Monday, June 28, 2010

A Part of the Human Condition

Since the beginning of humanity, every single person that has ever lived on this earth has suffered the loss of a loved one. Not some of us. Not most of us. Every person that has ever and will ever live has this in common. Maybe it was a member of your clan, your tribe, your family, a son or daughter, sibling, spouse, aunt, or whatever. Each one of us must suffer through the excruciating process of adjusting to life without someone dear.

As universal as the phenomenom is, as frequently and universally as it occurs it remains one of the most profound experiences of our existence. One cannot grasp the enormity of it all until they too have had direct contact with it.

As common as the loss of a loved one is, no two people share the exact same experience. In the case of Clyde's death, all of us that were close to her and those that knew about her but weren't close, live a loss unique to them. The sorrow my parents feel is different than the one Clyde's husband Tom is left to bear. Each of Clyde's siblings have their own vantage point from which to view this new reality. And the list goes on for everyone that knew and interacted with her.

It's been my experience that the uniqueness of my relationship with Clyde has made it even harder to bear the weight of losing her. It was me that was given the gift, the opportunity, the responsibility of being the donor of the t-cells that we all hoped would provide the recovery we dreamed about. When she passed, she had me in her on a cellular level. That is a special relationship to have with a person.

It may sound selfish but it is completely honest to say that Clyde's death was the end of a hope and dream for me. When the transplant was evolving in it's process I dreamed of a legacy in which I would be forever remembered as the one that gave Clyde her health back. It was a dream of hero status, the kind of thing that ticker-tape parades are made of. Instead, I will forever live with the phrase "you did your best but..." in the back of my mind.

Don't get me wrong. Having been able to provide hope for Clyde through cell donation is one of the high points of my life. I would do it again without hesitation. There are scant few actions one can take in an attempt to give a cancer patient their health back. That was one and I'd have done more if I could have. Still, with the transplant came a dream of having my existence on this planet validated as worthwhile and special. I hope it's not hard to imagine how that could happen. In the end it just wasn't to be. My dream of that dies with Clyde.

I've noticed that fewer readers are visiting this blog since Clyde's passing. It's my hope that those that do will find comfort in the lessons we're learning through this difficult time. I'm not done here. There is more to learn and share about this rich yet sad experience.

Be well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Before Healing, Grief

I have started this post a thousand times. I wasn't able to finish it because I either dissolved into tears or feared that you would see through my need to be profound in this time of great pain. Either way, the post has gone unwritten for four weeks since Clyde passed away.

I still can't believe that's what's happened. Three months after the transplant, we all thought we had cancer beaten. Clyde was feeling great. There were no obvious signs of the disease. By all signs, the transplant had been a resounding success.

What wasn't apparent was that the enemy in our fight had changed forms. A rare occurrence in the fight against leukemia and lymphoma is a phenomenon called the Richter's transformation ( it occurs in about 8% of cases). This is when the disease literally changes form. In Clyde's case, the lymphoma changed from an indolent, slow growing, chronic form into one that was extremely virolent and aggresive. It attacked her spleen and liver and rendered her without energy and unable to combat the onslaught.

In the end, the fight was lost in two months. Twenty-two years of battle coming down to a change at a cellular level that proved too much, even for a warrior as tough and determined as Clyde.

As the cancer collected in Clyde's liver and spleen it was a source of great pain. The respective organs reside on the left and right of your stomach. The swelling of the organs made it almost impossible for Clyde to put anything into her stomach. The absence of nutrition contributed to her decreasing strength and energy. In the last several weeks she was very sick every day.

After having seen signs of a return to health it was very difficult to witness the decline. The major symptom that we all attached ourselves to was her red blood cell count. The report from each check-up was that of a declining RBC. On the days of the appointments we all waited for news of a turn-around. We belived that if her body would produce more red blood cells she would be alright. Unbenownst to us was that the lymphoma, in it's new, virolent form, was preventing her new marrow from doing it's job. We were losing her.

It's difficult to know the difference between hoping for a medical miracle and denial. The writing was on the wall yet we all waited for the clinic visit that would produce news of an unexplainable turn-around in her condition. For me, this lasted until the morning that Bob called me to say she had passed away.

It's been four weeks to the day. The pain of Cyde's passing ebbs and flows. I can go days where my thoughts focus on the gifts she gave me and the joys that comprised her life. Other days I can't work or focus. My siblings and parents are experiencing the same ups and downs. How can it be that Clyde is no longer here.

In the days and weeks to come it's my plan to lay out the thoughts and feelings that have dominated my existence in the last month. I know that there was meaning to the whole experience. It's my intense desire that there were lessons that will benefit those still living with lymphoma. I have a need to find the words that show my gratitude for the support you all have expressed. Thanks need to given to everyone that did all that was possible and available towards Clyde's treatment and recovery.

It would make sense that when the subject of a narrative dies that the story ends. The reality is that what we're going to get from Clyde in the physical realm has been defined. What we get from her in the mental, emotional and spiritual sense has only begun to play out. Please continue to read and help me understand the lessons and gifts with which Clyde has left us.

I'm going to have a good cry now.

Be well.