And What Followed...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Last Christmas I was sick and stuck in a hospital room. This Christmas I am walking in the New York holiday magic and singing along to carols in Rockefeller Center. I'm counting my blessings.


Here's my dorky gift: An attempt to identify the musicians in "Do They Know It's Christmas?" I've always loved this song.




I don’t recognize EVERYONE but this is what i do know (or at least i think i know):

0:05 Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats)
0:10 John Taylor (DuranDuran)
0:12 Sting (The Police)
0:15-Paul Young
0:31-Boy George (Culture Club)
0:46 Phil Collins (Genesis)
0:48 George Michael (Wham)
0:59 Simon LeBon (DuranDuran)
1:09 Sting and Simon LeBon
1:14 Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)
1:30 Bono (U2)
1:40 Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council)
1:46 Midge Ure (Ultravox) at sound board
1:47 Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) with John Taylor
1:56 Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) In black
2:05 Midge Ure second from right
2:12 Marilyn in foreground with Glenn Gregory
2:28 Bananarama
2:29 Kool and the Gang
2:30 Jody Watley (Shalamar)
2:37 Francis Rossi (Status Quo)
3:26 Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)
3:31 Marilyn
3:32 Jon Moss (Culture Club)
3:36 Nick Rhodes (DuranDuran)
3:37 Andy Taylor (DuranDuran


Happy Holidays!

Much Love,
Christine

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Midnight of Hope

Recently my Writing for Wellness group at City of Hope was asked to pen a poem about New Year's. Recalling exactly where I was last year, and the miracle that I am still *here* this year, this poem just sort of wrote itself. It's a bit dippy, but I thought I would share it anyway.

I've lost many friends to cancer this year. Fellow warriors and fellow hearts. Each one of us equally frightened, yet equally determined. Each one a compelling, inspirational story of courage and hope. All of us in mutual support of one another. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am still here and they are not. This holiday season, I am taking nothing for granted. This holiday season, is in remembrance of them.

Not only is life precious, but it is precarious. We are far more fragile than we let ourselves on to believe. But we are also far more resilient.

Hold your loved ones closer this year. Forgive and be giving. And for those who have loved ones spending their first Christmas in heaven, know that when you feel the Christmas spirit in your heart, it is them loving you.

xo,
christine

- - - - - - - - - -


The Midnight of Hope


Spent last New Year’s Eve at City of Hope
Alone in my room, didn’t know how I’d cope
Thinking of the all the champagne, the confetti, the cheers
Of others feasting and singing to welcome New Year’s

Friends came to visit but left before 10 p.m.
I didn’t want friends to miss the parties and joy offered to them
The world danced in the streets to celebrate the night
And here I was tethered, fighting for my life

Broken and sobbing in my bed
Uncertainty and fear swirling in my head
Brooding about the fun at midnight I’d miss
Realizing… I had no one to kiss

Hearing the medical clicks from my IV pole
I remember, I began to cry into my pillow
Holding on to Hope and not wanting to believe
That I probably wouldn’t see next New Year’s Eve

But now it’s a year later and I’m cancer-free
This year Times Square is waiting for me
I have doctors and loved ones to thank for this
And this year, I look forward to that sweet kiss

:)

But thinking again, I realize I am wrong
January 1st only sings a small part of the song
For if Midnight can bring Hope, about Life Anew,
Of Joy, of Freedom and of Gratitude

If in the coldest of winter, at the darkest of night
We can still find in ourselves, our own Ball of Light
Then I don’t need Dick Clark or a Fireworks display
For the anniversary of my marrow transplant is my New Year’s Day

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Remembrance of Elizabeth

Cancer vixen, fellow traveler and true friend Elizabeth Terry has passed.

Elizabeth and I were already close friends before we both relapsed within a week of each other two years ago. We were both given grave odds. We were both determined to beat it. We made a promise there would be a day when our yet-to-be-born children would play with each other.

Some of you may remember her from the BBQ get-together, held the week before I was admitted to the hospital for the bone-marrow transplant. Though fighting cancer herself, Elizabeth came to offer support and hope. As usual, her English wit and charm won everyone over.

Some of you may remember her from those scary few days at the hospital in Santa Monica, when I was close to death with that terrible infection. Elizabeth was in the middle of chemotherapy herself, but she was there in the room with everyone else, helping to lead the fight to get me better care.

Elizabeth was feisty, yet elegant. Handed down worse and worse odds with each passing month, Elizabeth handled her situation with grace and sublime defiance. Never did she lose the fire behind her eyes. With her English roots, she would often relay bad news with perfect poise and finely tuned resilience.


When we would meet at City of Hope for Chemotherapy, Elizabeth would say "Are you ready for your spa treatment? This is the best, most expensive spa treatment anyone can ever get! Aren't we lucky?"

Elizabeth was a global writer. Her work took her from the outskirts of Australia to an honored place within Princess Di’s circle of trust.

