Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day +21

Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. Right now, it feels like the worst. My dog died. My constant companion of 9 years is no longer on this earth. I've lost dogs before to old age and illness, and that is devastating, but different. My dog was killed, and it was my fault. Years were ripped away from him and he came to a painful and cruel end, and it was my fault. And the guilt and pain are completely destroying me; I cannot cope.

Our smallest dog, Gidget, and Kaedmon, my spaniel, have never been friends. Accepting roommates, but not friends. Over the years, they have had their scuffs and scuttles, but nothing ever life-threatening or terrible. They just didn't care for each other. Over the last few months, this has changed drastically. Kaedmon had surgery to remove some benign tumors, and just a little while after, I came home one day to find him bleeding all over his ears and head from an apparent attack by Gidget (Bao was locked up and Romo...well...Romo doesn't move from the couch). This was a much more vicious issue than we had ever had before, but still seemed like an isolated incident. Until just a few weeks later, when I went to take Aurora to school, left all the dogs out, and came home to find Kaedmon half-dead and bleeding on the floor from wounds all over his legs, head, and neck. This time, Gidget had not acted alone, but rather had Bao as an accomplice as evidenced by some of the larger bites Kaedmon suffered.

At this point, we took a step back and looked at our dogs and what we were doing, because we firmly don't believe in bad dogs--just bad owners. We moved away from one food dish and started feeding all the dogs individually. We bought extra beds so that the dogs were never forced to share resources. We researched. We talked to training professionals. What appeared to be happening was a "pack issue." When there is a younger dog in a pack that wants to lead, and the eldest dog in the pack gets too old or gets sick (such as Kaed after his surgery), the younger dog and any members in the pack following the "new leader" will remove the elder dog. It's "pack mentality" all the articles said, and it happens more frequently in packs that consist of dogs of varying sizes. Unfortunately, there is really no fix for this issue other than one or the other dogs finally submitting (which was not happening), or to keep the dogs apart from each other for safety. So, we started locking Bao and Gidget up every time we left the house.

This worked for awhile, until I was in the hospital and got a call from Colten that they had tried to attack Kaed in the middle of the night. Colten had been there to take care of it, but he asked if we should try re-homing one of our dogs. I couldn't bear the thought and insisted things would get better once I got home and things settled down again (as stress does make these issues worse). This is just one of my many regrets. Yesterday, we were running around trying to get to the hospital for yet another transfusion, and I walked out the door without locking Bao and Gidget up. I walked out. I didn't even look back, never had a nigging doubt in the back of my mind, just walked away. And condemned my dog to death. After getting to the hospital, we found out I definitely needed a transfusion but that they had to retype my blood and it would take about an hour to do that. My nurse offered that they type my blood and then I come back in today (Wednesday) for the transfusion because she didn't feel that my counts were so low that I couldn't wait a day. I didn't want to come back today, so I made the decision to stay until the late afternoon yesterday getting everything done. Another regret.

As we walked up the steps to our apartment, my feet hit the second to last step and I heard Gidget bark. Immediately, I felt a sense of dread. Gidget never barks in the kennel. Colten opened the door, and the image of my sweet spaniel laying unmoving on the living room floor in a pool of blood will be seared into my mind for the rest of my life. I couldn't stand. I passed out in the kitchen. Colten rushed Kaedmon to the bathtub to wash him off and assess the damage, but he only took a few more breaths and he was gone. If only I had gotten home sooner, he would have lived. If only I had locked Gidget and Bao up, he would still be here. If only I had been willing to consider re-homing Gidget or have someone watch a dog temporarily, my precious, precious friend would still be with me. I will never forgive myself. Never. Colten cleaned Kaed up so that I could come in and say goodbye, and all I could do was tell him how sorry I was and how much I loved him. He'll never know. His last memory will be a mom walking out the door and leaving him to his tormentors. He must have been so scared; he must have wondered why I abandoned him, whether I would come home to save him this time.

I cannot cope with this. There is no bright lining. There is nothing that makes it ok. I killed my dog, and it was a terrible, terrible death. I can't find any peace. I can't tell myself he is in a better place, that he lived a good life, all the things we tell ourselves when a dog passes with love. His last few months have been torment. His last month of life I wasn't even here. He should have had so many more years. I am so sorry, Kaeders. I am so sorry. I cried all day. I cried so long and hard my eyes swelled up. And I cried all night. And I have cried many times over today. I cannot see an end. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. I cannot let go of the guilt.

So what of the murderers, you might ask? This is part of my continuing pain. Because they aren't murderers. Cats kill mice, and we praise them for this natural instinct. Many of the articles I read constantly reinforced that dogs (and other such animals) don't have "morals" as we do, they don't sense a right and a wrong in killing. They only kill for a purpose or due to an instinct, and what seems a brutal act to us is only natural to them. Some dogs kill cats, even kittens. They do not mean to be cruel, but to us the acts seem to be such. The same can be said of this situation. I was surprised to find in my research how many times dogs actually kill other dogs, as it seems like such a vicious, rare occurrence. It happens most frequently between dogs of very different sizes (i.e. big dog eats little dog).   

I wanted Bao and Gidget put to sleep. I asked Colten to kill them as I said goodbye to my best friend, fully believing that they had no right to live when his life had been so grossly ripped away. Colten went to have Kaed cremated because there is no place here we could bury him, and I could not accept taking him to the dump. I sat and cried. And I thought. Unbidden and unwelcome memories from my childhood crept in. When I was young, my family and I rescued three kittens whose mother had abandoned them. They were only a few days old, and we raised them all the way to adulthood in our house. Mel, Si, and Jabber. Their faces are also firmly burned in my memory. I came home from school one day to a doorway full of feathers and blood, and the very broken body of our cockatiel, Moe. Cats kill birds. It is their natural instinct. But I saw nothing but the brutal killing of my favorite bird. I picked up each one of the cats and threw them out the front door, into a world they had never known and were not equipped to live in. The general consensus of the family was that they should become outside cats, and they stayed that way. I will never forget seeing their faces in the kitchen window in the dead of winter, not understanding at all why they were being denied the warmth of the home they had always known. None of them made it through that winter.

Animals are not people. We try to make them something better than human, sometimes, and maybe they are and maybe they aren't. I feel like my faith in and love for dogs has been shattered. I don't know that I will own any in the future. My husband thinks those are the words of a broken heart. Maybe. All I know is that something I was so passionate about, loved so much and took so much comfort from I now can only associate with incredible sadness. They aren't people. Gidget and Bao are not mad killing monsters that will rip out the throat of any dog on the street. And they definitely wouldn't harm a human being. They don't understand that they did something heinous, because it was just natural to them. The pack has now been altered. And my family destroyed.

The main thing that matters is that we, as pet owners, are responsible for taking care of our pets. For controlling them, keeping them safe, seeing to their needs. My family should have done a better job securing our cockatiel's cage. I should have put Bao and Gidget in the kennel before I left yesterday. These were human mistakes, not animal ones. Mel, Si, and Jabber paid for one mistake with their lives. I don't feel that Bao and Gidget should do the same. But I can't look at them. I can't pet them. Imagining playing with them again, or snuggling them on the couch as if nothing happened makes me feel like I am betraying Kaed. I don't think I can care for them like they deserve anymore.

We have talked and talked. And cried. And cried. We have decided it might be best to turn Bao and Gidget into the local humane society. They have behavioral experts and trainers to work with dogs that have been aggressive, and they are a "no-kill" shelter, meaning they are as much no-kill as possible (no shelter is 100%). This has many of its own problems. Gidget is Aurora's favorite dog, and she is heart broken at the thought of her leaving. And my own heart is broken. As much as I am disgusted by their actions, I still love them both. I don't want them living in cages for years, waiting for a home. Gidget has never been caged. She has been with us for 6 years. I think a shelter experience might be the end of her. And Bao. We rescued Bao. We were supposed to be his forever home. What will he think returning once more to a cell? But is it right to keep them here, where their actions will forever be remembered and held against them? I don't know. There is no good answer. My heart is broken. My family is broken. Our house is empty and cold, tainted by the carnage done here. I am broken. And I see no hope of mending anytime soon.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day +18

Home. Something that means so much more than a roof and walls. It is a shelter, true, but not simply from the weather. And I have yearned for that shelter for weeks. But coming home was not quite what I expected it to be. My neutrophils hit 600 on Friday, and Steve all but danced into my room. I knew the threshold to go home was 500, but I thought since my counts had only come in the day before that they would likely keep me until Saturday just to be sure. Nope! Steve told me to start packing because I was ready to go. I called Colten with the good news and set about removing my existence from room 812. They gave me two bags of blood as a parting gift, and I floated as we walked out of the hospital into the sunlight I had not felt for weeks. Finally.

In the hospital, all B.M.T. patients are given a booklet that goes through each type of transplant, preparation before the transplant, and what to expect afterwards. There is an entire section regarding "reassimilation." It cautions that many patients feel depression or anxiety when they return home because they are not allowed or are not physically able to do the things they used to do right away. That's about all I read because I am a homemaker and there are very few times I have let anything keep me from organizing and cleaning my world, and taking care of the people and animals in it. I am realizing with a painful clarity that this transplant is different.

