Letter to a Friend

In my hope and commitment to keep this blog interesting, I will abstain from giving you statistics on my coldest run, my weekly mileage or blabber on about the ITB/Patellar tendon/Knee injury that forced me to run 9 miles, yes just NINE, in all of February.

This post is about a real element of leukemia and one of the major obstacles most leukemia patients have to overcome during their battle.  The post is entitled “letter to a friend”.  The friend is someone I still haven’t met to this day but someone I feel an incredible amount of gratitude towards.  Despite the outcome in my particular situation, I am still left wondering….how do I say thank you?  How do you thank the stranger that was your hero and saved the life of someone you love.

As a quick aside on transplants……If you didn’t stop selling reversible tapestry jackets in your early 20s to take up researching leukemia and cancer, the traditional “bone marrow transplant” has become a thing of the past.   The surgical procedure that takes weeks of recovery for the donor and have many complexities has been replaced by “stem cell transplants”. Over 90% of transplants no longer require bone marrow, they only require the stem cells that produce the marrow.  For the donor, it takes a short course of medicine that boosts stem cell production and a procedure that is essentially a long blood donation.

For the recipient, the change in procedure isn’t a cup of tea.  Not in the slightest.  The only easy part is introducing the stem cells into the recipient’s body, no different than a blood or saline infusion.  The first weeks are grueling and the risk of graft versus host disease are very real and very significant for the first 6 months to a year.  Milestones are set at the discharge date, 100 days, 6 months and the 1 year birthday.  Over this first year, the recipient gradually eases back into “regular living” (eating in restaurants, going out in public, shaking hands, not wearing a mask, etc).

So to get back on track…..  “Letter to a friend” is the name of the word document I re-discovered a few weeks ago on my dad’s computer that I helped him draft.  It’s a letter he was never able to finish and a person we never got to thank.  This man’s gift gave me another year with my father, which I will forever cherish.  We tried composing this letter many times but would always end up in tears.  We did always come to one conclusion, that one day we must fly to Europe and meet this stranger, our hero.  This is one of the many things I often think of that we won’t have the opportunity to do together.

Earlier I asked the question, “How do you thank the stranger?”.  The only answer I have is to be that stranger for someone else. Be a hero for them, their family or their 24 year old son.  There’s no guarantee, but that stranger gifted me the most valuable 14 months of my life.

So I ask you to be the one who saves their life, secures their future and helps us all beat this disease. Please, take those 5 minutes – there’s someone out there who needs a match.    BeTheMatch.org/Join

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