Elizabeth was truly a remarkable woman. After confessing of the declining state of her health, she would quickly brush off any pity, self or otherwise and turn bright around to say “Well enough of that! Would you like some tea? I can make us cheese sandwiches…” We would spend the afternoon talking about everything we would do once we got better. Elizabeth was so perspicacious and courageous that I didn't doubt there would be a day when we would toast champagne in Le Cap d'Antibes.

Elizabeth’s husband, James, never left her side. At one point he was holding down several jobs to keep up with medical expenses all the while accompanying Elizabeth to as many appointments as possible. He held her hand in the quiet times and fought hard for her when there was a call to battle. James was completely devoted and stood by her every step of the way. That is the mark of a true man. Today, our thoughts are with him.


Elizabeth is deeply missed. Her indefatigable spirit continues in our hearts.

Here is her obituary published in the Los Angeles Times today:

- - - - - -

TERRY, Elizabeth Jane Marchant March 7, 1962 - Dec. 7, 2007, a versatile journalist who lived in Paris, London and Los Angeles, was working on "Gardening Angel," a book to be published by HarperCollins San Francisco about growing and cooking with cancer-fighting herbs and vegetables and the power of gardening--for body, mind and spirit. Born in Santa Monica to British parents, she spent her childhood between Sherborne, England, and Santa Monica. Her beauty and charm, as well as fluency in French, German and English, were assets in her various journalism posts at magazines including People and Celebrity Bulletin, in Paris; InStyle, and several British newspapers in London; and the Palisadian Post, House & Garden, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker in Los Angeles. In 1999, she accepted a position as West Coast Editor for eLuxury, the online website of the French fashion conglomerate, LVMH and also launched into a successful freelance writing career covering topics that interested and amused her: gardens, home decor, travel, interesting personalities and local Santa Monica history. With good doctors, deep friendships and newfound faith she was able to continue laughing, traveling, writing, and helping others. Elizabeth is survived by her father, two brothers, a sister, a step-father, two nieces, and her loving husband, James Terry. In lieu of flowers, Terry has asked that donations be made in honor of Benjamin Shapiro to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, 801 Roeder Road, Silver Spring, MD, 20910. A service will be held on December 20th at 11:00 a.m. at All Saints Church, 132 North Euclid Avenue, Pasadena. A reception will follow.

- - - - - -

We had love left undone
We had words left unspoken
I still hold things I promised you.
Guilt withers visions of trips untaken
Of ghostly towns
And dying flowers
Dried stalks crumble in the hand.
You penned wishes in notebooks
Squeezed between paragraphs of disappointment.
We promised and planned but delayed for convenience.
A regret that cannot be atoned.
“Some day” never came.


Remember Elizabeth by living Now.

-cp

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Priestley Hugs for the Holidays

Jason Priestley gives good hugs.

Toluca Lake held their annual Christmas Parade and Open House last night, replete with carolers, bagpipers, a bevy of cookies and candy and, for the 24th year, the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck.

Once again, Cinema Secrets, opened their doors and hosted a Marrow Drive during the festivities. My friend, Jerome Williams is still in need of a marrow donor and once again, A3M was there to lend a hand.

After we spoke, Jason was eager to join the registry and immediately said "yes", walking straight up to the sign-up table. The lovely Aileen Malig walked him through the steps of what it takes to become a donor. Ms Aileen is one of A3M's best.


The Cinema Secrets family was generous, kind and full of life. They give so much to their community and are role models for how good business and good people can make a difference. Debra (above with pink scarf) was the main instigator of good. Not only is she beautiful but she is an angel immeasurable.



Even though people were busy shopping, snacking and parade watching, many took the time to sit down, swab their cheeks and apply to the registry. As usual, people had a lot of questions, but once they understood how easy and how awesome it is to be a marrow donor, they were reaching for the swabs. It was like a big party. The whole evening was a blast and probably one of the most fun marrow drives we've ever held!


Anyone can save a life. Even Beverly Hills, 90210 types. :)

Happy Holidays Hugs!

-cp

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ignite

Here is an abridged version of a speech I recently gave:


The PSA you just saw happened last year. A year ago today I was still
in the hospital. Even with all efforts to save my life, my prognosis was
very grim, with less than a 10% chance of survival. But because of my
donor, I was given a chance to fight. I am so blessed to be standing
here tonight.

We are all blessed to be here tonight. To be in this theater, sitting in
these chairs. We are here because we are HEALTHY enough. We are
here because we are ALIVE.

But what keeps us alive? What keeps us going? Is it love? Is it
strength? Perhaps it is the person sitting next to you. The fact is, inside
each of us there is a life-force... A desire. A fire. A will to live. A great
flame inside us. I believe it is fueled by faith, by love, by hope.

But there are times when we do feel depleted, or worse, when we feel
nothing, as if something has extinguished our inner light.

God works through us. "Us" meaning we, you, me, the person sitting
behind you. We are the vessels for God’s work. Whether you believe in
him or not, He works through you.

When you are in that place where you are ready to give up. When
loneliness consumes your night. When there is nothing left inside you
but a lost soul or a torn heart. That is when love, working through even
just one single person, can heal. The miracle of the touch of another
can heal anything.

