My Twentieth Transplant Birthday

Yesterday I had a birthday.  Not really a birthday, more of an anniversary.  On September 4th 1996, I had a bone marrow transplant for non-hodgkins lymphoma.  It was an autologous transplant – they used my baby stem cells – removed from my body after having had chemo to kill the cancer circulating through my body.  They pulled them out of my blood over a period of 3 days in July 1996, giving me back everything else in my blood.  They flash froze them at an extremely low temperature.  On September 4th, 1996, they heavily medicated me (because even though they warmed them slightly) they were still extremely cold which was painful as they gave them back to me through an IV.  It actually was an anticlimactic day for me.  I was so drugged, I slept through it.  I do remember waking up once or twice to throw up and then falling back into a drug induced sleep.  

They told me at that time that I now had a new birthday, because, basically, they gave me life back.  The days leading up to the transplant were full of high dose chemo which killed pretty much every cell in my body, targeting the cancer cells of course, but chemo wasn’t targeted very well at that time.  They had to just shoot to kill every cell in my body in order to kill the cancer cells.  Had they not given me my stem cells back to start re-growing the cells in my body – I would have died.  Most likely from some infection – but it wouldn’t have taken long, because I had nothing at all to fight anything off with.  Thus – new life – a new birthday!  I am now 20 years old!  The 20 year old part is particularly great because the doctors told me, at the time of my diagnosis, that with the transplant, they hoped to add 3 to 5 years to my life.  I should have been dead by 2000-2001.  I guess God decided I had not yet served my purpose in life because I’m still here!   I’m still not exactly sure what that purpose is, maybe it is to share my story with others to let people know that, with God, there is always a hope and a future (I know, Erik Miller, I have taken that verse out of context from Jeremiah 29:11 and that He was talking to the Israeltes) but I still believe that God has a hope and a future for all of us.  Plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  I also believe that we will find Him if we seek Him with all of our heart.  My daily quest is to seek Him with all my heart.  Somedays I seek better than others, but I continue on my journey to deepen my relationship with Jesus and learn His will for my life. 

While I still do chemotherapy (Rituxin) every 6 months (once a week for 4 weeks) I have been cancer free since 2002.  I have been blessed with a husband who has been at my side for 34 years and walked with me through that harrowing year of cancer diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, a bald head (mine, not his – although these days, his is getting a little thinner!), traveling from Loveland, CO to Doniphan and Omaha, NE every Thursday and back to Colorado on Sunday so that he could work at his job and still be with me and the kids on the weekends at my parents house.   He and my sister Judy even took turns taking time off work so they could be my caretakers in Omaha as I recovered from the transplant.  My parents and Judy took care of our 3 kids (3 year old Noah, 10 year old Adam, and 13 year old Steph).  I do not know how we would have survived without them.  I’ve been blessed to watch the 3 of them grow up and to have had the privilege and honor to add 9 month old Katlyn Li Qing to our family in 2005. We’ve also added two grandsons and a daughter in law!

The last 20 years has flown by way too quickly.  I still have to learn how to slow down and enjoy life.  I have stayed far too busy and now need to focus on slowing down and enjoying the life God has given to me and the people in my life.  So, you’ll excuse me if I say goodbye for now and go do just that – enjoy the people in my life.

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