Friday, October 31, 2008

happy halloween!

Yesterday evening at Sloan was the annual Stem Cell Transplant Survivors Celebration. Supposedly, about 175 SCT survivors were in attendance in addition to about 125 family members, friends, and hospital staff. The place was packed. The joke was that in a few years the Waldorf Astoria might need to be booked for this growing celebration.

It was amazing to see so such a diverse group of survivors there celebrating life in the company of family, friends, fellow survivors, and hospital staff. EFG, about whom enough can't be said, was there supporting me. Music played. Food was served. Speeches by doctors and three long-term survivors were given.

I caught up with a couple of old friends as well as had the privilege to make a few new ones. I met a woman, who had an auto SCT for AML 3 years ago, and her husband. I also met an older gentleman who is pressing on after an allo SCT for CLL 10 years later. It looked like he was dealing with some GVHD, but his spirit and amicability were strongly palpable. It didn't hurt that there on his shirt was a conspicuous Obama button. But perhaps the most colorful person, whom I met yesterday evening was a 7 year survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Roger, I believe, is his name. As my friend, Chad, will attest I'm sure, this guy was absolutely hilarious due in no small part I'm sure to the wine in his hand. I couldn't tell how much of what he was telling us about his transplant experience was indeed factual, but his wife didn't give clues to the contrary. Animated and gregarious, Roger detailed how he tried to psyche himself, playing mind games through the rigors of his transplant. Impassioned, he told us that he would tell his nurses how much he loved the chemo. "I love this shit!" he recalled yelling. Give me more, come on give it to me, he said he told his nurses, who thought he was a bit crazy they told him. I was transfixed by his story and his infectious energy. Most entertaining perhaps is his tale of how he used to make laps through the hospital ward in a dress suit with his IV pole in hand. Again, his wife didn't dispute it though she admonished him a few times for being too loud. He told Chad and I that all of this was part of his effort to maintain some semblance of dignity and empowerment through this unimaginable hell. Though hell, he was the one going to dictate its course, he said to us. The sledge hammer was in his hand not cancer's.

We did get the opportunity to share stories about side effects and the like. Interestingly, 7 years later he is still suffering from neuropathy in his feet. I wish we had exchanged e-mail addresses or phone numbers. I would have liked to talk to him further.

This morning I made it out to Randall's Island to see what I could capture of the Willis Avenue Bridge and the Harlem River waterfront. This was, I think, my third visit there in about 2 weeks. My shots of the bridge itself weren't anything spectacular. The sky was cloudless, which I've realized for this this bridge makes for a pretty bland picture. It's light gray color doesn't offer an interesting contrast with a cloudless sky. So, I need to take shots of the bridge on days when the sky is more dynamic. I did, however, manage to get a few photos of a passing U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Boat.

Sunday is the ING NYC Marathon. The forecast is looking pretty good that day. I plan to do what I did last year for the very first time and that is watch and photograph the runners as they make their brief visit into the Bronx along E. 138th Street before reentering Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge. It should be fun.

Happy Halloween everyone!

2 Comments:

Comment Anonymous EFG said...

Duane
It was a privilege to be at The Transplant Celebration with you 14 months after yours.
What a wonderful feeling to see you looking healthy , strong and vibrant among the other survivors!!

xx
EFG

10:08 AM  
Comment Blogger One Mother with Cancer said...

Oh that man sounds like a hoot!!! I'm gald you had a good time.

11:32 AM  

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