The inner flame inside each of us can re-ignite a broken heart into a
blazing inferno. Like one candle to another candle. One person can
rekindle another’s inner life-force. Another's soul.

This is what donating marrow is all about. This is what makes life
meaningful. It is God creating his miracles through us.

One person to another.

There remains thousands of cancer patients whose life-force is barely a
flicker. Whose flames are about to be extinguished.

Right now I want you Breathe in deep and breathe out slowly.

Feel that? That is the life-force within you. That is God’s love inside
you. YOU have the fire within to re-ignite the life of another.

It is literally in your marrow.

You may be the miracle someone is searching for.

Tonight we come to support A3M’s efforts to save lives. Tomorrow,
let’s be a part of it.

Trust me, it’s awesome.

Thank you. God Bless. And don’t forget to let your light shine.


Wishing a Blessed Thanksgiving,
Christine

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Signing Sunday, In Memory of Joel

Almost forgot to mention that I will be at a Book Signing in Duarte at
City of
Hope Sunday, November18 from 9-12. I'll be promoting & signing
the "Writing for Wellness" book, along with some of the other contributing

writers. For those who cannot make it, you can buy the book on Amazon.

All proceeds go to benefit City of Hope. I'll be at the table at the "Walk for

Hope" fundraiser to fight breast cancer.

I'm dedicating tomorrow and every WFW book I sign forevermore to the
memory of Joel Schickman, who passed away this morning after a long
and difficult fight. Joel was in his early 30s, a well-loved Rabbinical
student and talented musician. Diagnosed with Leukemia, Joel's only
hope was to endure the rigors of a Bone Marrow Transplant. Thankfully,
a donor was found and Joel went into remission.

However, Joel's health turned for the worse, when his body was invaded
by a hospital infection last week. His passing is a tragic loss. Today the
earth hums the lullaby of a broken heart. His beautiful wife Heather
embodied tremendous grace and strength throughout, caring not only for
Joel, but for their three small boys.

Joel was diagnosed only nine months ago and everyone who loved and
cared for him, everyone he touched in his life, is still coming to terms as to
why such an amazing soul would be taken from us too soon. Joel
embraced G-d and embraced life. Let us keep his spirit alive and honor
his memory by living life just like he did, with tremendous love.


Below is today's update from his CarePage.

-----

He Is Gone

November 17, 2007
7 Kislev 5768
9:42 a.m. PST

Joel fought very hard, but there were too many infections with too
many contradicting cures. He chose to fight with everything the
doctors had. His soul hummed inside of him with the rhythms of the
ventilator and monitors, and when it broke free I know your prayers
carried it upon wings of song back to his Creator.




-----

Remember Joel next time you sing.

Love,
Christine

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oh What a Night

***(The photo upload isn't working today so I had to improvise.
Sorry for the weird layout!)***
So a funny thing happend to me this week. A friend called from a party in New York
and said that a bunch of people there saw me on TV a few days ago.
I thought,
“Wha?”

I didn’t even know there were TV news cameras at A3M’s Gala event last weekend.
It was an amazing and very
surreal night and yours truly got a taste of what it
feels like to be a mini-celebrity.

Once we were seated for dinner, my friend Jerome said
“Hey, that’s you.” Again, I
said “Wha?” turned around
in my chair and (trumpets please) there is a HUGE shiny
poster to the left of the stage. There I am,
all 12 feet of me, my head three feet across
and
(horror!) dancing like a dork in the $8 green 80’s dress from Prom Night! Adding to
the weirdness were quotes from my writings, layered to the side of and below my
exuberant image. It looked like one of those
Laker flags at Staples Center.



The elegant dinner consisted of hundreds of people. Asian-American actors were
honored and people spoke.
Then it was time for my speech. People were clinking
glasses and jangling forks and I thought, “Oh, great. Everyone’s busy eating.” But I
leaned on the podium
anyway and began to read my speech. Some sentences in, I
realized I had not looked up and the room had gone eerily quiet. Still reading the
speech, I lifted my head to see a cornfield of eyes locked on my face. Even the wait
staff had become paralyzed in mid-service, clutching water pitchers and empty salad
plates.


The speech ended in a burst of applause and I slinked back to my chair, humbled once
more. A tap on the
shoulder, I turn around and there smiles Yuji Okumoto. He said
“Beautiful words. Incredible story. You’re an inspiration.” But all I could think was “Oh
my GAWD! You’re the guy from Karate Kid II !” Here’s the pic to prove it.



After dessert, the VIPs sauntered into the main theater. I had to rush backstage
because I was basically the “opening act”. As I came down the hallway, every security
guard had an earpiece and as I walked by, they would press their fingers against their
ears ala Mission Impossible. The communiqué was
“Christine is coming down the main
hallway and headed
towards the stage door”. Wha? What am I?! Aerosmith?!



The main act was Martin Nievera, who has been described as the “Ricky Martin of the
Philippines”. We barely had a chance to bond before I was ushered from the green
room to the stage. It was the first
time I saw the theater and when I looked up, what
went
through my head was “O.M.F.G.!!!!!” The place was HUGE.




