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.