’s why I’ll really try to be honest here as I recount my experience.

Starting with this: I’m nervous. I don’t care for shots. I’m kind of afraid of the actual donation process where they take out my blood and put it back in. What if someone trips over a hose and rips out my veins and then my blood gets spurted all over everywhere but inside my body where it belongs? The hotel could have bedbugs. The plane on the way to Denver could crash. The plane on the way back from Denver could crash. The cars to and from the airport could crash. What if a freak snowstorm hits Denver and we’re trapped there and can’t get back home for days and days? My cats are going to miss me when I’m not there. My bones are going to ache and its going to feel like I have the flu and I hate having the flu. What if my bones hurt so much I can’t walk? I could be allergic to the filgrastim and go into anaphylactic shock and die when I get my first injection. Remember in my last post where I said I don’t dwell on things I can’t control? That’s still true – I won’t dwell on this stuff – but there’s certainly no shame in giving my fears a name, is there?

And then there’s this: All of my fears, my concerns, my questions, my possible pain and discomfort – all of this is nothing compared to what a 58-year old woman with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is going through. For four to ten days prior to me donating, she will be getting high doses of chemotherapy and possibly radiation to destroy the diseased cells in her body. The treatment also destroys the blood-forming cells in her bone marrow to make room for the ones I’ll donate, and destroys her immune system so it can’t attack my transplanted cells. This means that once she starts this regimen, if she doesn’t get a transplant, she will probably die.

I’ll get some bone aches that can be treated with Tylenol. She’ll get her system wiped to the point of no return.

Which brings me to another confession: I have about fifty thousand emotions going through me at once. I’m legitimately scared, nervous, excited, proud, humbled, thrilled, sad, happy, worried, concerned, anxious and lots of other feelings that I can’t find names for all at the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I want to cry because I’m overwhelmed at the idea that I am going to possibly save someone with a relatively small sacrifice of time and comfort. I want everyone I know to join the Be The Match registry, and start to feel holier-than-thou about it and think disparagingly about those who haven’t joined. Then I snap back to reality and think of all the reasons someone might not want to or be able to donate and feel guilty for thinking those disparaging thoughts I thought moments ago. I’m a basket case, I tell ya. Up, down, happy, sad, bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, wouncy, fun fun fun fun fun!

That’s out of my system… for now.

Happy Friday! :)

(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.)