It reminded me of a Vienna opera house. There was a
Mezzanine AND three additional
tiers. Gulp. The
MCs for the evening darted past me and onto the stage and (adding to
the surrealism)
began to talk about someone named “Christine Pechera”. Then the
room hushed once
more and projected on the giant movie screen was the latest short
film of my story. So
I’m standing there, watching this film and living through the
transplant
all over again. Up on screen, I am in cotton hospital gown, bald, bloated and
in turmoil. It was quite a
contrast to my silk red evening gown, heels, coiffed hair and
the undeniable realization once more of “Wow.
I’m still breathing… this kicks azz!”

The film ends and a nudge from the stage manager has my heels echoing across the
stage to the podium. The
place was cavernous. After the applause died down, I
squinted into the white-hot spotlight and for a brief
second, had to resist the urge to
raise my arms ala Evita and sing, “Don’t cry for me ArgenTINA!”



Since the same hundreds of people from the Gala dinner
were now peppered in the
audience of perhaps 2000, I had prepared a completely different speech. At one point,
I had the entire theater inhale and exhale
slowly as one. That was pretty awesome.

After I spoke, I thought, “Great, my job is done. Time to relax” and I snuck to my chair
in the audience. Martin Nievera bursted onto the stage and rocked the house. I was
enjoying the music when suddenly things
went Twilight Zone again. I heard my name
bellowing
from the huge speakers, echoing all around. “Where is she?! Where is
Christine Pechera?!” cried out Mr. Nievera. My eyes widened. “Oh NO, he isn’t!” The
house lights came up
and Martin was now at the edge of the stage, hand on his brow as
if peering through the fog for a distant ship. Oh well… you only live once… so I bolted
up
from my seat, frantically waved my arms and screamed “I’m HERE Marteeeeeen!!!!!”
The entire audience in the
orchestra section around me was sitting low in their seats and
there I was bopping up and down like a
Jack-In-The-Box. As soon as I stood up, there
was a collective gasp as in “Oh my God, she is sitting right HERE?! Holy shmokie!” I
guess should have asked for a box seat?



Anyway, Martin spots me and says some nice things,
which makes my cheeks blush.
Then the lights go down, the spotlight hones in and Nievera SERENADES me from the
stage! It was like one of those teenage
Rock’n’Roll fantasies where Elvis picks YOU
out of the crowd, points and says “Hey you. (hubbahubba) Yeah you. (a-hubba) I’m
singing this next song just for YOU.” The
song was called Wildflower and the lyrics
went
something like ”She’s made it. She’s finally made it. She’s blooming wide, like a
wildflower.”


At intermission, I decided to go to the lobby to look
at the items in the Silent Auction.
With my
“entourage”, we passed the earpieced security guards, pushed beyond the
stage door and out into the crowd.




I never made it to the Silent Auction tables.

I couldn’t walk more than a step or two before a nice man wanted a picture or an
excited lady wanted to meet
or another wanted to share her story. I tried my best to
answer all questions and fulfill all requests but
had to retreat backstage when it became
too much. But
backstage, photos were taken with the choir, the stage managers,
members of the band, press people and of course, Martin Nievera.



Towards the end the evening, a staff member of A3M approached me and said, “I don’t
know what you said or did but the marrow drive in the lobby is out of control!” When I
last checked there were well over
100 people signed up and more to go. It was the
most
registrants A3M had ever seen on their annual Gala night... ever. More signed up
than in the last five
Gala nights combined. Cool!

As one of the founders of A3M said, “This was a magical night”. And it was. I met
some incredible
people and heard some amazing stories of survival. This included other
BMT survivors and those recently
diagnosed. In the end, we are all in this together.
My goal for the night was about creating awareness,
spreading the word, and saving
lives. I wanted to inspire others to speak up, to live, to DO something. I think we,
(that is EVERYONE who contributed to the Gala fundraiser) can say we changed a
small part of
the world that night. On posters and invites, the evening was fittingly
called the “Miracles” concert.



Long after the concert was over, there remained a
serpentine line outside waiting as
Nievera signed
autographs at a table. I was spent from all the attention and just wanted
to go home, light some
candles and soak in a hot bath. As I walked out, Nievera’s PR
guy called out to me, and turned to
Nievera exclaiming, “Christine is LEAVING!” Martin
jumped from his chair and we hugged across the velvet ropes. He whispered, “You stay
healthy”. I gushed,
“You stay awesome.” (I’m such a cheeseball!)

As I walked out to leave, a small group of people followed. I guess they wanted to
watch me climb into
my limo and wave as I headed back to my swanky mansion in
the Hollywood Hills. The problem: There is no mansion and there was no
Limo. Instead
everyone was treated to a walk into the
parking lot and the sing-song of my car.
“Beep-Bip-BOOP!”


The engine purred, I shifted gears, and headed towards the Freeway back to Reality.

xo,
cp

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Big A3M Benefit this Sunday, Oct 14

Just a quick update:

This Sunday, October 14, I have the honor of being the guest
speaker at a dinner and concert benefit for Asians for
Miracle Marrow Matches. The event is A3M's main annual
fundraiser.