I have developed what the doctors call "asymptomatic bleeding." I call it the "never-ending reign of hellfire," but you know, to each his/her own. N.R.H. (never-ending reign get the picture) is basically like a menstrual period, except it never stops or lets up for a single minute of the day. It is caused by low platelets. This may just sound really annoying (particularly to the menfolk who have absolutely no experience with the matter), but since I am just barely starting to create my own cells again, it is causing a lot of issues. Namely, I run out of red bloods cells pretty much every day, and my platelets are low just about every other day, so I have to have constant transfusions. The doctors have discussed birth control with me as a possible solution, but they all advised against it due to the high risk of blood clots and stroke (and that goes for all women--I had no idea birth control was so dangerous). The suggested course of action is to "ride it out" and continue receiving blood and platelets until my body finally starts creating enough blood and platelets of its own that the bleeding stops.

This is not a great answer for me, but it seems to be the only one available. So, on Saturday, we drove in to the clinic and I got a platelet transfusion, which took about two hours. And then we got to come home again. Crappy, but doable. Towards late evening, I started getting tunnel vision and feeling dizzy whenever I stood up or tried to walk around. My heart rate was way too fast and my blood pressure was way too low. I drank a ton of water to see if my fluid intake had just not been high enough, but around midnight we knew I was getting worse and needed to get to the hospital. We dragged poor Rora out of bed and Colten half carried me in to the clinic. When we got there, a nurse guided us back towards the patient rooms and I felt an incredible urge to flee. "We're just putting you in a room so you can lay down for the night; we expect you need transfusions and that you will be here for awhile," she explained. "As long as it's not room 12," I replied. She laughed and said that it was actually already full. It sounds strange, but I have an intense curiosity about who now fills my room. Is it a man or a woman? What type of transplant are they having? Do they feel trapped? Do they stare out the window at the mountains and find peace? What is their prognosis? Does the line through the T.V. drive them mad, as well?

Anyhow, I found out that room 12 was definitely one of the nicer rooms. We stayed the night in room 8 last night, and there was literally no room to walk around the bed with the three of us in the room. The view was also definitely not as nice. So, I am thankful that I spent my days in 12. Last night was a very long night, particularly for my sweet girl. We all ended up trying to get some sleep while I was given blood, but I think we all tried more than we succeeded. Colten did his best to catch some shuteye on the recliner, and Rora and I snuggled up real close on the rock hard hospital bed. Rora was such a trooper, but when she woke up this morning she said, "I like my bed lot's better." Nurses came and went, lights turned on and off, vitals were continuously taken, pumps beeped and whooshed; the night seemed to go on and on. We made it home at around 10:00 this morning, and I wondered to myself why I left the hospital. If I will be stuck having transfusions every day for 6-8 hours, there is no point in me being home. The doctors think the issue will resolve itself in a few days; I think I am plain discouraged. 

Sitting in a hospital room day after day is terrible. There is nothing to do. No matter how many things you bring to fill the minutes, you will feel boredom at least a few times a day. I sat and listened to all the work Colten was doing to finish packing and moving our old home, as well as set up our new home, and felt such anger that I was not able to help. If only I wasn't stuck in a hospital room! But I was stuck in a hospital room. So I had no choice, I could do nothing. Upon being given my freedom, I quickly found that the hospital room was not the only problem. I am exhausted. All the time. Now, instead of sitting in a hospital room and thinking about everything else I could be doing, I sit on a couch and look around at everything that I want so desperately to do, and just don't have the energy to accomplish. It is infinitely more frustrating actually seeing the work and being unable to perform it. I am driving myself crazy with my uselessness.

I hate change. I know most people say that, but I truly, passionately hate change. My way of coping is to organize my world immediately, and take control of the change. I have so little control here that I have actually felt a pang or two of longing for my perfectly organized little room in the hospital. What's worse is that, even if I had the energy to set up a house, there really is no point. We are living in a second story apartment temporarily until the first floor apartments are finished towards the middle of next month. I have trouble with stairs right now, and our elderly bulldog cannot do stairs at all, so a second story is not a workable home for us. There is really no point in unpacking, but I feel like I am living in a storage center and it adds to my anxiety. I want to walk in the door to a nice, clean, warm home. Not rooms heaped with boxes and a few necessities sprawled randomly about.

It's just so different. I hate adjusting. Rora and Colten have already lived here for a couple weeks and have their own routines, and I am not sure where I fit. I can't really help with anything, so I guess I don't really fit. I have to remind myself to eat all my meals every day, there is no longer a phone call from room service letting me know it is time to order something. With no appetite whatsoever, the phone call was helpful. It's easy to go an entire day without eating a thing. Remembering what pills to take and at what times is also difficult. I've never had so many to contend with. Thankfully, the pharmacy sent me home with excellent pill boxes, and they are helping. It's just so different. The hospital had a lot of benefits that I took for granted.

But home is still better. Putting my girl to bed each night is wonderful. I have missed reading her a story and singing her a lullaby. Petting my sweet puppies is amazing. Our pitbull checks on me all throughout the night to make sure I am doing ok. Being with my husband all day is a blessing. I have missed him so much. I wish I did not feel like such a burden. I believe marriages only work when both spouses give 100%, not 50%. I might be giving 5% right now, and I can't stand it. I know things will settle down. I know that I will get better, and stronger. I know I will eventually be able to unpack and make my haven. I know that I will fit again. I just hope it happens soon, and that my body starts fixing itself. I am ready for healing and happiness. I have seen this quote floating around everywhere in the social media realm: "Fall down seven times, stand up eight." Or nine or ten, or whatever it takes. You just have to keep standing up.     

Thursday, June 18, 2015

DAY +15

Well, nothing much to report today. Same as every other day. Oh, except for the fact that MY COUNTS CAME IN! I tried my best this morning to remain stubbornly asleep despite the people coming in and out of my room. My nurse actually came in a few times, checked on me, and went back out to let me rest. But he finally shook me awake and said, "Jaymi, I didn't want to wake you, but your neutrophils came in today! They are at 200!" I got that wind in my sails. I may have teared up a little bit. I couldn't believe it! From 0 to 200 in one day (they have to hit 500 for me to leave)! My white blood cells were also slightly up. Unfortunately, my platelets were back down.

So, I was happy, and finally felt like I was on the way out of here. But I was also back into a world of bleeding, and still so tired. I had another platelet transfusion. The day progressed as usual (minus the anti-clotting shot, which is a bonus). And then my P.A. came in. His name is Steve. I met Steve two years ago when I had my last transplant, and I have to admit he was my least favorite P.A. to see. It's not the Steve is not nice, it is that he is overly worried about everything. He once gave me a lecture for almost ten minutes about how a cold could kill me, and even gave me a detailed example of a patient who was doing amazing, was a year out from his transplant, got a cold and fever, didn't get to the hospital, and died. He DIED (Steve emphasized it this way). Steve wants to know every detail, every possible feeling you are having. And he cleans his stethoscope incessantly--incessantly. I think he might be slightly O.C.D., which I can actually respect to some extent having many such qualities myself.  

Anyway, Colten and I always cringed a little when he came in for our clinic visits. Not my favorite guy. But today, if I had a medal of honor, I would give it to him. And all that worrying he does, I found, translates into just how much he cares about his patients. He came in to see me with a huge smile on his face. "It's neutrophil day!" He exclaimed. He went through his usual checkup and then looked at me and said, "I think we can get you out of here. We don't usually discharge on weekends, but I am working this weekend, and I think we could get you out of here on Saturday if your counts keep progressing." I started to cry. I knew my neutrophils coming in was a good thing, but I never imagined it meant I could leave in two days. He smiled again and said, "I can't promise. You can't promise anything in transplants, but I think you'll be good by Saturday. Let's get you home." And suddenly, I could climb mountains, because there were no more laps.

It still didn't feel real. My nurse was cynical. He told me, "Steve is really advocating for Saturday, but it will most likely be Monday. We'll see what the doctors say in rounds." But Steve advocated all day long for me. And suddenly I had pharmacists coming in to meet with me, and a home healthcare company that will deliver my I.V. medications. It was happening. Every moment, every breath, every medication, every bit of pain, every hour of tears was finally worth it. Home. Thanks to Steve. Who ever would have imagined? Saturday will be 17 days post-transplant. I will have set the record for quickest haplo at this hospital (yes, that makes me happy. I need goals, and I like to beat people). I don't care what it takes, my counts will be up. I am going home. 

And today was good. Cody stopped by for just a few minutes and it was wonderful to see him. Colten and Rora also got to stay for a little while. I took a long nap. And I finally talked to my nurse, John. He's a tough nut to crack. He gets in, gets the job done, and even seems a little mean at times (such as the comment about me likely going home on Monday). I could have responded in kind, but it was too good of a day, and I don't have many days left to impact people here. So I killed him with kindness, and tried to make conversation all day. Turns out, accounting was the topic that opened him up. He originally wanted to be an accountant, but decided it wasn't for him after a few classes. We talked about his friends and their careers, his career, what Colten planned to do, and how many opportunities accounting offers. He finally looked at the clock and said, "Wow, I am sorry to cut this short, this is the most pleasant conversation I've had all day, but I have a lot of patients waiting." I smiled and said, "No problem." He opened the door, looked back and me and said, "Thanks for talking to me," then walked away. Later on, when the nurses changed shift, he came in to give his daily report to my night nurse (they do this at bedside so that patients can add or object to anything in the report). He told my night nurse, "She's a star," then turned to me, "It was an honor being your nurse. Good luck to you." And he walked out of my room.

