I went to Cleveland met with Dr. Lazarus at University Hospitals (UH) to discuss the prospect of having my BMT there. He was a short little Jewish man, with a grey-white beard and zero tolerance for humor. Whatever, I thought. I didn’t need a friend; I needed a miracle and someone who knew how to administer one. Any potential for friendship or an appreciation of my off-color jokes or his awful ties would have to wait.
Yes, he’d accept me as his patient. If a suitable donor was found for an allogeneic transplant (cells from someone else, not my own), Dr. Lazarus would handle the course of treatment from start to finish. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) was contacted and 6 potential matches were found. To say that was lucky is an understatement. It almost never happens. Even rarer, I would later find out the donor Dr. Lazarus chose out of those six had gone through this once before for a woman who lives in Las Vegas. I tease her to this day that she has really good stuff. (Her name is Beth, too. More on meeting her later.)
I was admitted to the hospital on April 14th, 1999. The day before, we drove a little over an hour from my parent’s house in Canton to UH for my central port to be surgically installed. Falling asleep on the cold steel table, counting back from ten, I clearly remember thinking, here we go. There’s no turning back now. Please let this work. When the intern ripped open my gown to start the procedure, I was still awake, so I mumbled that he could leave his money on the table for me. Those people were gonna learn to love my humor or kick me out, one or the other.
I woke up feeling like someone had socked me in the left shoulder. Three prongs stuck out of my chest kind of like those cool giant floor reading lights you see everywhere nowadays, and they would serve as my lifeline for the next four months. I left the hospital that day, went back to my parent’s house and watched the clock while trying to find something meaningful to say.
But there weren’t any words. I don’t find myself at a loss for them usually, unless I really need to convey something like it’s the last time I might ever have the chance. Then I either say nothing or say way too much and royally screw it up. Maybe if they would have named me Malcolm… In that instance I just said, “See you when I get back” as I walked out their door into the unknown.
It was one of the longest and scariest car rides I’ve ever taken. But it’s ok not to know sometimes, because knowing smothers possibility. I walked into that hospital feeling like I used to when I walked onto the basketball court for the big game. My stomach had butterflies, my confidence was buried underneath the nerves, but this thing was getting done.
No way we lose today. It’s not possible.
Thank you for continuing to contribute so that others can win their own fights as well. We are providing hope and possibilities to so many people.