Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's On

So it looks like this is actually going to happen. It's getting real. Everything seemed so far off when I first relapsed, but suddenly, it's the first day of autumn and we're closing in on October. GND chemo is behind me and it's time to take the next giant leap. My admission date to Sloan- Kettering is next Wednesday, Sept. 29th. That's six days from now, but who's counting?

This means that everything has fallen into place. All of my sister's tests came back on Tuesday and she was given a clean bill of health. This is great news for her, and for me. Plus, we are now doubly sure that she is the ideal sibling match as the HLA testing done at Sloan confirmed Yale's results. All systems go.

And a system it has been. Getting this admission date was like pulling the gun trigger to the start of a long endurance race. I got calls. My sister got calls. The insurance coverage got approved. Long-Term Disability kicked in. It's a whole, magical series of events that happens as each patient begins down the transplant road. Luckily, the Sloan team is handling all of those logistics for us and they're even pleasant when I can't let go of control and call to check up on the progress of things.

A big piece of the prep was the body function tests that I was put through on Tuesday. We stayed at friends in White Plains on Monday night so as to avoid the rush hour Manhattan traffic. It was great to see their place and catch up over a fab meal and chocolate chip cookies. It makes such a difference when we're able to mix in something fun to the 3-hour drive. Early Tuesday we were up and my escort, Craig, was driving into Manhattan. It's so fortunate that I have him as I don't think I'd ever be able to navigate that traffic – nevermind when I'm half asleep.

I repeated the pulmonary function test. However, Sloan's version was quite different than the breathing tests I've had done at Hartford and Yale. I actually had to sit in a clear vertical box which reminded me of a glass shower stall except with a big breathing tube sticking through it for me to blow into. It was called the "Bodybox 5500." This made me laugh because I could only think of it as being pronounced by the dramatic voice from the previews of every action movie.

I'm assuming that the lung diffusion capability test again did not go very well. I was clued into this when the pulmonary tech asks: "Did you have any recent surgeries?" I replied, no, just several biopsies months ago and asked him why he was curious. "Oh, just because one of your tests had a much lower result than the others," he replied matter-of-factly. I just sighed and explained how much chemo I've had.

An echocardiogram of my heart followed. This test just requires some sticky disks taped to my chest and a lot of pressure on different areas with a lubed up probe in order to snap photos and audio clips of the heart.

Then it was onto the dentist, right there in the Sloan clinic. This is their standard protocol of pre-tests before anyone undergoes what I am about to. I was so tired at this point that I fell asleep in the dentist chair waiting for him to arrive. After a panoramic x-ray and a quick examination he said: "Well, that's the best mouth I've seen all day." I like to think that a sparkle beamed off of my front tooth like in a cartoon. Finally, good news. I still maintain my 28-year no-cavity streak. His hygienist did however determine that my jaw soreness is due to clenching while I sleep. This is why it feels like I've been punched when I wake up each day. She says it happens when people are under a lot of stress. I'd say I probably fit into that category.

Somewhere in between there, Craig and I bumped into Ethan Zohn, Survivor Africa winner and fellow Hodgkin's survivor. We've spoken via e-mail and phone, especially now that I'm having my transplant at the same institution that he did. He was there with his girlfriend, Jenna, Survivor Amazon winner, for a follow-up. They were so incredibly generous in sharing their stories with us, spending nearly an hour with Craig and me giving insider tips to survive all the days in quarantine and what to order off the hospital food menu. We now know that the turkey burger and the chocolate shakes are actually pretty good. It's so amazing how once you're in this "cancer club" we're all so bonded. It's tremendously refreshing to talk to people that can relate to us on so many levels. It doesn't matter if you're a reality TV star, chemo strips everybody to the bone.

After several hours it was back on the road riding a celebrity-encounter high. We'll be back to NYC again tomorrow where I'll get some more details from Dr. Sauter on next Wednesday's start. My mom and sister will be along for the ride as Kristen will be receiving her donor orientation and Neupogen shot training. We also plan to do something fun in the city to counteract the building anxiety.

I'm very tired, very anxious, very eager, very achey all at the same time. But I'm ready. I love having a date to count down to and a to-do list to check off. It's helping me to keep focused and build confidence. So is this beautiful weather.

In yoga class today the instructor had everyone pick an affirmation card out of her hand like you'd pick a card for a magic trick. Mine couldn't have been more appropriate. It told me to think of a fear that has been haunting me and to focus on letting it go to be dealt with by the divine ... to not let it control me, but to realize that all will work out. So that's what I'm working on ... letting the fear go.


  1. I have a comment for the last 2 blogs----you go GIRL!!!! The little girls that donated their hair for wigs were very proud and honored to do it as was my Melanie who did it in honor of me when she was 13--the Golf tournament looked like a lot of fun and again--they were all HONORED to do it!!! I have a wonderful feeling about your next step--it will be great and we will all be celebrating!!!! Only blog when you are up to it and think of noone but yourself in this next venture---you know that your family and many, many, friends are thinking of you every minute and no need to keep anyone informed unless you choose to!!!! P.S. I plan to see your Mom next Tues and myself and her friends will boost her up hopefully!!!! Love you girl--xoxo Bev & Blake

  2. Best of luck to you and your sister Karin! You are in my thoughts and prayers. If anyone can make this happen, you can! : ) Tricia Theobald, Riverfront Recapture

  3. We are all sending good thoughts your way. We will keep both you and Kristen in our prayers.
    Diane and Shannon Fox

  4. Karin: John and I are thinking of you and and praying for you as Wednesday approaches. We had a wonderful time with you and Craig last week. I think you underestimate what a positive impact that you and Craig have on those around you. You are amazing!

  5. Dearest Karin - nothing but good thoughts and prayers being sent to you. As I've told you, our family went through a similar experience...sooo many emotions...I wish you well and will be thinking and praying for you...Much love - Karen Jacobs

  6. Praying for you tonight,precious girl, and all the time it takes to get you through this. God bless you, your sister, and all the rest of your family. This too will pass, and you will be a strong and happy girl again. Much love, Irene

  7. Envision yourself and all those with you, as a tribe of Native Americans trekking off to find new better grounds for the tribe. Everyone has a role, a specific job, yet all are supported by everyone in the tribe. Everyone knows what needs to be done and what is needed for their new home. In your case 'new ground' in your body to live and thrive. Everyone in the tribe is helping you and supporting you to get to the 'new ground'. The tribe is those bond to you by blood, by love, by science, by blog, by knowledge, by friendship - this is one powerful, awesome tribe.
    Tribes are formidable groups and yours is nothing less than that. Your tribe's trek starts tomorrow - carry-on for anything less is negligible.