John and Steve. Two guys I never would have thought I'd like, but it turns out, when given the chance, people really do surprise you. I think it's more about what we choose to perceive than about who a person truly is. When given the opportunity, I think most people are good people. They just show it in different ways. I'm grateful I got to meet everyone I have met here, even the "bad ones." They're probably good ones, too. And either way, they made me appreciate the really good ones even more. ;-) One more day. Just one day, and I will be home (Saturday doesn't count because I get to go home that day). Thank you Lord. Please let the hours tomorrow pass quickly, and my counts continue to be strong. I am going home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day +14

Finally, a bit of news to report! I had "baby white blood cells" growing today. I have no idea what those are, and they really mean absolutely nothing except to serve as a definite indicator that my cells are building and my counts should be rising any day. My doctor said he expects by Friday to see some counts come in (and then he knocked on wood). I am still really hoping for a Tuesday release; we'll see how it all plays out.

I got two bags of red blood cells today due to all my blood loss. Usually blood transfusions perk me right up, but I've been dragging all day. I am exhausted from not sleeping two nights ago and can't seem to catch enough extra z's to make up for the loss (you'd think sitting in a room all day you'd have plenty of time for naps, but nurses and aides are adept at coming in right at the wrong time). I slept really well last night and am hoping to do the same tonight, maybe then I'll get a little wind in my sails. The platelets also got the bleeding under control, so I mainly just have the bone pain and burning to contend with, and those aren't so bad. Ice packs keep the stomach pain under control, so all-in-all I've felt much better today.

The thought of home is what I hold in my head as I go to sleep each night. I have never even seen our apartment, but I imagine it to get me through the days. I can see myself walking through the door and being greeted by all my puppies (and seeking out my ticked-off kitties), sitting on my own couch with no monitors or medicine poles around me, using the restroom completely in private, singing my daughter to sleep before bed, and sleeping all night (uninterrupted) in my own bed next to my husband. Spending my days as I wish. Going on a walk outside. No new faces and caretakers every day and night. Just sitting with my family in my own home. I crave it so badly it hurts. It has been 21 days. Three weeks. How can three weeks feel like an age? Going into this whole thing I thought I'd be going home by now. But, as the saying goes, everyone we meet is fighting a harder battle. Colten and Rora rode up in the elevator today with a mom whose son has been here 75 days. 75. The number is unfathomable to me. He's having a haplo transplant just like me, and she was his donor. The poor guy gets an infection or a reaction every time his counts start to come up, so they have to kill them again. I hurt for him. I hope he gets to go home soon. And I don't have anything to complain about, 21 days is a fraction of what he's gone through. And, I'll be home next week.

Anyway, the day was uneventful. Rora got her bed, and that was a saga all by itself, but everything worked out, we got a great deal, and she is ridiculously spoiled--but that's another story (something about being an only child). She mixes me "potions" every time she comes to see me by "taking" some of the medicines hanging on my pole and putting a little Rora magic in them. She is going to cure my cancer, she informs me. Heck, if this works, I'll probably give her the credit (and Colten, for supporting it in the first place). My brother-in-law, Cody, is coming up to visit tomorrow and I can't wait to see him. It'll be nice to see another friendly face here in the old prison cell. :-)

My grandma posted a quote to me, my dad, and my aunt today. It read, "Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm." This falls in with my kindness kick I've been on in recent posts. I'm still trying to keep it up, but I have to admit it was hard this morning in the early A.M.'s. I just wanted so badly to sleep, and these people kept poking and prodding me with stupid vital machines and medicines. I tried to make up for it today by being extra nice. I thanked my nurse after he gave me my shots (which I do every day to all my nurses, but this was the first time I'd ever had John), and he gave me a quizzical look. "Never had a patient say thanks for a shot before," he said. "It can't be fun to give them, and they are meant to help me," I responded. He shook his head and left my room with an amused smile on his face. I'm going to count that as spreading light today (I really think it counts). So, things to look forward to tomorrow, and another day down to get the counts in. Heading to bed to let those babies build. 



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day +13

I feel that I am living in a world of pain and blood. And very little sleep. And low blood counts. Last night my nurse gave me a strong narcotic to help with the bone pain, but narcotics are hit or miss for me. They always help the pain, but sometimes they put me to sleep, and sometimes they are like an adrenaline burst. Last night, it was the latter. I was also up all night anxious that I was bleeding through my bandages on my stomach. I slept for about an hour and a half. A very long night turned into an equally long day today as I received more shots and bled more and more. I feel I am bleeding everywhere and nothing will stop it. I am currently in the process of receiving yet another platelet transfusion, "the biggest bag I have ever seen!" my nurse remarked. I pray they take effect quickly.

My bones ache. My feet burn. My stomach is agony. I am having a reaction to my immune suppressant drugs, just like I did last time. I have the sensation that my feet are on fire all the time, and anything that touches them further ignites the flame. Walks are a challenge. My stomach is nothing but needle marks and bruises. It is causing me enough pain that my P.A. plans to fully examine it tomorrow and make sure he can't see any infection in all the bleeding holes. For now, I sit with an ice pack and a prayer on my lips for sanity and comfort. This is the part of transplants that takes the most determination: the agonizing climb out of the depths.

But I had Katie again today. And I got to see Aurora and Colten today. My daughter is extraordinary. I know she is meant for great things, else God would not have worked so hard to get her here against all odds. She already touches people without trying, and draws everyone around to her. I am honored to be her mother, and to daily touch her light. We went on my walks today, and I watched her happily skip in front of me, singing to herself and taking delight in a little stroll around the halls. She held my hand and I forgot how much it hurt to take a step. I felt happy. Strong. She serenaded everyone at the nurses station each time we passed by after one of the nurses said, "Please sing! I heard you singing earlier and it was so beautiful! You are so beautiful." Aurora smiled her sweet, toothless smile and obliged, happy to engage in one of her favorite past times. I love my girl. She is why I am here, why I willingly sit in discomfort, and why I will make it through this.

And today was not without blessings. Huge blessings, in fact. We have planned to buy Aurora a new bed for her birthday for a couple months. We have the money stored in our safe and have just been trying to get settled (and actually find one she likes that is decent quality and in an affordable price range--not an easy feat). We finally found the bed, and Colten planned to go and pick it up today in our truck, which has slowly been dying since it started getting used on a more regular basis during all the trips back and forth to Pocatello hauling things. We don't have the money to fix it, so we've been limping it along and hoping it will pull through. So, Colten and Aurora spent the day with me and then planned to go to Draper, which is about 30 minutes away, and pick up the bed. But Colten forgot the money in the safe, so instead he had to drive all the way back to our apartment and then go get the bed. Turns out this was God's plan all along.

Our truck started to overheat and lost all its coolant on the short trip back to our apartment, and it pulled into our parking lot by nothing but sheer will on Colten's part. So, he got Aurora settled in the apartment, and went out to take a look under the hood. What greeted him were numerous hoses leaking, and a very broken vehicle. At this point he started swearing (no judgment, I would have done the same), and I can imagine him hanging his head in defeat at yet another thing gone wrong. And then a stranger walked over. He asked what the problem was, and started poking around the truck. "Ah, that's no big deal," he said, and walked over to his own truck. He came back with hoses and other necessities and proceeded to spend three and a half hours fixing the leaks. When it was finished, he said, "Have a great day," and drove away. He never even gave Colten his name, and it doesn't appear that he lives at our complex, but rather is one of the construction workers finishing the remaining buildings. And I so wish that I could thank him with everything I have in my heart, because just thinking of what he did makes me want to cry.

Colten called me to say goodnight and relayed the fact that he had not been able to pick up Aurora's bed, but that he had been richly blessed, instead. He told me what had happened and I cried. I have prayed all day for relief and have received none, but God is taking care of us in His time and in His way. And, as Colten said, "I have a working truck to go get the bed tomorrow." I also got my favorite aide again tonight. His name is Daniel, and he is an older gentleman. Whenever he comes into my room it is always with a smile and a joke. He makes me feel like my dad is here taking care of me because he just has that way about him. I adore him. And tonight, we talked about God, and how easy it is to be ungrateful, but how much better it is to be grateful. We laughed and we talked and I felt better, at least mentally. And I know I made his night better, too. I told him he was wonderful and I appreciated him so much. So I achieved my goal for the day.

I don't know if my counts will come up tomorrow. Honestly, I doubt it. My sister remarked today that it seems God feels like our family really needs to work on patience, and so He continually gives us opportunities to do so. I don't know if the platelets will make the bleeding stop. I don't know if the pain will decrease or worsen. But God does. So I am going to try and sleep, and trust Him to take care of tomorrow, just like He took care of today.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day +12

Today is a day with a whole lot of nothing to report, unfortunately (although Dr. Ash would say, "It's boring! How fantastic! That's what we like to see is boring patients!"). My nurse woke me up to tell me that I would be getting both a platelet and a blood transfusion, so I knew my counts were still down. And the day went on from there. Colten spiked a fever yesterday (which appears to have just been a 24 hour bug, because he feels much better), so to be on the safe side he and Rora did not come visit today. It was a very long, boring (yay!) day.

The bone pain from the Neupogen shots they give me every day is starting to intensify. While it makes sleeping and getting around a pain (literally), that means my body is revving up and making cells, so hopefully some magic starts happening here soon. As a special treat, my stomach started bleeding nonstop tonight. This is funny to me because it is bleeding from a shot I got earlier today that keeps your blood from clotting (blood clots are a worry during transplants). Seems like a failed plan to me. Of course it is just a tiny hole from a little needle, but you'd be amazed how much blood that can produce when it just won't stop. I think I'll be sleeping with band aids by the bed.

