Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 365

Exactly one year ago today I underwent an autologous stem cell transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. The fact that I'm writing about it is a fair indication of that procedure's efficacy, and my multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow) has been in remission ever since (knock on wood).

Medicos keep track of transplants by counting days. Thus, July 29, 2016 was Day Zero. While the first few weeks were rocky (I felt like shit from the melphalan they gave me July 27 to kill off everything in my bone marrow, which resulted in diarrhea, no energy, and no appetite), the stem cells eventually took hold and repopulated my bone marrow. As my blood cell counts went up, so did my energy and spirits. Things have been getting better ever since. Who would have thought that normal activities—such as cooking, rewiring a wall socket, and walking the dog—could feel so good?

Unquestionably, I'm lucky that I didn't develop cancer until now, and that multiple myeloma is a type that Western medicine has been developing effective protocols to treat. While there's no telling how many anniversaries I'll live to celebrate, I couldn't be off to a better start.

Question: What am I doing on my anniversary? Answer: Wrapping up an 18-day road trip. I had stops in Mountain View CA to labor with a two-year-old cohousing group, a segment in Los Angeles where I helped my son and grandkids get ready to move to a less stressful life in Las Vegas (yes, you read that right), and a third leg at Sandhill Farm (my home of 40 years) to disappear the old house trailer that had served as FIC headquarters for nearly two decades. While the first portion only entailed psychic heavy lifting (showcasing how to untangle conflict and complex issues constructively), the last two literally featured packing things in boxes and schlepping them in and out of trucks. It's work I couldn't imagine having the strength and endurance to handle a year ago.

Today I'm heading back to the barn, traveling from Rutledge MO to Duluth MN (with intermediary stops in Quincy IL, Chicago, and St Paul). Arising at 0 dark thirty, Sandhillian Joe Black chauffeured me the 60 miles to Quincy to catch the Illinois Zephyr, which departs for Chicago promptly at 6:13 am daily. 

We crossed the Mississippi in the pre-dawn light, just as colors were reinhabiting the diurnal visual palette. On the bridge I noticed tug boats and barge tows, and mused about how I would be detraining 16 hours later by St Anthony Falls in St Paul, also on the Mississippi and hard by barge traffic—just much further upstream. With luck, I may catch the sun setting on Ol' Man River as we chug between Winona and Red Wing. It's a motif for the day: as the river winds, so does my life.

The last leg will be achieved via Skyline Shuttle, which runs vans between Duluth and the Twin Cities every 75 minutes. I'll catch the 11:10 near the state capitol tonight and pull into DECC Parking (Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center) circa 2 am, where Susan will collect me. While I don't like being separated from my partner that much, I love what I do and the reunions are incredibly sweet.

It's a measure of my improved health that I've been able to resume my work as a process trainer and consultant, traveling one or two weeks per month on average. Not only does this provide Susan and me income, but it affords me the opportunity to visit friends and family around the edges of my work, and adds meaning to my recovery—I've been blessed with extended play, with which I can do additional good in the world as a builder and promoter of cooperative culture.

All and all it's terrific to be honoring a milestone today, instead of a headstone.

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