And What Followed...

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Tiny Story About Rasheed

Hey guys,

I had share this story with you. This is not one of those sappy e-mails that go round and round the internet. This is a true incident that happend just yesterday (Wednesday the 30th), written first-hand and only for the eyes of a few by Julie, a close
friend and cancersurvivor. I see stories like this everyday but wanted to share this little one.
Just a reminder to enjoy the blessings you have and to remember those who need our prayers.



I need to tell you a story about another person, a very little person, to pray for.

Today, at City of Hope, I was just leaving class and passing by the reception area. Rick, Anna, Joy and Carole were helping me clean up and pack up my car. I was rushed. We were chatting, laughing, hugging--the usual.

As we went in and out of the door, we passed by a very small boy, an African-American about seven I would guess, who was sitting in the lobby while his mother checked in. At first I didn't notice, but then I saw what I thought was her signing check-in papers. She looked young, perhaps in her mid-20s.

My attention went back to this tiny boy wearing a surgical mask, a wool hat, a very heavy coat, long pants and sports shoes. He looked like he could have been dressed for a Michigan snow storm, not for a sunny California day.

My first glimpse at him was of his skin, not a healthy color but a grey tone, not like anyone I had seen before. Not much of his skin was even showing, only his hands and a little of his forehead. His big brown eyes stared back at me. He looked afraid, but much more, he looked cold, chilled. He was shaking, shivering.

As soon as I saw him, I remembered we had been given some hand-made, individual Easter baskets by a dear friend of mine, Beverly, from the Seattle area. She made each one with a handle and Easter bunnies on the sides. She mailed them to me so I could give them out at today's class.

When I looked back in the room, there were none left. Then I saw Anna's, which she was going to take home. It was there on the table with her purse.

Without a word from me, Anna picked up her basket and took it out to the lobby, seeing the boy as he sat alone and sad. She smiled at him and said, "This is from the Easter Bunny!" as she handed it to him. His eyes lighted up and he pulled his mask down for a second to say a weak, "Thank you."

I saw Anna disappear back into the room, away from my sight. I later found her in there, tears streaming down her face. When I told her it was a lovely gesture that she had just done, she said, "I would have given him much more if it was in my power to make him well. I came back in here because I didn't want him to see me in tears."

Then, as I started getting ready to leave, I remembered I had a hand-made "surgeon's hat" with wild colors that was made by another friend of mine, Carla, in a batch for leukemia children who are bald and undergoing chemo.

I went back out into the lobby and asked the little boy his name. He replied, "Rasheed," as he continued to look at the tiny basket and examine the candy and chocolate eggs inside. He didn't eat any of sweets. He didn't look like he wanted to eat anything right then but he held onto the gift just the same.

Then, Anna came back out to the lobby with a yellow plastic bracelet, one of Lance Armstrong's. Again, we had just one of those in the classroom. She presented Rasheed with it and told him it was just like Lance Armstrong's. I added, "Lance beat cancer and you will too." Rasheed nodded his head. It seemed he knew about Lance Armstrong.

Then, I brought out the hat and asked him if he like to have it, telling him there were only two like it--one was given to one of the doctors in the hospital and Rasheed would have the only other one. Again, his eyes lighted up, he nodded and reached for it. But, before I gave it to him, I went to his mother, still writing, writing, as she stood at the counter. I asked her if it was okay to give him all those items.

She said nothing. She kept writing, writing with her head down.

Then, the woman at the reception desk said to me, "She's deaf. She doesn't hear you. Her son there translates for her.

My heart sank. That tiny boy with cancer had more troubles than many of us would have in a lifetime. She had been writing notes back and forth to the receptionist, asking about how City of Hope operated so she could be there to help her son get well. She, too, had more troubles than many of us will have in a lifetime.

I picked up a pen and paper and wrote my question to her, asking her if it was okay for Rasheed to have the things. She read the note and nodded and smiled. A few minutes later they walked out together hand in hand.

Many unforgettable things have happened in that classroom, in that building, on that campus. Meeting Rasheed and his mother were today's moments.

Pray for them both.

Monday at the Culver Hotel

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your phone messages and e-mails. I've been inundated with words of love and I'm bringing it all in, infusing it with saffron goodness and circling it back out again. Please know that I am receiving your words and though I truly wish I
could, I am unable to respond every single message. It actually pains me that I cannot reciprocate personally. Per popular demand, I will be sending an e-mail out later today or tomorrow explaining the details of what is going on, what the scans mean and my tentative treatment schedule.