Otherwise, I am just tired, sore, and sick of being here. I had the same doctor today who originally told me he expected that I would come through this transplant with flying colors due to my track record with transplants. He's a nice guy. I like his upbeat and yet hands-off attitude. If I am doing well, he leaves me alone. He told me I am right on track for getting out in 21 days, and it is 21 days post-transplant, not total. Apparently, for some patients, everything before the transplant is done outpatient, and so it is not considered in the total hospital time. I am a "high risk" because of how much crap I have already done, so I wasn't that lucky. Ah, well. Anyway, he said for haplo patients that the blood counts take a bit and then they just shoot up, so any day now things will start jumping. Just so that it is published and I can be held accountable, my goal is to be out of here by next Tuesday (not that I have any control over it, but it helps to pretend, so go with me on this). That gets me out in 20 days post-transplant, and that's above average, so I'm happy with it. One more week. An instant that stretches out like an eternity.
The bright spot in my day was a huge stack of cards and letters. The nurse told me I am the most popular patient on the floor. I'm good with it. :-) I loved reading every single one. My Great Aunt Wilma sent me a letter telling me about how she spends her days with her sisters and brother. She misses my grandma a lot, though. My mom's mom had a really amazing family. All her siblings live around the block from each other. Literally. They live on four roads that make a square block. I'll never forget going back to visit my grandma and listening to all her siblings talk about the "good old days," and just getting to watch them all still together. I wish for a life like that.

I also got tons of letters from missionaries around the world. These are always fun for me because I have never met any of them, but they take the time to write me and pray for me. It's also fun to see how spread out the army of God is. My favorite letters, I must admit, are from kids. Today I got a card from my California family and inside I was given the gift of laughter. One of the neighboring families my Cali family has adopted as family (wow, my tongue feels tied) has some cute little kids that bestowed upon me a beautiful picture of angels watching over me (I have three of my own) and absolutely hilarious hospital comic strips. One comic strip says, "This is what happens if you give a kid a shot," and it shows a picture of a very angry person holding a shot and saying, "I better be paid!" I am not sure if this is the child demanding payment or the nurse, but either way, it's funny stuff. Another comic says, "This is what happens if you get a bad patient," and it shows a picture of an angry patient laying on a bed screaming, "You're supposed to be a doctor!" This, to me, was the funniest one of all, and so well captured how I feel most days here. I guess I am a bad patient. ;-) I hope the little artists don't mind me sharing their work.

I found a quote today by Edith Wharton that my aunt gave me on a little plaque a long time ago. I used to have it up in my room and I have always remembered it, "There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." My mom-in-law is a super ray of sunshine. She's one of those people that is always positive and happy, regardless of the circumstances. Today she wrote me and suggested that I try and look for someone to lift up while "taking my laps." I don't know if I achieved being the candle or the mirror, but my goal for the rest of my time here is to be a light to anyone around me, even if I would rather kick them in hurtful places. :-) Besides, those that give light can't help but have light themselves, and I sure could use it. Come on Day +13, let's be the day! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day +11

I debated blogging tonight, and finally decided that I needed to uphold my promise to myself to create a record of this experience. Right now I am what you might label an extra touchy, oddly moody, exuberantly angry Debby Downer. Sounds like a fun blog, eh? It's amazing what a few weeks stuck in a hospital room can do to a kind, happy spirit. Especially with some terrible nurses, P.A.'s, and doctors thrown into the mix. I swear the first week and a half of my stay I had the best nurses, the funnest P.A.'s, and the nicest doctors. But the A-Team has apparently been rotated to other patients and I am now stuck with what you could kindly call the B-Team. If I have to deal with my P.A.'s smarmy little face one more morning, I may punch it. And if I listen to my current doctor call me "boring" and laugh to herself at such a stupid joke one more time, I might cry.

And the nurses? Wow. Getting a bad nurse means having a bad day, because she is there ALL DAY. My nurse this morning woke me up at the crack of dawn, proceeded to do the most in-depth physical any nurse has ever done on me (are your teeth always yellowish with some white? Why yes, thank you, I was going for that mostly yellow teeth with a knock-off whitening kit look. Is your skin always red and dry? Yes, I've been told it's the radiation, it's almost like I glow, don't you think? By the by, what, exactly, does this have to do with the transplant?), and then lecture me on the fact that I like to be unhooked from the pole between medications. This gives me the majority of the day free as I get medications about every four hours. No nurse--none--has ever had a problem with this. My nurse today felt the need to let me know that it is an infection risk every time she unhooks my central line from the main tubing, and that she generally prefers to leave patients hooked up as much as possible to negate that possibility (a.k.a., I don't want to do anything more than necessary throughout my day, and it is so much easier to just leave you hooked up and only come in every four hours or so). Oh Lord, give me strength. The days are getting really long.

Yesterday, rather than writing a blog complaining about how upset I am with the people around me, I decided to read all day long (and well into the night). It was wonderful to immerse myself in someone else's writing. Before starting this blog, I had not written a thing for almost two years. I felt burnt out, and very inadequate. Reading another author's work generally intensifies these feelings, and I content myself with enjoying reading the written word rather than creating it. But today I read a book called Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard. It's not a book I would recommend reading unless you are an English major or weird literature nut. It's the type of book that only some people would find entertaining or interesting, because it really has no point other than to be full of beautifully crafted words and sentences that may or may not really make sense with one another. But it happens to be the type of book that can inspire other authors to write, rather than dry out their creative juices. It was particularly interesting to me because the author writes the book almost entirely from the viewpoint of sitting in one room and looking out a window. Very akin to my own situation. She describes the room as such, "But this room is a skull, a fire tower, wooden and empty. Of itself it is nothing, but the view, as they say, is good." How perfectly Annie describes my surroundings.

Anyhow, I loved it. I underlined passage after passage and was absorbed by the conveyance of emotion through seemingly random sentences and thoughts. This is how most writers think, I believe. I truly compose my best works in my head, in small snippets that are unrelated, all throughout my day. They just never get written down. This author managed to pen them all and put them together. Which is why I gave up writing. Because I don't have that spark that sticks words together like honey in such a fashion that makes a reader stop in awe at their sweetness, and possible deeper meaning. I just write, which is not sufficient for authoring books or being a creative master. But I am also rarely precise and always long-winded, which also removed me from the technical writing realm. So here I am. An accountant. Obsessively pouring over weird English books that no accountant should appreciate. Life is funny like that.

I have absolutely nothing but time on my hands. My P.A. told me this morning that this is the time doctors worry about depression setting in for patients as they are just constantly waiting for their bodies to start working, but they feel incapable of doing anything and very sick of being cooped up. I think that's a fair assessment. I try to keep my brain occupied by books, shows, and thinking, when I have nothing else. Mostly, I think about how far I have come in the last 12 years. I went from being a rebellious 15-year-old to a terrified 17-year-old on death row, to a wife, to a mother (with a month's notice), to a student, and finally, to a master. I did not think I would live to see 20. I never imagined I'd be married at that age. Once I was married, I never imagined I would have children. I never dreamed that I would be an accountant, or that writing would not fill my days. I never could have guessed I would endure not one but three of these transplants. And yet, I am happy. I am thankful that God's plans were better than mine. The life He has given me is so much more than the life I dreamed for myself. It has been harder, but it is a richer, fuller life that is utterly encapsulated in love. And I am proud of who I am, and what I have been able to achieve through His strength. I wonder how many people, if they really stopped to think, would be awed at the life God has chosen for them.  

One of my favorite passages in Holy the Firm was this, "The joke of the world is less like a banana peel than a rake, the old rake in the grass, the one you step on, foot to forehead. It all comes together. In a twinkling...One step on the rake and it's mind under matter once again. You wake up with a piece of tree in your skull." This sums up life to me. It is rough, and unexpected. It is not a simple slip on a banana peel, but rather a good thwack to the head now and then that gets us going back on the right path, or puts us down for good. I would rather take the thumping, kick the stupid rake out of the way, and keep going.

I have a saying written on my wall that I stare at constantly throughout the day. It says, "Sometimes God moves the mountain, and sometimes He says, 'Take another lap.'" I have it written down firstly because it is very applicable to the many laps I take around the 8th floor of this hospital every day. Secondly, I put it up to remind myself that God does not always move the mountain, regardless of my faith. I used to think my cancer would not go away because I did not even have the faith of a mustard seed. Obviously, if I had such faith, I could tell the mountain to move and the cancer would be cured. I realize now that there is nothing in the Bible that says the mountain will be moved immediately (or at all, if not in accordance with His will). Sometimes, we just have to take another lap. And sometimes, that seems impossible. Even after looking at how far I have come and how well He has cared for me, I am still fearful of the future and broken by this procedure. I feel like a long, happy life is unattainable. But He just wants me to take another lap. I just have to take the first step. And every long, lonely day in this hospital is another step. And when this is done, I am going to tell that mountain to move, and I believe that it will.

So I am angry. I am emotional. I am lonely. I am frustrated. I am worried. I think life is mean and takes too much effort. But I am also resolute. Determined. Motivated. Held. Loved. Protected. And I know that life is beautiful and worth the work it takes to make it so. I plod on. My counts are no longer falling, but they are not yet rising. I have nothing to do but pray and take another lap. And apologize for the incongruity of this post; I blame Annie. And while she would have written it much more eloquently, my work is still more comprehensible, I think, so there's that.

