Well, here I am in 4B-31 of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. My wife, Sheri, has gone to our temporary home in Medford. It is virtually the first time we’ll spend apart since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma back in September of last year.
It feels strange, but she doesn’t have to be physically near for the strength she brings me to be present.
This is definitely one of those, “Well, how did I get here?” situations. I mean, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend last year, I decided to help a little with the gardening — something I am usually loath to do. Next thing I know I’m being attacked by wasps, and eight months later I’m sitting in a hospital in Boston, preparing for a stem cell transplant. Whaaaat??
The twists and turns our path has taken in those eight months is remarkable, as are the people we have met: fellow sufferers, doctors, nurses, hospital staff. When you put it all together, it doesn’t really seem like so much could have been packed into such a short amount of time. And yet, here I am.
No more tears; I don’t need them. I am losing my gorgeous hair, but my sparkling blue eyes remain sparkling blue, and the hair will grow back.
It just occurred to me, and I hope the metaphor is not too clunky, but it reminds me of almost every home improvement project I’ve ever been involved with. Mind you, home improvement projects are right up there with gardening in things I’m loath to do, not least of all because they always involve a lot of breaking down, stripping away and so on, so that after you’ve spent hours, days or weeks on something, it looks so much worse that you find yourself wondering what the heck you were thinking in the first pace.
But then you start putting it back together, and the dream is revived. The fresh paint looks and smells so great; the new wood is straight and strong; and so on. The project is a success.
Well, ain’t that just been what’s going on here with my cancer? We have spent all this time killing cancer cells, and I’ve felt a little bit worse each day. There’s been enough pain to question what the heck I was thinking.
But now, we start to put things back together again. This past week has been the one when everything was scheduled to happen: Destruction of the remaining cancer cells, as well as my immune system, unfortunately, and the reintroduction of my healthy stem cells. That’s when we will remember what the dream of the project was: My becoming so much healthier and stronger and returning to something approximating a normal life.
And as I sit here, getting all philosophical and resorting to the use of clanky metaphors, there’s something else I can tell you, and I can tell it to you without reservation. From my experience, when I’m faced with something as big as this cancer is, I cannot deal with it by myself. My wife, kids, friends and medical staff have all been wonderful and incredibly supportive.
But you know what? None of them is here right now. All they bring to me every day remains with me, but there are times I need just a little extra to contain my latest fear. Just a little dash of faith or hope, maybe, to get me through to morning.
For me, it happens to be God. I don’t know where you get yours, but you might want to give it some thought before you find yourself in the position of really needing it. It can be Buddha, Islam, it just has to be yours. I’ve known people who referred to their celestial navigator. I think it just has to be something you consider more powerful than anything else in your life.
Anyway, I’m tired and I need to call it a night. I wanted to thank everyone one more time for your support and prayers This phase is, to me, like going to the dark side of the moon. You’ll know that I’m there, and thinking about you all, but I won’t be able to communicate for while. Remember, Sheri will post updates on Facebook, and probably some photos as well.
In the meantime: “God bless us, everyone!”
Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.
Editor’s note: Jim’s daughter, Alison, posted this update to his Facebook page on Wednesday night: “I just got off the phone with my dad. Wow, that man is amazing! After all he has been through, he is still positive and funny. He sounded great and didn’t seem to be having too much trouble with the chemo or the stem cells. He still has a couple of days to get the chemo out of his system so things will be iffy, but then we can call this thing a success!”