For now, know that I am scheduled for surgery Wednesday morning, May 3, followed by 4 straight days on non-stop 24-hour chemo. The chemo is so intense that it causes mental confusion and hallucinations, so if you come to visit me, here is your warning: I may be speaking in tongues and begging you to turn off the laser light show.

In an attempt to connect before the chemo starts to flow, I am having an "open house" of sorts on Monday night, May 1 from 5-7pm at the Culver Hotel in Culver City. We'll be at the lobby bar. I'll be the one sipping Shirley Temples. Feel free to drop by, come and go, share a hug, share a toast. Stop, breathe, share a moment and leave uncertainty at the door. Drink with me... to days gone by. Sing with me... the songs we knew. [Apologies to Les Miz]

Much love,

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Well my internet is up and running again and a good thing too, because I got over 340 e-mails in my inbox. Ack!

That was close. Real close. An acute reminder of how fragile life is and how everythingcan change forever in a single moment. It was not until the end of my hospital stay that Iwas told that my condition was actually caused by MRSA, a sort of super-resistant versionof a Staph Infection. This has been known to kill people who were 100% healthy the day before. One tiny cut, one little bacteria bugger gets under your skin, and a few hours later you're at death's door. Makes you wanna go OCD, doesn't it? My advice: Wash your hands often.

In the busy-ness of our everyday we may forget to stop and breathe and give thanks for the blessings we have. In the midst of our own problems we may miss the opportunity to share a little love with another. To quote from RENT :

"There is no future, there is no past.
I live this moment as my last!
There's only us, there's only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.
No other road, no other way.
No day but today!"

It's good to be home.

Big smoochy kisses,

Monday, April 24, 2006

Scan Results - From Eternity into Breath

Bad news.

There's no other way to put this. My scans results were not good. My doctor wanted to admit me to the hospital today but the soonest they could schedule me for surgery (to implant a hickman catheter) is next Tuesday. I will be admitted and given 24/7 chemo on a different and very potent anti-cancer cocktail twice over the next few weeks.

They are going to contact my partial match and hope that he will say yes. Unless a miracle happens and my perfect match signs up on the marrow registry in the next two to four weeks, I will be going into a high-risk allogenic marrow transplant before summer.

In the processing of all this, I scribbled this on the back of my results.

From eternity into breath.
Back to eternity.
This life is our one chance to connect
To love
To touch
With our own hands
With our own words
This is our one chance to create anything we want
Happiness or sorrow
With our own thoughts
With our own heart
Before this single gasp of the universe finishes its exhale
Before returning once again into eternity
Love while you can.

-C Pechera

Staying strong.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

prayers welcome

Well, the doctors were all ready to send me home today but I woke up with an unforeseen complication and I may be in here a little while longer. Prayers are welcomed. God Bless.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cross your fingers...

hey everyone

I've been meaning to write for such a long time. For many reasons, this second go-round is alot more difficult than the last time we went through this. I have quite a few inspirational messages that I have started but never quite got around to
finishing. My days are spent running between doctors, healers and hospitals. I'm plagued by a feeling of exhaustion that I just can't shake. And the pressure of searching for a marrow match with time running out is starting to take it's toll. Still, I am finding time to seek joy in the everyday. There are moments of beauty that bring comfort and solace. And I am so thankful for every sunrise.

Since last week, I've completed two rounds of chemo. The infection that hospitalized me last March is no longer a threat. As most of you know, today (Wednesday) a few friends plan to get together for a 'healing' with me at Rory's house. On Thursday I will be getting CT and PET scans done. The results of the scans will be critical. The results will determine my prognosis as well as the next two months of my life. I may continue with this chemo. I may need to switch to a different treatment option. Or I may have to dive into a marrow transplant with my only transplant option: a partial-match with high risks.
Of course, I'm praying for better news.

This Friday will be the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion at City of Hope. They expect over 10,000 transplant survivors and their families to attend. I plan to be there to celebrate life and support patients who are new survivors. Life can be sudden and unexpected. Change is inevitable and sometimes drastic. And sometimes it seems you end up back where you started from. We're here on this earth for only so long. I hope that each one of you is taking advantage of each day. I hope that every moment is infused with meaning. That you seek the soul in every person you meet. That every word you speak brings only good. And that every action you take comes from love.

Thursday scans. Cross your fingers…