As a side note, I have received piles of letters and cards and I cannot say thank you enough to everyone sending them. Each one makes me smile and feel a little more human. They may have actually saved a few lives on really bad nurse days. :-) Signing off from room 812 once again, goodnight.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day +9

Jen left tonight. That's really all I can think about, it kind of overshadowed the rest of the day. I feel like I hardly got to see her at all, I don't know what we would have done without her help with Rora, and I already miss her. I am still not used to her not being around, even though it has been almost a year. She fit right back in without a second's hesitation. I guess years of living just a few minutes away from each other is hard to erase. And we are both moving on, her a lot further albeit, but we are leaving Pocatello, too. And that also makes me sad, and excited. Part of me really wants to go back to our crummy little trailer and live out my days half an hour away from Jen out in Pingree (a.k.a Middle-of-Nowhere), and part of me wants to spread my wings and fly on to bigger and better things. With Jen half an hour away. And Jess, too. I'd actually be ok living on the same block as my sisters. Yep. Definitely ok with that. Three houses in a row? I'll take it. Unfortunately, that's just really not the world we live in anymore, and I hate it.

So. Day +9. I got a platelet transfusion today, and my red blood counts were way up from yesterday, so I felt pretty awesome all day. Just waiting for my counts to kick in themselves and stop depending on all the pick-me-ups. I flew my helicopter from my dad today. It was really fun, but it is a good thing it is obviously built for impact. :-) I also gave my P.A. a piece of my mind today, which was thrilling and terrifying. I really hate confrontation, and will typically grin and bear it before I complain, but I've had it with him and a few of the nurses, and I told him as much. He treated me much better afterward, but I feel like the nurses are probably talking about "that patient" now behind my back. Oh well. I have a chronic need to be liked by others that it is both childish and illogical, and I might as well start overcoming it now because there's not much else I can do with my time.

I definitely feel listless tonight. I can't think of anything immediate I am really looking forward to (other than getting out of here, whenever that may be) and I am wallowing in and out of sadness depending on how long I go without thinking of my sisters and how much I miss them both. So, as usual, God sent me an angel. My night nurse tonight is a "this is my job and nothing else" nurse. She is in and out of the room and does not engage in any type of conversation. Honestly, that suited me just fine tonight as I sat in my misery. And then one of the other night nurses, Meg, happened to come in to give me a medication because my nurse was busy. I really like Meg. She saw my red-rimmed eyes (I had just finished a private session of "ugly crying"), really looked at me, and asked what was wrong. I burst into tears explaining that my sister was flying back to New York and that I was just very emotional. Then, she gave me a hug. The long hugs that let you know someone really cares about you. That remind you there is always goodness in the world. That infuse you with strength because of their bone-reaching warmth. And I felt better.

She sat with me for a bit and noticed I was reading the book from my aunt. She asked what it was and I told her it was a collection of quotes, poetry, just encouraging and inspiring words, really. I was reading through it hoping for comfort, but had yet to find a quote that eased my soul. She asked if I liked poetry, I responded that I did, and she whisked out of my room. She came back and handed me a sheet of paper with a handwritten poem on it. She didn't stay to watch me read it, just told me that all of this poet's work was amazing, and she wanted me to have this poem. So I read it. And I felt my soul ease. And I am once again thankful for a Father who has such tender mercies, and cares for even one lost soul such as mine.

"Promise me
you will not spend
so much time
treading water
and trying to keep your
head above the waves
that you forget,
truly forget,
how much you have always
to swim."

- Tyler Knott Gregson

And, I did find a quote in my book that also tickled my fancy, and one that I know Jen will also appreciate:

"Whenever I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I always look about for the wine."

- Samuel Rutherford

Here's to tomorrow, and a new morning's light to wash away the night's sadness. Safe travels my dear sister. Maybe tomorrow will be the day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day +8

I have been in this hospital for 15 days. 15. That does not seem remotely possible, but there you have it. Which means I am about a third of the way done or over halfway done, depending on who you talk to. There is a large amount of disparity amongst the nurses and the doctors as to the total hospital time that haplo transplants typically take. Upon starting this procedure, doctors told us that it takes patients an average of 21 total days in the hospital, with the longest stay so far (at this hospital) being 28 days total. Nurses disagree, and tell me that it is 21 days post-transplant and 28 days post-transplant. This is aggravating to me because we hammered out these details with the doctors. And it would be simple enough to just ask one of the stooges milling about the hospital, but I honestly dread the answer. And really, it doesn't matter. The number of days I will be here depends entirely on my blood counts and nothing else. I just like a goal to strive for (ok, some patient who set a record getting out that I can beat. I like competition).

Hopefully, my blood counts are done with their downward decline. They stayed pretty much the same from yesterday to today, and I finally gave in and got a transfusion today, which automatically boosts your counts a couple of points. I couldn't stand up without feeling like I was falling forward this morning and decided that it was time, and I felt much, much better afterwards. My new night nurse complimented me on being in touch with my body and what I needed, and I felt huge waves of affection for her (her name is Frania, isn't that beautiful?). She is the first medical person who has talked to me like I might have a clue about this vessel I inhabit on a daily basis. I swear all doctors think patients are stupid and liars. We couldn't possibly make intelligent decisions about our bodies, being laymen and all. My P.A. is particularly demeaning, and gets a lovely tone in his voice that suggests I probably don't have a working brain cell. I hate hospitals. And doctors. I always feel like it is me versus them. I know that's not a healthy way to go about healthcare, but I guess it's the nature of the beast after so many years. I also believe in a  lot of natural remedies that most physicians find laughable, but I'm still here (and not supposed to be), and I've used a lot more natural medicine than most, so take that as you will. Anyway, I inherently distrust them, and feel that they reciprocate. I am so ready to be out from under the microscope every day.

Anyway. I got to spend the day with my hubby, which was wonderful. I have missed him so much. I mean, I've seen him, but I haven't got to spend any time with just him. We played games, talked, and watched shows together. A spouse is truly an amazing thing. A best friend and a lover wrapped into one package. The comfort that I am able to derive just from spending a few hours with him is something that I cherish. What I don't cherish is that tomorrow is my last day with Jen. I can't believe she is already heading back to New York. I feel like I hardly got to spend any time with her being stuck in here, but I don't know what we would have done without her help with Rorie. She is planning on spending the day here and I am planning on soaking up every minute. Thinking about her boarding a plane and heading back across the country breaks me a little bit, but that is still 24 hours away for now.

I also got mail today! My Aunt Becky sent me an amazing book filled with quotes by equally amazing people. I am devouring it, and will likely share many of its contents here. My dad also got me a little remote controlled helicopter to fly around my room. I didn't have a screw driver to put batteries in today, but that will be something to keep me entertained for awhile (or to keep Rorie and Colten entertained, more like). All-in-all, just another blessed day with family, waiting. Waiting, waiting. I hope something exciting happens soon, or this blog could get really boring to read. But, since my new book was not boring at all to read, I thought I would share my favorite quote I read today by Helen Keller, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." I hope to accomplish much more than sitting in a hospital writing a blog, too, but for now, I think it is quite noble.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day +7

Ugh. I could just post that tonight and it would sum up my day. I feel like crap. My blood counts are still bottomed out, but didn't decrease a whole lot today, so I guess that's something. I decided to try one more day without a transfusion; the doctors are very open to me not having one, but I have to be able to keep walking and I am starting to get tunnel vision if I take too many laps. So, they want me walking, but would also like to see my counts pull themselves up. We'll see what happens. Little aches and pains feel so magnified and movement of any kind takes such a huge amount of motivation and will.

Jen spent the entire day with me today. Colten took Rora to Lagoon and made yet another trip back to Pocatello. It was really nice to just sit with my sister. I haven't been able to do it in such a long time. We talked. We walked. I slept. She crocheted. And we spent the majority of the day watching Last Man Standing and laughing our heads off (note: if you have not watched this show, it is hilarious). It was really nice. Tina stopped in just to see how I was doing. I waved to Katie in the hall. And, most miraculous of all, an aide I met only a couple days ago (Jada) stopped in to give me a necklace from another patient. Jada is one of those incredibly spunky, vibrant personalities that you can almost only handle in small amounts because she is just SO happy. She took care of me the other day and found out that I like crystals, commented that another patient on the floor makes jewelry out of crystals, proceeded to go get some and show me, and then bounced into my room today, pulled a necklace out of her pocket, and said, "It's from both of us!" I almost cried at the completely unexpected gesture. We had really hardly talked at all, but she thought of me. We need more people like this in the world.

So today was good. But this is the worst part of the transplant for me. There is nothing to do but sit and wait. The "worst" parts are really over. Yes, I could get GVHD down the road, but I am confident I will be fine. Yes, I could get some sort of infection, but if I am careful, exercising my lungs, and taking all my medications, that is unlikely, too. The biggest worry was whether the acute onset GVHD I already went through with the fevers could be halted or not. For some people, it can't. Mine was, so the only thing left now is to get the stupid blood counts up so that I can finally leave this hospital room. It's so aggravating to sit all day and know there is nothing I can do but eat and move. I've tried meditating; I've tried imagining all the little cells in my body and commanding them in my most fearsome mind-voice to start working already, but all to no avail. It's like they can't hear me or something.