Philippine songster Martin Nievera will be performing from his
repetoire in addition to American standards, oldies and classic
Broadway hits. Attached is the flyer for anyone who is curious
or interested in attending. I plan to dance in the aisles.

http://www.asianmarrow.org/events/martin2007/index.htm


Even with all the involvement in cancer related activities,
I am slowly but surely rebuilding my "normal" life; shedding
the role of "cancer patient" and embracing a beautiful new
and healthy La Vie en Rose. Thank God for second chances…

Much Love,
Christine

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Writing for Wellness

Today marks the release of "Writing for Wellness: A Prescription for Healing". I am honored to be one of the many contributing writers in this life-changing book.

"Writing for Wellness" is based on the writer's group of the same name at City of Hope, a group I have been part of since my first treatment at the cancer center.

The book illustrates how one can cope, connect and heal through writing. It contains inspirational submissions by cancer patients, caregivers, survivors and family members. Truly, it is a rare glimpse into the minds and hearts of people going through one of the greatest trials of their life. It is also a practical "how to" for anyone who wants to learn how writing can help you heal.

The City of Hope writing program, presented in the book, was developed by Julie Davey, a former writing and journalism professor and two-time cancer survivor.

Because of the book, the writing program is already being adopted at other hospitals across the country. We, the writers, ultimately hope that the healing and sharing we experienced in our little group will be re-created and repeated for others. By sharing our words, we hope to help many who are going through grave and uncertain times.

The book is available through many sources, including Amazon.com.

All proceeds from the book go to City of Hope.

Hugs,
Christine

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Making a Run for It

When I first was diagnosed with cancer five years ago I kept repeating to myself “Only good will come of this. Whether I live or die, only good will come of this.” I prayed this everyday.

And out of the fire, good did come.

Most of this good was not by my hands but by the hands of strangers and friends. And it is wonderful to see that “good” continues to pay it forward.

A few months ago, my friend Barbara would have laughed if you asked her to trod a full mile non-stop. But after hearing the news of my clear scans and being cancer-free she thought “Wouldn’t it be great to give to another cancer patient, the chance to experience the miracle that Christine has accomplished.” A self-proclaimed “not a runner type”, she is currently in training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society half-marathon to raise money to fight cancer. Barbara is awesome. Check out her homepage and see a nostalgic photo of what I used to look like in that big blue hospital mask:

http://www.active.com/donate/tntgla/tntglaBGregso


My friend and fellow Bone Marrow Transplant survivor, Janice and her husband Larry will be participating in the “Light the Night” Walk this Sunday in Woodland Hills. The walk raises money to, you guessed it, fight cancer. Janice and I were roommates at City of Hope. She continues to support and help patients, whether it be raising funds for research or sitting bedside to lend a hand to hold onto. Janice is a goddess. Here is her page:

http://www.active.com/donate/ltnLosAn/2046_JLevyLTN


Both of these fundraising walks address blood cancers, the category of cancer in which my Lymphoma diagnosis falls under. If you can contribute to help find a cure for this disease, please do. It’s amazing what a few dollars put in the right direction can do to change the world.

Changing gears. I’d like to thank the team who participated in my name (In my honor? What’s the right word here?) at the Beer Olympics in Williamsburg, Brooklyn recently. A good time for a good cause. Congratulations guys!

Hugs,
Christine

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm Back!

I'm back after an emotional
homecoming to the Northwest
and the East
coast. It was the
first time I was allowed on a
commercial flight
since
December 2005. As the plane
lifted off the earth, my throat

clenched and tears began to
stream down
my cheeks. I thought, “My God,
I
made it. We did it. It’s August 2007 and I’m alive.” This thought
popped into my head everyday, several times a day as I made my way through the
streets of Seattle, strode the great avenues of Manhattan and sailed the
gleaming waters of Martha’s Vineyard. A year ago I
didn't even have the
strength to walk more than a few feet. Now I am
riding my bike for miles
and making plans for months ahead. MONTHS ahead!!! You have no idea
how GOOD that feels for someone who, at one
point, wondered everyday
if she would make it through the night.


I have not updated my blog in the last few weeks because I took a much
needed break. It has been 21 straight months of searching, fighting,
praying, hoping, crying, introspecting, speaking, reaching, dealing
with, recovering, writing, giving, surviving and talking cancer. I
needed some downtime before embarking on this second chance at life.

I have much to catch up on, plus there is a lot going on, so instead
of writing one huge onerous message, I’m going to break it up into
smaller bites so all the details are easier to digest. For now,
here’s a quick summary:




While on this first vacation, I found out tha
t my survival story and
prom celebration were on the front page of a few national papers and
that a video news segment about the party was broadcast around the
world via satellite TV. “Forever Young 2007” is probably the only
fake prom to ever be broadcast worldwide! It’s wonderful to know that
a small group of people, dancing under aluminum stars and paper
streamers, (in terrible 80s outfits, mind you) can create so much hope
for so many. :)













The Writing for Wellness book is coming out next week and we already

have thousands of pre-orders via Amazon.com. The writing program
developed in our class (and featured in the book) is being introduced
to health centers across the country. We (the writers) are excited to
know that other patients and families will benefit from the healing
power of writing and sharing with others. All proceeds from the book
benefit City of Hope. I’ll send the link soon.

