Saturday, October 27, 2007

day +67

It's annoying that the host server is still down. Sorry for the loss of my header, folks. It should be back soon.

Above is me on day +67. I wanted a photo showing how my new hair is growing in. I'm actually a bit surprised that it has started to grow back so soon and moreover, so robustly. I thought that it would take at least three months before I began to see my hair come back.

I rode my stationary bike for 40 minutes today going the standard 9 miles. I also stretched a bit before and after exercising. My muscles are still in the process of recovering from the isolation of the transplant, so the stretching is quite beneficial let alone as a warm-up/cool-down routine before working out. In addition, my neck and shoulders have become increasingly stiff during the past few days, so I've done stretching exercises for these body parts hoping for a bit of relief. So far, they haven't made much of difference really but I will continue to stretch as it can only help. I know from experience that when I am stressed or concerned, many times that tension is felt in my shoulders. So, this could just be a byproduct of some of my concerns at the moment. And during the past few days, my left ear has felt clogged at times as if water was in it. It doesn't hurt, it's just annoying. I made a point to jot down these recent observances in my notebook, so that I can bring these to Dr. Castro-Malaspina's attention on Monday.

I also continue to feel that "phantom" feeling in my chest that I blogged about in an earlier post. I don't know what it is but it comes and goes in no apparent pattern. Dr. Roberts suggested I pay more attention to myself when this "phantom" arises in order to see in what emotional context I am in and try to breathe.

After reading the newspaper early this afternoon, I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening scanning the roughly 150 photographs that I took while in Tunisia back in January 2000. I need to edit them but I'm not going to do this tonight. That must wait for Sunday. So, perhaps by tomorrow I will have those images uploaded to my Flickr account for all of you to see.

I spent part of Thursday night and Friday as well of a bit of tonight reorganizing the sidebar of this site. I added the violet ribbon - the symbol for Hodgkin's Disease awareness - which links to a time line of my cancer history. After visiting someone else's blog, I realized that I probably had placed the "Subscribe via RSS" and "Subscribe via Email" too low in the sidebar for some if not most people to take notice of them. Therefore, I placed them further up along the sidebar and I also replaced my Blogger profile with a photo of myself. Now I just need to figure out what code to use so that my full name is above my home town.

Finally, I spent most of last night composing my thank you letter to my donor. Writing it was a very emotional experience. What you see below is a draft, but I will revisit it tomorrow to see if there may be any last minute changes I can make before submitting it to my doctor's office on Monday.

October 26, 2007

Dear Donor,

Today is day +66 following my non-myeloablative allogeneic stem cell transplant, which was on August 21st – the day you so generously gave me both renewed hope and a fighting chance. Originally, I had planned to write to you after the first 100 days, which is a traditional marker used to gage a patient’s progress, but after some thought I decided not to wait until then and to contact you now.

It has been about four years since my original cancer diagnosis and during that time I’ve had a rollercoaster-like experience of initial promise and progress followed by disappointment and setback, so that’s why I hesitated to thank you earlier due to my learned habit of what someone once described to me as “cautious optimism.” But after some self-reflection, I remembered it is due to your selfless generosity and humanity that I am here today on day +66 with a real chance to free myself of the shackles of cancer that would have been impossible otherwise and for this I am forever thankful.

In February 2006, I received an autologous stem cell transplant for Hodgkin’s Disease (also known as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) after my disease came back following about a one year remission. After this first transplant, all looked well. I returned to my normal daily activities and was preparing to return to graduate school, but after about six months the disease came back yet again. With heavy hearts filled with great disappointment and concern, my family and I set about the task of looking for a final cure to this intransigent cancer. After much research and consulting with medical experts in the field, we decided to go forward with the non-myeloablative allogeneic stem cell transplant, which you – and only you – made possible.

Interestingly, a year earlier when I was preparing for the autologous stem cell transplant I tried to inform family, friends, and strangers alike about the important life-saving work of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) in the hope that they would sign up to become potential donors. At the time, I myself wasn’t in need of an unrelated donor as I was using my own blood stem cells but I understood that the need among those patients who were in need of an unrelated donor was grave, especially among minority populations, that I had to spread the word and so I did and continue to do so today.

This time around when I needed an unrelated donor, the NMDP searched its databases and guess what, a donor was found but it turned out to be me! Yes, the NMDP had found myself in their registry as a potential perfectly-matched donor for me. Bizarre, heh? Yet, after investigating a little we realized that while in college a couple of years ago I had donated blood (as I did quite regularly) at one of my college’s blood drives where I signed up to become a potential donor. But I had forgotten about all of this, however. I, of course, couldn’t be my own donor as I had already tried that without success, but thankfully you were there waiting in the registry.

I had no idea that several months following my first transplant I’d be searching for a donor. It’s because of you, friend, that I have a fighting chance to beat back this cancer once and for all and for this my family and I thank you. We thank you so much. Thank you.

I hope this letter is the first of many correspondences between us. I look forward very much to your response, my friend.

Gratefully yours,



Comment Blogger Michelle J said...

Hi Duane,
Your letter to your donor is amazing. Brought a little bit of tears to my eyes!! Stay healthy my friend.

10:51 AM  
Comment Blogger Jim Anderson said...

Duane, I hope your donor responds to your great letter.
Nice hair returning! Question: Did you lose your eyebrows and eyelashes? They look rather well developed.

11:39 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks Michelle and Jim.

Jim, no I didn't lose my eyebrows and eyelashes but I did lose my facial hair as well as that under my arms and in the groin. The hair on my legs also fell away.


11:44 PM  

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