So I wait. And every morning the first thing I ask my nurse is how my labs are doing. I know one day she will tell me that they are improving, but I am already getting tired of the downcast eyes, slight pursing of the lips, and intake of breath that all proceed, "Well, they are still down for now, but it's not unexpected..." My day will come. Slowly. Maybe in five years. At some point. It HAS to. My day will come. When I walked with Jen today, we stopped to look at some boards in one of the hallways that patients and loved ones can write encouraging words on. One person wrote, "When life gives you lemonade, make orange juice and make them wonder how you did it." I love this. I am going to make some orange juice, and these counts are going to start coming up instead of doing the "expected." Let's face it, being normal isn't really my thing. And, Darren is back tonight (wearing heeled shoes, I kid you not), so maybe I can get some citrus in his eye. :-) What sort of juice will you make? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day +6

I am glad I used yesterday to write an insightful post, because my brain feels like nothing but mush amongst the fog tonight. My blood counts are really low. It's not unexpected, but I was hoping a day or two of bottoming out and I'd be making my way to the top again. Today they almost gave me a transfusion of red blood cells because of how low my counts are, but they opted to let me wait a day or two more (if I can handle it) due to all the little side effects that can come with transfusions. I was happy to wait when they proffered me a few days, but as the hours have gone on I have started to regret my decision. I am shakey. Tired. Unsteady. Foggy. I may be turning into a vampire, because I definitely need some blood. If my counts have started up a little tomorrow, I will forgo the transfusion, otherwise, I don't think I'll be standing without one.

Today was mostly uneventful. Rora and Jen spent most of the day here just shooting the breeze. I only got to see Colten for what felt like a few minutes, as he has been running himself pretty ragged driving back and forth and getting everything done. And I saw hardly a nurse or aide at all. I am not one to talk against my hospital staff, but yesterday and today have been pretty devoid of great personal care. I think the hospital is understaffed, but patients shouldn't suffer for it. Yesterday I didn't care too much, I was up and feeling ok and free to schedule my walks and such around when the nurses could get to me, but today was different. I needed to walk when I felt capable. And I wasn't supposed to have to be hooked up to a stupid pole all day, but the nurses couldn't seem to get around to me to unhook medicines before new ones needed to go up (four hours later). I'm feeling frustrated, which is unpleasant when my head wants to float.

I was willing to let it slide (and not have it enter this blog) yet another day, but I got the Rectal Squad back tonight, and I lost it. So their names will forever go down in the blog as the night team that I detest. Such terrible punishment, I know, but it's all I have. Darren is the actual nurse, and he is training Julie. They both suck. Darren smells terrible, which seems like a mean thing to say, but I'm having a freaking bone marrow transplant and I still have personal hygiene. The least he could do is put in a tic tac and wipe on a little deodorant. That was my first impression of him, as I had him alone the first time I met him. He was smelly, but mostly unobtrusive (which is appreciated at night), so whatever. Then Julie joined the team. She is loud. And pushy. NOT appreciated at night. And they flip on the lights, and talk in normal voices to one another at 2:00, 4:30, and 6:00 in the morning when they invade my room. As an added bonus, with Julie in tow, Darren has suddenly became obsessed with bowel movements.

Let's talk bowel movements. Uncomfortable? Very. Welcome to transplant life. Everything that goes in or out of your body is carefully noted and put in the chart, after being analyzed by the aides. I am not ok with this. I wasn't during my first transplant, any stay I have ever had at a hospital, when visiting another person's house, public restrooms, or anywhere other than my personal toilet at home. Glad we got that cleared up. Darren, on the other hand, is somewhat obsessed. No other nurse annoys me about bowel movements but him. You see, I don't turn them in. Yep. I'm that patient. I flush the toilet. So tonight he started again on his favorite topic. But he has apparently reached his last straw with me, because I got threatened with a rectal swab in absence of a stool sample. Foggy or no, I don't take threats well. I told him simply, "I won't agree to that procedure, so you can threaten all you want, but it won't be happening." Are YOU going to hold me down for that, little man? Because it does not matter how low my counts are, I will lay you out if it comes down to you and my butt.

At this point he backtracked quickly, stuttered, made sure I knew he wasn't "threatening me," just telling me what the doctors will say, and letting me know that the nurses have the "squeeze" put on them and they have to let the patients know. Then he finally unhooked my I.V. so I could go take a walk, and stepped back with a little look of horror on his face when I stood up. This was the best part of my day. The. Best. Part. He's an average guy, but I am a tall woman, and I have two inches on him easily. He always takes care of me at night and so has never seen me do anything but lie in a bed.  He stared at me and said, "Wow. You're really tall," in a small voice. "Yep. Strong, too," I responded, gowned-up, and went on my walk, fuming. I have no idea why my height intimidated him so much, but I hope he keeps it in mind next time he thinks about that swab. So the Rectal Squad is born. And I wish I would never see either one of them after tonight, but I have a lot of nights left to go. I just hope they keep it down tonight so I can sleep, for their own sakes. I am exhausted and have no patience left for stupid people (and I'm tall, so beware).

As a brighter ending, Jen took Rora for ice cream while Colten and I talked for a bit today and the conversation turned towards serious topics that led me to some tears. I am so emotional with my body wreaking havoc on itself, so it's not hard for me to produce water works these days (or ever, really). Anyhow, Colten was a bit misty as well, and Jen and Rora walked in right in the middle of our talk. We both smiled and Colten joked and motioned with a chip, "Sorry, these nachos are just really spicy." Rora, my sweet, bright girl responded, "You should have got the ones that Jen got, Daddy!" It was so funny, and so precious. Exactly what I needed today. I also read a post on Facebook about people who are angry at dog owners for not picking up their pets' poop. One man posted a sign that said, "To whoever let's their dog poop on my lawn every day, I will find you, and I will poop on your front porch every morning for the rest of the time you live here!" Which is a huge overreaction, but I could not stop laughing when I read it. I guess the themes today were poop and laughter. There you go. Good night. :-)  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Day +5

It was hard for me to blog tonight. I have had a lot of "feels" all day, which generally lead me to write, but my thoughts have been quite erratic, and this post likely will have to be, too. Life is fragile. This is a common saying used carelessly, I think, but these are words that take on new meaning for terminal patients. True, any person facing a major illness, whether terminal or not, might have a better appreciation for life, but I feel justified in saying that it does not compare to being told your days are numbered. I know from personal experience.

Patients who are diagnosed terminal "live every moment to the fullest." They go sky diving, quit their jobs, spend all their money, tour the world, blah, blah, blah. At least, that's what all the movies, books, and songs say. I didn't feel like sky diving when I was told there was nothing further doctors could do for me. Granted, I was still given a few years, and I can't speak to what it feels like to be given months, weeks, or days. But it was only a few years, and I was only 17. I felt terrified. And life became very precious to me in a way it never had been before. I don't want to die. In fact, I am scared to death to die. I know, good Christians are not supposed to say such things. After all, we are going to be with God afterward, and nothing is better. But I love my family. And I love my life. And though we are not supposed to be of this world, I am. Oh, I don't care so much about possessions, but I do love this world, and especially the people in it. And God and I talk about it a lot, so He's definitely aware of my heretical feelings. I think He understands. His creations are pretty amazing. 

I think everyone is a little scared to die. It might be the actual dying, leaving people behind, not knowing exactly what the afterlife will be like, something else, or all three (it's a bit of all three for me, but mostly leaving people behind). Regardless of your personal thoughts, the difference between normal people walking around and those who are handed a ticking clock is that the ones handed the ticking clock are aware that we all have a ticking clock. In normal, every day life, death is easy to put off until old age. For me, it became something that waited around every corner. I wondered what idiot would go sky diving and risk dying sooner. A man sentenced to be executed doesn't typically ask to speed up the date. 

I am often told that I am brave. I appreciate the sentiment, and try to live up to it, but I really just do what I have to do. "Afraid" is a better descriptive term for me. All the time, actually. Where others see a beautiful hike along a mountain edge, I see a place that I could accidentally fall to my death. Where some see a passing storm with excess lightning and wind, I see a force that could fling my little home away. Where most would use a little extra caution to traverse winter roads, I would prefer not to go anywhere because I am convinced my family could get in a crash. I think these things (and more, but I won't bore you further with my daily crazies) all the time, but I can't let them control my life. "Ships in harbor are safe, but that is not what ships are built for."

It took me a lot of years, a lot of struggles with my faith, and a lot of anger to realize that God controls my life, and my death. He built me for more than sitting in a harbor. And He will decide when I leave this place, though I will fight like hell going all the way out (He knows that too, we're working on my control issues). But I can take solace in it. I can live my life knowing that it will happen when He chooses, and not before. I still really can't handle the high hiking thing, last time I cried like a baby, I hate heights and edges, but that's another matter. The point is, I know how fragile life is. I worry about it being taken away all the time. And if that sounds like a neurotic way to live, it is. But I also have a very precious view of just how much each moment means, and how involved God is in every second of our days.   

So why the morose topic for the night? No, I don't think I'm dying. I haven't considered myself "terminal" for some time. A woman in my parent's church passed away last night, quite suddenly. I didn't know her personally; she prayed for me and spoke to me through Facebook. The loss of her life has already rippled through the social networking community and I have read the pain and disbelief of her passing all day, as well as the sharing of memories. She left behind a daughter around my age who she was incredibly close to. My heart aches for her. I feel so strongly today how fragile life is. Her name was Anita. And her friends and family adored her. I wish that I had known her.

