Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 22nd, 2009

Five years. It's been five years since I laid in that hospital bed nervously watching the nurse manipulate the drip of Ryan's cell into my body. It was, in a word, ordinary. I had expected this big hurrah, but there was no surgery that day or scar left behind. I wasn't instantly healed or suddenly dead either. As the doctors describe the infusion to you, they use the word "anticlimactic" and they were right. I fell asleep holding both of my brother's hands while my parents worried from the sofa in the corner. The gory action came later and has followed long after. But the day is special and significant for what it represents. It was the start of my new life. It was my only chance of living. And that is anything but ordinary.

We spent my anniversary joyously preparing for Christmas. As we decorated our Christmas tree, I hung one ornament in particular. It says "Believe." That is what today and this season are all about. Believing in the unbelievable, in miracles, in each other, in God's grace, and in ourselves. While wrapping presents we ran out of scotch tape. As I was digging through a drawer I handed my mom what tape I had found. It's called silk tape. I used it for years to cover my broviac in the shower, bandage wounds, and occlude dressings. And on my five year transplantiversary, it felt appropriate to use the last of it wrapping presents for the people I love. It felt full circle and I relished the realization of how much my life has changed.

There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I didn't think about being in that bed five years ago. I relieve the moment quite often; the fear and the pain come rushing back, but more overwhelmingly so does the hope and strength. When I thought I was dying there was one thing I worried about more than anything. I prayed that my family would be happy and find peace after I was gone. I would picture certain events in their lives without me. I would envision those big life moments that I wanted to witness. But now, five years later, I have gotten to be a part of many of those events.

The anniversary has brought a slew of emotions. Feelings are very confusing. I got out of bed and dropped to my knees. Five years is a big mark in the transplant concerning relapse rates. The chance of Myelodysplastic Syndrome returning is significantly less likely. It's feels like a weight has been lifted from my chest, and I can breathe a little easier. There is disbelief over what's happened the past five years, shock of how time has gone so slow, yet so fast, fear that the other shoe will drop, gratitude to be alive, joy in celebrating life and family , a surreal astonishment about this being my life, pride in acknowledging everything we have overcome, and anger that we still continue to go through it. We have cried, laughed, and reminisced. My emotions are very unfinished and unresolved. But that's the thing I keep learning. Death and the prospect of it is finite. I had accepted that. The medical world revolves around a very fixed timeline. It is life or death. But the thing about living is it's so messy and unpredictable. And so are emotions, I'll constantly be analyzing and working towards peace with life as it changes. So, the question it begs me to ask is in my next five years, what kind of life do I want to live? I am grateful I get the chance to find out.

I get most of the credit for being strong and brave, but the true crusaders, my heroes, are my family. They run around and make things happen while I am sick in bed or they hold my hand and get me through another tough night. They are the ones I celebrate this anniversary. They give me life, both literally and metaphorically. The parents behind the patient, the doctors behind the desks, the friends by my side, the family members eating in the ICU foyer, the stranger who is compassionate, the warriors of prayer, and the brothers at my bedside are the selfless, strength giving, unconditional love doling, and hope providing, people that make me want to fight harder and make my days a little better.

Finally, my wish this Christmas is that someone else will get the same gift I did five years ago; a second chance at life. Please join the National Marrow Donor Program at www.cecisclimb.com. You could be the match, the miracle, someone out there is praying, hoping, and wishing for this Christmas.


  1. No one could have said that better. I don't understand how you know the perfect words to say and make them sound so good. I love reading your stories they warm my heart. Keep posting because I look forward to these. And keep leaning on friends if you ever need support :) I love you Bestfriend

  2. The tears and memories are just flowing :) What an incredible and hard journey these last 5 years have been. I know it is a few months late but I just have to thank you and praise God for allowing me to be a friend to someone as faithful and strong as you. You are always so perfectly genuine. You have helped me learn and understand what truly is the grace of God by finding joy in the most difficult times of your life. You have grasped principles that will probably take me a lifetime to learn simply because you trust that God knows you and knows how to allow our trials to build us and shape us into better people. You are a miracle and a tender friend that I will forever admire. Love you so much Carolyn!
    PS I agree with Chels-- keep posting! :)

  3. It Mother's Day today, and since I think of you as one of my own, I decided to look and see if you had a new blog posted. As I sit here and respond, tears fill my eyes as I realize it has been 5 1/2 years!! What an incredible young lady you are! When reading your best friend's comments, I believe its time for a Burk-kid reunion, possibly a garden party in the back yard. Of course floppy hats and high heels included. I love you and your strong sweet spirit (just stay off the stage before a show)!!! Give your mom a big squeeze for me on this special day! She is my true hero!!