Sunday, June 22, 2008


Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I have started meditating. Some blog I read suggested that you commit to daily meditation for 21 days before you decide if it's right for you. This morning's lotus-seated enterprise marks Day Numero Uno for me. I used a CD with a smooth male voice frequently reminding me to think about nothing except my breathing. Inhale. Exhale. I found the experience relaxing, but my mind invariably strayed to other things besides, as Mr. Smooth Meditation suggests, the feeling of air on the tip of my nose going in and out (couldn't discern that one all) or the rise and fall of my chest.

I've heard so many good things about meditation, from its ability to create space in our bodies to make room for healing to moving your mind away from physical pain (or itches) to simply adding a certain calm to the practitioner, whereby each challenge that comes their way seems a little more manageable. I'm down with these. Sign me up.

OK, my friends, family, and I have been blogging here for over two years. All we do is give, give, give to you readers. Now, it's time for a little homework assignment for YOU. =)

What I would love for this post is to hear from anyone and everyone out there in this crazy cyber community who reads this to comment on the following questions:
  • Do you meditate?
  • When and how often?
  • Do you use any tools, such as music, a guiding voice, a specific visual item to focus on?
  • Why do you do it and has it changed your life in any way?
Thank you so much!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

40 Days

Noah's flood was caused by 40 days and nights of rain. Goliath came to the Valley of Elah every day for 40 days until David came and bested him. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Never thought I'd be so appreciative of that seemingly special number, but I now have 40 days left until I face changes of similarly biblical proportions. (Ok, maybe not biblical, but epic. Well, maybe not epic, but pretty great.)

Better than a birthday... is realizing that I am half-way to my 90-DAY-MARK. Around 90-100 days post-transplant, I get another bone marrow biopsy to confirm conclusively that my body is 100% my donor's cells and that there is no cancer. From my counts and light graft-versus-host-disease, they are all but sure of these things now.

Why on earth would I be excited about a fully-conscious bone-drilling procedure? Well, the prizes earned at that time will revolutionize my existence.

My "Hickman" catheter line will be removed from my chest. I can only assume that means less visits to the hospital in general since they can't prick my veins twice per week before they collapse again. It will mean much greater ease in bathing, less home maintenance of the port itself, and one less unsightly piece of sickness evidence.

A few days ago, my friend Abby gave me this wind-up nigiri. It rolls and spins and represents the fact that in another 40 days, I can eat whatever I want! Taking care to be sensible about crowds and dirty restaurants (is it only Southern California restaurants that has those genius A, B, C postings in the windows to tell customers their health inspection status?), I will be able to enjoy the JOY of relaxing at cafes, the CONVENIENCE of restaurant dining, and the belated PLEASURE of exploring my new area's eats.

But, how can I eat if I have the pink Darth Vader mask on? Glad you asked, because that will be the greatest of the three lessened restrictions. Currently, I don't go outside. Yeah, I really didn't expect that I'd opt to be such the recluse, but I only leave to go the hospital twice a week. I hate wearing my mask THAT much. It is hot and cumbersome, muffles attempts at speaking, lessens my air intake, and provokes visible discomfort in people I encounter. With the exception of medical facilities (isn't it so ironic how dirty hospitals are?), I have about 40 more days of this barrier between me and fresh air.
The other great part about that is we'll be able to OPEN OUR WINDOWS in our apartment. While outside hosts temperatures in the 70s, our oven climbs 15 degrees higher due to a greenhouse incubation effect. When my skin is rashy and itching (most of the time these days), this heat is intolerable. So, big YAY for no more mask in 40 days!

P.S. Happy father's day to all the dads out there and to my own, whose love, protection, and good humor I feel to this day.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

June 4th

At precisely 0747, 29 years ago, the sweetest most beautiful baby girl arrived in West Vancouver British Columbia. She was the cutest little baby weighing in at 6lbs 10 oz with the most engaging smile ever. Today, this same lovely little baby has metamorphized into a wonderfully strong, intelligent, inspiring and beautiful young woman. She has made me so proud with all her achievements, travels and accolades. As Jaci reads this and giggles over my fawning of my first born, as sappy as this sounds, being her mother, I am allowed to praise her as I see fit! =)

To be on hand to celebrate this auspicious occasion, Jamie flew in from LA yesterday and Jaci from Boston. To start off the day, Jaci cooked and served her a delicious breakfast burrito. Katie came over to join the festivities mid-morning and all enjoyed long life noodles for lunch. This is a traditional Chinese custom that most families observe to wish good fortune and long life to the birthday person. Abby and Naomi came by just in time to savor some yummy brownies. Jamie and Jaci prepared a gourmet burger dinner with all the trimmings - corn on the cob, guacamole, baked beans, avocado, onions and dills – everything Erica can have from her low microbial menu. And for the grand finale, Jamie baked her famous apple sauce cake topped with whipped cream (yup! Its non dairy!).

As for well wishes, she had aplenty. Calls and emails from numerous friends and relatives from near and far kept coming all day long. UPS and Fedex were busy with packages galore – from Anai, Uma, Kathy, Katie, Sally, Linda and Adam, not to mention the big box (containing something red – good luck color – that she’s been wanting) that her friends had chipped in for. All in all, it was a grand day for our girl. She had a great birthday!! And we wish her with all our love for many many more to come. We love you Sweetheart…

Monday, June 02, 2008

coming out fighting

Last week was all about the itch, this all-over-body relentless itch, which left me powerless to resist the myopic pleasure of scratching. No sooner would the relief (and guilt) of satisfying the intense itch on my forearms wash over me when the skin on my chest would grab the baton and start its own sizzling temptation. I know, I know, the more you scratch, the more you itch, and round and round you go. The nurses said I simply needed to break the cycle with soothing cremes. But topical anti-itch potions were proving futile and a slowly worsening rash creeping up my arms had me worried. When all of a sudden, my toes were struck by intense and mysterious burning pain (started in the shower of all places), we called the hospital again. Because hands and feet are two of the places Graft versus Host Disease likes to originally manifest itself, they asked me to come in.

They still weren't too worried about my rashy arms, claiming that the kind of rash it was (bumpy, itchy) was not characteristic of GVH. And the itching was more likely a fun side effect of one of the medications I'm taking than of GVH either. (which med? how could we ever know?) But my red toes and aching feet, in combination with the above, plus a not-perfect GI tract, led to the diagnosis of mild GVH, the disease I had felt trained to fear and do everything in my power to avoid.

What's this now? "A little GVH is a good thing"? Apparently, although it is indicative that my graft or donor cells are attacking my own body mistaking the natives for invaders themselves, it proves that my graft is active, kicking butt and taking names. I imagine a little cowboys and Indians battle going on in my pelvic bone (where I visualize my marrow cells hanging out most often though their offspring are actually coursing through my entire bloodstream). The graft cells are of course the westward moving cowboys walking with bowlegged machismo, attacking peaceful Indian campsites just to prove their virility and claim their new frontier. Leave my Indians alone, dumb cowboys! Can't we all just get along?

This is, of course, an inane metaphor because "a little GVH is a good thing". A little Trail of Tears- not such a good thing.

Another good thing is that the four additional medications given to me to deal with these symptoms have succeeded in virtually eradicating all my previous discomfort. I feel very good in body and spirit.