Even for me, with my history and sitting in a hospital room surrounded by people constantly working to prevent me from dying, it is easy to forget that a casual goodbye to a loved one could be my last. It is easy to take daily relationships, even distant ones, for granted. And you know, that's ok. Because that's how we get through each day--by believing there will be another one tomorrow. But it is good to be reminded sometimes, to cherish the seconds, and make memories that will stay with our loved ones even if we can't. It helps put into perspective what matters and what does not. I still hate being here. I hate cancer. I want out of this room and I want to get on with my life. But those things don't really matter. What matters is that I get to be here. My loved ones are all (more or less) nestled in their beds. And I will be here tomorrow morning to keep loving them, and to make more memories.

The fevers seem to have fully passed, but rebuilding blood counts from nothing is not a painless experience. The "storm" will go on for some time. So, after writing this very sporadic and unrefined blog that encompasses so many of my emotions and thoughts over the past years as well as today, it seems fitting to end with a quote I used to have hanging in my room when I was just a teen. "Rise above the storm, and you will find the sunshine." And hug someone you love with a little extra care tonight. Maybe step outside and breathe in some fresh summer air. Listen to birds sing. Heck, go ahead and belt out your own favorite song. Just enjoy it. Every minute.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day +4

It appears I was a bit too optimistic about that storm being over after all. Last night was probably one of the worst nights of my life, in terms of physical pain and discomfort, anyway. While most patients still experience "mild fevers" after the first round of chemotherapy, there are apparently a rare few patients whose donor cells just get really pissed off that the chemo is trying to kill them and so they get together to wage one last all-out war. That was my night. My fever started off mild, but when I laid down for bed, it kicked in to high gear. It did not matter what the nurse did, nothing could keep the fever under control. Tylenol wasn't putting a dent in it, so she switched to I.V. Tylenol, which also had no impact. They put me on pain killers to help with the rigors, but they wore off before I was allowed to have them again. I spent the night curled into the fetal position to try and gain any small amount of warmth while nurses placed ice packs all over me. I cried a lot. I hurt. I prayed.

And around 5:00 this morning, when I had finally managed to doze off from sheer exhaustion, my nurse came in to take my vitals and inform me that I was going to have an EKG in ten minutes, and be taken down for a chest x-ray right after that because my breathing had been poor throughout the night and my heart rate was incredibly fast, and the doctors were just slightly concerned with how high my fever was. The results all came back fine. I was just really sick. And the fever remained out of control all morning until the chemotherapy started and then it instantly started breaking. But I felt all my transplant nightmares come to life. Infections the doctors missed or can't control, fevers that go out of control and the cause is unknown, all of these can mean death in a transplant. I've had my fill. I am ready to go home now.

But I don't have a home to go home to anymore. I have an apartment that we didn't like, run by management who say one thing and then put something else on paper. And our dogs are going crazy due to all the stress and back and forth of the past few months and have started attacking each other at random times. And we don't even know what we are going to do or where we will be 6 months from now. I feel like everything is broken. I just want out of this stupid hospital room, I want to go back with my family to our house, get all of our animals back on a routine and happy, and be done with all this stupid cancer crap. It's been 12 years. It's time. I just want to go home.

I haven't slept more than five or six hours total over the past three nights, so I hope a decent night's rest will give me a better spirit to combat the day with tomorrow. But I am terrified to go to bed. My nurse assured me the fevers have passed, but I am scared. Every time I feel a little chilled, I run to check my temperature. I pray for sleep tonight. For sleep, and for peace.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day +3

I'm still here. I haven't felt like it the past couple of days, but I am still here. I didn't quite end up on the "I feel like I am dying" side of things, but I definitely fell into the "wow, I am really sick" category. The past two days have been something of a blur for me. They seemed to go agonizingly slow, but now that they are gone it seems like they passed quickly. Day +1 I started out believing I was going to beat the odds and not get the "haplo storm." Colten and I walked, I did my physical therapy, ate a hearty breakfast; I really felt like I had a new lease on life. I had my Katie again and she rooted me on the whole day. But in the late afternoon, the storm hit. At first it wasn't so bad, but as my temperature climbed and the "rigors" (intense shaking) set in, I thought, "wow, I am really sick." The night was long, full of blood cultures and around the clock Tylenol and vitals. But it was over.

Day +2 was a different story. I had the first bad nurse I have ever had on the floor (of course on the day that I am sick) and she took anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour to respond when we called for Tylenol or nausea medication. I could hardly eat. It took every bit of my will power to choke down food and keep it there. I did not walk. The rigors were terrible. My muscles ached from being locked for so long. Honestly, even though it was just yesterday, it is already mostly a blur. My mind tends to do that. Whenever I have really bad times, it just nicely softens the edges for me so that I can't remember much. I do remember my nurse taking so long to get me Tylenol that my rigors were out of control, so they gave me something called Demerol that is a pain and anti-anxiety medication. It was wonderful. I remember seeing my sweet girl's face full of worry, telling me that she loved me and giving me a kiss on the cheek. And I remember hearing the nurse say that my temperature was too high in the middle of the night and that I would need ice packs, to which Colten pleaded that they just have me take my blankets off and see if that helped. I didn't sleep. I just froze and tried to push my mind through to today.

And today came. And the chemo did work like magic. I got out of bed barely able to stand and ready to throw up at the thought of food, but Tina was my nurse and she got things moving quicker than scheduled. She promised me instant results, and she delivered. Colten stayed until he saw the chemo going in, and then went back home to start packing our things to move this weekend. Jen and Rora came to hang out for an hour or so before my parents got here, and I was able to talk to them and enjoy every bit of their company. My parents stayed the whole day and, though I was tired from last night, I felt mostly like I did the first few nights I was here before the transplant. I did start spiking a fever in the late afternoon, but it has been nothing compared to the last couple nights. The nurses told me that mild fevers typically continue after the first round of chemo, but after the second one tomorrow it is just a matter of waiting for my blood counts to come up and I am out of here!

So I made it. It was quite a storm, but I made it. I hate who I am when I am really sick. I like to be kind to people, to talk to people, and when I am sick I just feel grumpy. I try not to be, but I know I am not who I normally am (my hubby might disagree, he takes the brunt of my grumpiness a lot more than most, but I do try to be kind most of the time!). I am happier today being back to myself, laughing with my nurse and enjoying being alive. In my mind, the past two days may as well have never happened. I weathered the storm, it is sunny skies from here. And my hubby is outstanding. I don't know what I would have done without him advocating for me, getting me warm blankets, sitting with me, stroking my hair, anything he could do to help. I have had so many nurses comment on how amazing he is, and how so few patients have the support system that I have with all the family that has come down and Colten staying here so often. I am blessed.

My mom's cells did their job. They waged a war and hopefully already started kicking my cancer to the curb. Now it is time to halt the battle a bit. I am hooked up to round the clock fluids and medicines to protect all my organs from the chemo (it's pretty toxic, I guess). I've never had so many pumps on one pole. It's pretty cool, if you don't have to lug it around. ;-) But after tomorrow night I am pole free (mostly) and fever free. And I am here, which is really all that matters. "Life is not about avoiding the storm, it's about dancing in the rain."  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 0

The stem cells are in. The transplant is done. Now, we wait. But today was good, though it started slow. I woke up sore and shambled awkwardly out of bed to get down and sit with my mom. To my absolute delight, my favorite nurse (KATIE!) knocked at the door, swung her head around the corner and yelled, "Surprise!" I almost cried when I saw her face. I was so grateful she was doing my transplant. I asked her to postpone my morning infusion so I could sit with my mom and she happily agreed. When I got to my mom, she had not even been able to start donating yet because they were waiting on her labs, so I decided to head back and see if I could get my morning routine done before she got going. I settled in for my infusion and, while contemplating breakfast, started to feel very queasy. This has been happening every morning, and usually if I eat I start to feel better, but I knew today was different. I threw up. A lot. Over and over. If you understand transplants well you know it is a stupid goal, but I had nevertheless set a goal for myself not to throw up during this transplant. I had a major problem with it during my first and second transplants, and I really wanted to overcome it this time. No such luck it seems.

So I called my nurse, got some medicine, took deep breaths, and ordered my breakfast. The food here is not great, but they do allow us access to their coffee/tea stand, and I have been happily ordering a chai latte every morning. It's like Starbucks, but insurance pays for it. :-) I did not want to eat, but I wanted my latte, and I would get through the meal. Unfortunately, when room service (they actually call it that. They want you to feel like you are in hotel with lot's and lot's of needles, medicines, tubes, and other assorted horrors, apparently) showed up and I took a huge gulp of my much needed drink, what could be only be described as burnt black coffee hit my tongue. And I threw up some more. Then I called room service, not in the best of moods. Apparently, they ran out of chai flavoring and just decided to send me up a plain old coffee. Not my thing. So that sucked. And I had that stupid voice in the back of my head saying, " are already throwing up, can't even get your morning latte, yep, today is not going to go well." And I told it to shut-up.

