I just celebrated my 2-year transplant birthday this week and I thought it was a good time to reflect on where I am in my recovery and what I’ve learned about myself. Self-reflection can be a frightening thing but not nearly as scary as my reflection in a mirror these days.
I was taking a post-transplant inventory on my health the other day and I realized how much I have physically aged just since the transplant. I had expected aging to be a gradual process but with the chemo, transplant and associated after effects, I got to see it in an accelerated form. Quick back of the napkin estimate is I’ve aged 5 years since the transplant….physically. I think the jury is out on the mental affects but then I’m so forgetful how would I know.
It’s not like I expected to never get old. I was prepared for a gradual decline in my marathon times, the inevitable thinning of the hair, the constant search for the car keys/wallet, the lack of strength to open jars, the need for a heating pad and Aleve after a half hour of raking leaves, etc. It’s just I didn’t expect it to happen all at once.
It’s time to face facts… “this is your new reality…get use to it.”
Last Sunday I stumbled on a cartoon in the Sunday paper that hit home. I’m usually not a comics reader but this one happened to be just above the Sudoku puzzle which I’m fairly passionate about. It was Hagar the Horrible talking to a crippled pirate.
“…look at you…one eye!
“And one leg!”
“Could your luck be any worst?”
The pirate responds “Sorry, do mind talking into my good ear?”
A great reminder that nothing is so bad that it couldn’t be worse. Also a great reminder that your attitude determines if the glass is half empty or half full. For example:
- - Lost my sense of taste but now I can eat almost anything and not worry about it tasting bad. With a little imagination, any flavor of ice cream can taste like my favorite.
- - My memory is not what it used to be but I worry less because I can’t remember what I was worrying about. I write myself more notes and lists to get things done. I just have to remember where I put them.
- - Eyesight is going so I have to wear glasses. Glasses make me look smarter when I'm wearing them but dumber when I ask where are my glasses (and they are on top of my head).
- - No hair so I save money on haircuts and shampoo. Showers are faster too.
- - Less of a sense of smell makes changing grandchildren’s diapers easier and airplane trips more pleasant.
Maybe we need to have a weekend camp for middle aged adults to introduce them to what to expect. Make them wear slightly out of focus glasses, give them mouthwash that numbs the taste buds, shave their heads (men), hide any items like wallets, purses, phones and keys they leave around. If we really want to challenge them mentally, make them select the lowest cost Medicare insurance plan for a simulated 65-year-old.
Despite what it may appear, I’m not complaining. I expected pretty much all the above at some point as I got older, just not so soon and not so suddenly. With the exception of running I’m learning to adapt. I haven’t given up on getting back to running even though I’ve accepted my marathon days may be over. I plan on doing another fundraising multiday marathon challenge again this year. Thanks to all the support last year we were able to fund four programs for children with cancer and their families in 2019. They send their heartfelt thank you for the help.
So, 2 years on from the transplant and despite the challenges of GVHD I’m thankful to still be here. Shortly I’ll get the results of my latest bone marrow biopsy and if we get a clean bill of health it will lower the odds of a relapse. Fingers crossed.