Stem cells and Santa!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again! The season of goodwill to all men. Parties, presents, drinking,eating, and enjoying ourselves. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? For most people it is. They might also remember that it is a religious holiday too. But unfortunately, cancer doesn’t take any time off, and continues it’s relentless progress, celebration time or not.

I am experiencing at first hand, the pressure that patients can feel over the festive season. The difficulty of doctors and staff being away. Ensuring that you have enough medication to see you through the period.Worrying about what will happen if you do get sick, over this period. The hospital with far less staff than normal, if you do.

However, this time is a particularly poignant time for me. Five years ago, I was in my isolation unit, undergoing a stem cell transplant. The staff were unsure about starting it before Christmas, but I was in such poor condition that in the end there was no choice.My immune system was slowly poisoned over 10 days until it was like that of a new born child, then I was given my life saving transplant. A little bag of stem cells from my anonymous donor was sent across London on a motorbike.All organised by the Anthony Nolan Charity.
The gift of life for Christmas, how meaningful is that?? My goodness, how lucky am I? In honesty I am feeling quite emotional whilst writing this piece.Even with this transplant, no one was sure what extra life I would be given, if any. There was no guarantee that I would even survive the transplant.Yet here I am, 5 years later writing this.

I would like to share some of the more surreal moments of my festive season in 2007. Firstly, even though I was under heavy sedation, the Sister, (who was a very attractive young lady,) asked me what I wanted for Christmas. my quick reply was her, in a tiny Santa outfit! ( sorry ladies!) She played along and came in on Christmas day with her outfit on!

Secondly, at just past midnight on Christmas eve, all the patients got a little present from the hospital. What a lovely thought! Finally, on Christmas day, my family and friends all came in to visit me. It certainly was a unique way of celebrating.
So now, I am like the Queen and have two birthdays, my official one and my new life one. So although my bodywork is 56, my system is only 5.

Christmas is a family time, and although we all lead such busy lives, it is an opportunity, for people to spend some quality time with each other. For me, it is a period of reflection. I have so much to be thankful for, and I can celebrate that, amongst loved ones and friends.Since my illness I have had two grandchildren, and my boys are progressing in their lives. My spare time is taken up by doing lots of exciting things I never imagined I would be doing.

It has taken me a long time to realise, but we are not really in charge of our lives at all! Things happen frequently that change our lives but are totally out of our control.My choices are very restricted, but as I have mentioned in a previous post, things just happen! I could never have imagined seeing 5 Christmas’s after being diagnosed with a stage 4 incurable Lymphoma.

So, as the festive time is upon us, and I watch people celebrating, who knows what is really going on in their lives. Is it just an opportunity to escape from some of our everyday issues? Who cares, they’re enjoying themselves. In recent years, there have been more serious moments, and less lighter ones.I am leaving my baggage outside this Christmas, and will pick it up again, in the New Year. It won’t forget who owns it, and I don’t think anyone else will want it, so I know it will be still there, but a few days with family and friends will make it feel lighter, when we are reacquainted.

But the good work, continues. Some of my nurses and doctors are working over the holiday, and will be there if required, and my thanks goes out to them and their families for the sacrifices that they continue to make on our behalf. Also my thoughts are always with my fellow patients who are going through treatment with me.

I hope that the Christmas period treats you well, and maybe you would like to share some of your seasonal experiences? Feel free to leave a comment, as The Community is open 24/7 365!

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