I marched back down and sat with my mom (who did amazing, again), then marched back to my room and prepared to face the battle. And then my "birthday cake" showed up. The hospital sends up a piece of cake or pie to celebrate, and I had been given lemon meringue. My favorite. And what I actually ended up facing was an amazing day filled with family and literally endless laughter. First of all, my mom and dad-in-law, along with my sister and brother-in-law were supposed to be leaving for their vacation this morning, but they missed their flight. So, they all stopped in and brought me gag gifts and treats. :-) Then, my hubby and daughter came and I finally got to wrap Rorie in my arms! And I was completely surrounded by family (Farley and Long) during my transplant, which had absolutely no complications. My dad prayed over me as the cells started to go in and he asked that Jesus would calm the coming storm just as He did out on the boat. I felt immeasurable peace. Some people spike fevers immediately, get achy, feel short of breath, etc. I felt wonderful. Loved. Surrounded. Protected. And heavily medicated, it's true. ;-)

Rora played on the floor with her newest toys, zooming around the room and being a kid. The rest of the family laughed and joked the whole time, and my nurse joined right on in. Marcine (my sis-in-law) lovingly commented that my skin looked great and had great coloring. My nurse, without missing a beat, dryly replied, "It's the radiation." The entire room boomed with laughter. A passing PA stuck his head in to see what the ruckus was. My mom-in-law was hysterically laughing in a corner. It was absolutely perfect. I've never had such an amazing transplant, so I feel blessed and able to report that I think we've found the cure. This time, everything is going to be alright. And you know, even if this whole thing doesn't work, I wouldn't trade today for the world.

My hubby and dad went to pick Jen up from the airport, and I sat with my mom and Rora playing games. Then I sat and watched Aurora play with her toys and enlist my mom to play the character of "little sister." You see, she has two butterflies here, and one butterfly with snowflakes on its wings back home, so she composed the story that the two butterflies here were lost and looking for their snowflake mommy, and they were going to ask the horse (another little toy my dad got her) for help. When they asked the horse for help, she told them they would have to find their mommy on their own. At this point I felt the motherly thing to do was insert a small reminder that, if Rorie were alone and lost, she should ask for help and not try to find me on her own. She said, "I know, Mommy," and continued to play. My mom, taking my cue (and being the little sister butterfly) said, "Big sister, maybe we should try and get the horse to help us, not do it on our own. We won't know until we try." Rorie responded (without missing a beat), "I am a mind-reader! I know! She can't help us!" I lost it. I couldn't stop laughing. My stomach hurt. My mouth was sore. It was so unbelievably cute. And the rest of the story was better, but you had to be there. My girl is amazing.

And then my sister walked into my room. I have missed her so much. And when she came in, it was like I had seen her only yesterday. I just know her. Distance and time apart don't matter. And I feel that way with both of my sisters. They are truly my best friends, and I cannot imagine a life without them. That is why I hope so much that Rorie can have siblings someday, because I don't honestly know where I would be had I not been given such extraordinary sisters.

Everyone is gone now, and I am sitting absolutely content with the added reassurance of my husband nearby. I love my family. I love my Savior. I love the blessings I see each day. I love the opportunities that I am given. And while I know that this is likely just the calm before the storm, I resolve to be thankful, and to love my life through the storm, because I know that it will come to an end. One of my favorite quotes is, "The darkest hour is only 60 minutes." And a two-day storm is not the end of the world. Besides, my lifeguard walks on water. And I get to see my sister and my daughter again tomorrow. From here on out it is positive numbered days and an uphill climb. I can't wait to see the view.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Day -1

Today is the last negative day. That means it all gets real tomorrow, folks. Day 0. D-Day. Transplant day. Today has been a blur. My mom got a picc line placed early this morning and I went to sit with her while she donated. She was amazing, by the way. The nurses went on and on about her. She never got nauseous or dizzy so they were able to go at the fastest speed and she was done in just a couple of hours. She didn't complain about a thing, and even kept pushing my dad around in a crappy wheelchair after the picc line procedure (not ok, not supposed to lift, pull, push, etc. anything over 10 pounds). When she got back to my room she looked like she was about to fall over, so I asked her to go back to her hotel and sleep for awhile. I hope it helped. She does have to donate again tomorrow, but they said that is pretty standard for anyone over 20+ years (so the majority of people donating).

I had to leave towards the end of the donation to go have radiation, which was a breeze. They offered me my choice of Pandora station, and I requested Third Day. I believe God speaks to us. It might be a person He puts in our path at a certain time, a conversation that happens just when you need it, or, in my case, a song that just touches my heart. I needed to hear God speak today. Radiation has never been a problem for me before, but it seems to be the thing that doctors and nurses worry about the most. Regardless of my personal history, if enough people worry about something, they can eventually make you worry, too. So I was worried. Would I get nauseous? Would I feel dizzy? Would my weakened muscles hold me up? God responded pretty quickly. I love Third Day, and any song would have soothed my nerves, but God chose "Mountain of God" to be the very first song I heard today. "And even though the journey's long, and I know the road is hard, well, the one who's gone before me, He will help me carry on, and after all that I've been through, I finally realize the truth, that I must go through the valley, to stand upon the mountain of God." So thankful for a Savior that lives, and that gives me comfort in every moment of doubt and despair. I am going to stand on the mountain.

I felt held today. Loved. Seen. Cherished. I saw my parents this morning, talked to my big sis for a spell, and then spent the early afternoon with the radiation crew (who are their own kind of wonderful). Each of the kind ladies who worked with me thanked me for my choice of Pandora station, and commented on how beautiful the music was. The radiation doc stopped in to mention again what a miracle Rora was and to wish me well on the transplant, and also said, "This station is awesome!" It was nice to be with fellow believers. Then I spent the late afternoon with my newest nurse, Tina, who is now also my favorite (along with Katie). She literally spent almost an hour in my room shooting the breeze and giving me a glimpse into the life of a transplant nurse. Their jobs are rough. But she told me, "It's a balancing act. You always take patients home with you. Patients you love, patients you lose. You take home happiness and you take home agony. But it's worth it, because I go through each day with such a wonderful perspective. No matter what I come up against, I've seen a patient go through worse, and I know that I have it good, so I'm always thankful. And I love my patients. If I can make their lives better, it's worth it."  She's amazing. And she loves (and owns) pitbulls, so I like her even more.

I have not really met a nurse here I did not like. This unit is filled with amazing people that I feel blessed just to know and interact with. I do not know how they do what they do every day, it takes very special people, and it would be easy to be distant and cool towards patients and just get the job done. But they aren't. They are warm and funny and caring and all have their own little quirks. I love being here and getting to know them. They also took very good care of my mom. All the nurses met her and complimented her and advised her to rest and take good care of herself. I appreciate it more than I can say. And it's not just the nurses. I'll admit, I honestly have only met a couple of doctors here that I really like, but all of the NP's and LPN's and PA's are also amazing, as well as the aides. My favorite NP is a doppelganger for my Aunt Becky. Colten actually calls her "Becky" when we talk about her, but her real name is Melissa. She was the very first person I met when I came here two years ago, and I have never forgotten her because I feel an instant affection towards her due to how much she reminds me of my aunt. And like my aunt, she is also just an awesome person. She is so laid back and funny, she tells me what is going on straight up and actually listens when I express concerns, or when I tell her that nothing is wrong. She always wears bright colors and fun shoes and she makes my day. I had her for the last time today because she is going back on outpatient rotation for 5 weeks. She said, "I better never see you again on inpatient rotation, you had better be long gone. I'll catch you on the free side." I can't wait.

I realized today how many people are around me and how much they care about me, even though they don't know me that well. And that's true of the many people around the world praying for me, too. It's humbling and comforting. I had very few moments alone today, and many moments of laughter and companionship. The time passed so quickly. I overheard my nurses talking about me today. Tina was telling my night nurse, Amy, how much she loved me and how sad she was that she would not be here to do my transplant tomorrow. Amy responded that she understood because she loved having me as a patient. It felt really wonderful. I hope that no nurse ever leaves my room without feeling appreciated. I hope I can make them smile, give them a room to sit and chat in, and let them take home some happiness for the day. That's my new goal here, to make the day (or night) a little better for each of my nurses. They deserve it, and they give back in kind. I am so blessed. 

So many people wanted to talk about my transplant tomorrow. Tina, particularly, wanted to know if I was feeling anxious or excited. I also had a lot of people wish me a new happy birthday tomorrow (most hospitals celebrate transplant day as a birthday as your body is basically being reborn, so I guess I will now have four birthdays). I had not really thought about it. Maybe I didn't want to. It is a very exciting day, but it's also the day there is no turning back from. I could leave the hospital right now and honestly be just fine. I could go home and life could go on as usual. After tomorrow, that all changes. And after tomorrow comes "the storm," which I am worried (terrified, extremely upset, petrified; pick your word of choice) about. In haplo transplants, because the donor is not a complete match, GVHD sets in almost immediately. Some patients manage to avoid what doctors call "the storm," but most don't. Patients get fevers, aches, chills, etc. I've been told the sickness ranges from "Eh," to "Wow, I feel sick," to "Oh my gosh I feel like I'm dying!" This lasts for two days, and then patients are given chemotherapy again for two days and all the symptoms "magically" (that is the word the doctor used) just vanish. Then it's just a matter of waiting for my blood counts to go back up and I am out of here, providing it all goes as planned. Which it will. And everything will be fine. It always is. But I'm scared.

Every time I do this, as I watch the stem cells go into my body, I have to push down the absolute panic I feel knowing that I can't take them out, and I can't control what will happen next. It's a terrifying feeling. Which is probably why they heavily medicate you so that you feel lethargic and disconnected. They say it's to prevent physical reactions, but it probably helps dampen the mental ones, too, because I have yet to yank my line out and run like I have seen myself doing in my head. :-) Tonight I am taking solace in my favorite Bible verse, Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." This verse is written on my heart (and I eventually plan to have it partially written on my back as a tattoo that says "be strong and courageous") and it always brings me comfort. I need it tonight. Please Lord, let everything go well tomorrow, and in the days ahead. Here's to tomorrow.