I continue to speak at events and fundraisers and will give more
details about a huge dinner/concert event on October 14 for A3M (I’ll
be speaking in front of up to 2000 people that night!), a big
dinner/dance on November 10 for Angels of Hope, and a Comedy
fundraiser later this winter in San Francisco for the Asian-American
Donor program.

I have a few friends who are participating in marathons and walks to
raise money and awareness for cancer research. Please look out for
those updates and help support someone who is trying to make a
difference. All you have to do is pledge. They will do all the hard
work for you! (Meaning running like, 26 MILES!) All you have to do is
click "send".

There’s probably more pertinent stuff I’ll remember over the next day
or two. Yup, got a lot of catching up to do! In more ways than one.
Life is good.

Love,
Christine

Saturday, August 11, 2007

pre-Prom Update

We have so much to celebrate this weekend. My father's voice broke
apart on the phone when he realized that this "Celebration of Life"
was actually happening. I cried too. Who would have guessed that
this devastating nightmare would have such a fairytale outcome. I'm
so thankful for every little thing, every little moment of every day.

The results of the "one-year" Bone Marrow Biopsy came back 100% donor.
In the past, "100% donor" meant "promising" or "a good sign". The
marrow also came back "clear". This triple-confirms that the cancer
has completely vanished. At 13 months out, it is safe to officially
say that the donor marrow has taken and that the transplant is
successful.

My brother and I in the fountain at Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill

I just returned from Seattle, my first trip since all this began so
long ago. When the plane lifted off the tarmac my heart burst with so
much happiness that I couldn't stop tearing up. It wasn't until we
reached altitude that I let it sink in... I am finally free. Up in
Seattle, I met more people whose lives were changed by this crazy
journey. A church that conducted a marrow drive honored me, my family
and my friends C and M. I also met someone whose life was literally
saved by the campaign. It was incredibly humbling.

When the one-year milestone passed, I received the name and contact
info of my donor. I was handed a Chinese name and an e-mail address.
I stared at it for a week. I couldn't believe my donor, my hero, was
only a click away. We are now communicating via e-mail. His wife is
a 10-year survivor of APL. They have a son. My donor's name remains
anonymous to the public for now... at least until I get his permission
to reveal his name to everyone. I can't wait for the day when we will
meet face to face.

The Prom, to me, is like a high school graduation. It represents the
end of a special time and the beginning of an expanded time. We are
all blessed. I am in tears as I write this. Thank you, everyone
everyone everyone for seeing this girl through to the other side.

Love,
Christine

P.S. Let's ROCK the house.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remembering Harrison

Harrison Leonardo, after spending more than half of his precious life
fighting cancer, has passed away. Harrison's story was and always has
been... and will continue to be... one of major inspiration to me and
so many others.


Life... is... Precious...

with love,
christine

Saturday, July 21, 2007

PET/CT Scan Resuts

PET/CT Scan Results

My Bone Marrow Transplant specialist, Dr. Nade called to read the official report:

"There has been COMPLETE RESOLUTION of previously identified anterior mediastinal hypermetabolic tissue. There is no evidence of metabolically active neoplasm."

In other words, the tumors have completely vanished. Poof. Gone. The scans are 100% crystal clear.


My radiologist, Dr. Krazny said:

"There is no indication of cancer whatsoever."

Not one blip. Not even a speck. I'm as fresh as a newborn.


My oncologist, Dr. Piro showed me the scans. The images were a cool blue, a peaceful blue. A vast empty void of pure, unadulterated pristine health.

I am absolutely, completely, without-a-doubt, you-betcha-britches cancer-free.


After 20 months of uncertainty and heartache, this is beyond Miracle.


All my love,
Christine


P.S. More later. I need to sit down and catch my breath!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Upcoming Scans

The nervousness is beginning to mount as the dates for the PET/CT scans and Bone Marrow Aspiration procedure approach. I cannot stress enough how important these tests are. The results of these tests are EVERYTHING to me. It's like waiting for the letter telling you whether you got into your dream college or not. Or waiting to hear if you got that awesome job. Or waiting for that pregnancy test to turn blue or not. Your whole life hinges on the results. Except this time, it is not the course of your life but literally your own life that is at stake.

I've been doing okay and been dealing with only minor to moderate health issues (knock on wood!). These tests will determine if the bone marrow transplant was truly a success and possibly determine if it will be a long-term success.

Thursday, July 19 I have my PET/CT scans in Santa Monica and Tuesday, July 24 is the Bone marrow aspiration. I should get the results soon after. I hope to come back with good news.

hugs,
Christine

P.S. I will be at City of Hope for a day of appointments tomorrow. I was hoping we could say a little prayer for my hormone levels which remain a bit tweaked.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Francis Rex

Originally I was going to post a message I wrote the other day about how I celebrated my one-year BMT anniversary on July 5th. However another anniversary, a somber one that I feel is far more important to remember, is also upon us.

Friday July 13th 2007, will mark the anniversary of the day my brother, Francis Rex, lost his battle with Cancer. Seventeen years ago, on Friday July 13th 1990, I held his hand as it slowly went cold. I remember my mother didn't scream. She cowered over the hospital bed, exhausted and broken after five draining years, pleading with everyone in the room to please "Embrace him while he is still warm." I remember my father frozen and unreachable, his eyes scorched and sunken, staring at the white sheets that held his eldest son. I remember the nurses sobbing. And it was the doctor who had gone mad and was screaming, clenching hair in ripping fists, repeatedly shouting over and over and again, "He is in a better place now!" Shouting at no one, but instead, it seemed, to placate himself.

And my thoughts raced, raced as far as it could go, out of the room, away from this boy who could not possibly be my brother because my brother could not possibly be dead. My thoughts ran far away, back to when before he got sick. Back to BMX bikes and Rocket pops and Little League games. Back to summer and hopping across river stones, watermelon juice dripping on bent elbows, and silly giggles in the back of our big red station wagon. In our backyard pool we used to pretend "National Geographic". Rex would flop, swim and splash while I'd play Jacques Cousteau and follow his every move, describing in great detail this "strange new animal" to our enraptured TV audience.

In the years before he died, Rex and I would often stay up late talking. While other kids were gabbing about GI Joe, Donkey Kong and soccer camp, Rex and I would ask each other questions about God and life and what happens after we die. Back then, I was 14 and he was 12. He dreamed someday to become a pediatric oncologist and save the lives of other children with cancer. His wish was to be able to comfort a young patient like himself and give hope with his own story of survival… "So when one of them says `I'm scared' I can tell them I was scared too but look at me now, I'm cured."

In the days that my brother fought cancer, he never complained or revealed how scared he was. Rex held immense strength, profound wisdom and peace in his heart… all in the years before he turned 16. Because of our late night talks I thought I understood what he was feeling inside. But it was not until I got cancer that I truly understood and felt what fear and uncertainty really meant. To know the meaning of life is to know the meaning of death. My brother was so brave. There was no such thing as anti-nausea medications or any of the other medicines that help the patients of today. Back then, it was just raw, barbaric, vein-ripping chemotherapy. Compared to my brother, I had a cake walk.

Today I realized that for the first time, my brother will have been dead longer than he was alive. It's a mindF—k. Rex never had the life experiences we take for granted: his first kiss, driving a car, graduating from high school, being in love, a summer job… never mind the college experience or the joys that come after. My brother Marc shares the same Birthday as Rex, though Marc was born four years younger. May 17 has never been able to recapture the joy it once held. It is strange to think that you could ever be older than your older brother. Marc is now 29.

On one of our last late night talks, Rex and I realized that, because I was his marrow donor, a part of me would literally die with him if he lost his battle with cancer. We laughed but suddenly became very quiet. Then in deep earnest he said "If I die you have to promise me that you will live for the both of us."

People often ask me where I get my zest and passion for life: why I can be in any situation and have the time of my life: why I have all this energy, excitement, spontaneity, acceptance, affection, faith and love. It is because over 17 years ago I made a promise to a dying boy that his young life would not be lost in vain but would be remembered in every moment of mine. That is how I honor and remember my brother: By living this life as magnificently as possible and infecting everyone I come across with the magic, exhilaration and wisdom that Rex taught me.

My dear brother Rex, you remain forever alive in our hearts.

Love,
Christine


P.S. I wrote this several days ago but think it may be appropriate to
share now:



This life will end someday
But the planets will still continue their elliptical paths
And stars will implode and galaxies reborn
The ants will still find their way into honey
As ever, Love will be fought for
And broken hearts will slowly mend
And a stranger will save another man's soul.

This life will end someday
And on that day this soul will look back.
The consequences of its actions
will lift him up
or burden on him heavily.

This life will end someday
But not today.
So strike your path and find your way into honey
The galaxies will spin despite your misery or joy
Eternal life lies within us
Let Love save your soul.



Christine Pechera
July 3, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fireworks

Anniversaries and holidays conjure up all sorts of memories and emotions. The last few days have been very introspective and raw.

When thoughts and feelings are twisting inside, a walk is a good way to sort them out. It was on one of these walks last week that I was especially tormented by the memories and tears of last year. My plodding along the sidewalk was suddenly stopped short by a glint of color. Coming into focus, flitting right in front of my eyes, I swear, was a saffronbutterfly. Alright, it was actually pungent-orange in color but that's close enough for me. The tops of its wings appeared to have rhinestones on it. Shiny, glinting spots that caught flashes of the sun. Mesmerized, I slowly raised my hand palm up. On cue, the butterfly gently landed on my fingertips! I swallowed my gasp, for fear of scaring the beautiful creature away. Then I imagined what this scene must have looked like to passers-by. Some urbane Snow White in T-shirt and jeans, gazing at a butterfly on her fingertips. It gently raised and lowered it's shimmering wings. Looking at it, I was hoping for some profound message, some great epiphany, the great existential answer to all the ancient questions about meaning and existence. But it just rested there for a bit before flitting away. I stood and watched it waft towards some blossoming bushes. Perhaps it was just a little wink from the universe.

This weekend I was visiting a friend's place and had the pleasure of picking plums, apricots and apples from the fruit trees. Summer was bursting everywhere. Heaven is the simple joy of precariously cradling an armful of fresh-picked fruit, while reaching up to pluck yet another ripe plum.

Last year, on the eve of the transplant July 4, in the midst of great uncertainty and fear, a glass partition stood between me and my friend M. I lamented that I was in the hospital, on my favorite day of the year. And I cried out against the statistics that said I would never see another summer. From my bed and through the glass pane, M and I promised each other that we would be together "next year" and I would be healthy and cancer-free and we'd watch the Fireworks outside, under the stars, and drink wine and hug and toast to life. Last night, we did just that. Along with a few other friends, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for the Fireworks show. I felt something in me burst as the sky lit up with sparks and fiery whistles. Everything about that moment was what I so earnestly prayed and hoped for, all alone in that dark hospital bed a year ago. Of course the tears would not stop running down my face. It felt like I finally made it home.

- - - - -
An edited version of what I wrote last July 4:

the night before the transplant i am sending love out in all directions from my bed. From my window tonight, I could see the entire horizon ablaze with fireworks. It was the most spectacular July 4th I've ever seen….. Yes, I'm a little scared and a little anxious, but I'm just filling myself with love and gratitude and faith to make it through the next 24 hours. So, sending sparks and fireworks to everyone from my heart to yours. I will be praying all night tonight. Praying that a year from now we will be watching fireworks together. And that 50 years from now we'll still be craning our necks to the sky to shout out "oooh and"aaah".

- - - - -

July 4th is my thanksgiving. It's about uniting with friends and community and taking the time to enjoy life together. I've seen too many who succumbed to cancer this past year. Beautiful husbands, brilliant girls, promising sons. I live my life fully in honor of them. I am so blessed to have reached this point. I have scans and tests at the end of the month to see if the transplant will be a long term success.


This year, I hope the Fireworks remind all of us of all our blessings.

As ever,
Christine


P.S. July 5, the actual transplant day, I made another fun "next year" wish that will come true. That'll be in my next post!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Save the Date" and SiCKO

Save the Date! It's official. 80s Prom Night 2007 - Forever Young: Reclaim the Dream, will take place Saturday August 11!

This is it. The big party to celebrate beating the big nasty "C". This will not only be a night of unconditional love wrapped up in a bunch of silly fun, but a night to look back and celebrate all that we accomplished last year, of beating the odds, of rising to the occasion, of taking something so ugly, scary and uncertain and transforming it into something far-reaching and beautiful. Not only do I want to celebrate the miracle that I am still alive, but also the miracle of life that every one of us shares at this VERY moment. Our turn on the ride. For now, the world is ours. Don't miss out on it.

Prom Night is going to rock. Why the 80s? It was the decade of "Choose Life", "Open Arms", and Dancing on the Ceiling". It was a time of optimistic youth, electric keyboards and romantic dreams. We pined to "In Your Eyes", practiced our Billy Idol snarls, bopped in our basements to "Blister in the Sun", squeezed into Jordache jeans, scrunched Dippity-Do into our hair, dabbed on some "Drakkar Noir" or "L'air du Temps" and made out in the back seats of giant Buicks. We embraced life. So dust off those ruffled blue tuxedos and shiny-magenta taffeta dresses. You have six solid weeks to find yourself a babysitter, some blue eye shadow and the most atrocious outfit. Corsages and boutonnières welcomed. And don't worry about going solo; quite a few of you are deciding to go stag. We're gonna let it all go, breath out a huge collective sigh of relief. And dance our little buttooski's off! WE DID IT. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. Evite coming soon.

Changing gears: I had the privilege of attending an exclusive preview screening of "SiCKO" earlier this week. After the screening, Michael Moore held an electrifying Q&A with Ron Howard. I say: See this movie. It is revealing, shocking, enlightening, depressing and hopeful all at once. There is a segment that has to do with Bone Marrow Transplantation and all I can say is that the same situation could have happened to me. One sobering fact that Moore shared in the Q&A which was not mentioned in the film: Our generation will be the first generation in the history of America that can expect a SHORTER life span than the previous generation. The WWII generation is healthier, stronger, and will live to an older age than my generation can ever hope for. [[[shudder]]] This movie helps explain why.

I have PET/CAT scans and a Bone Marrow biopsy at the end of July. They represent a sort of Finish Line to this 19-month marathon. I hope to pass with flying colors.


Alive and Kicking,
Christine

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

pituitary wonder

I was at City of Hope all day yesterday. And I had doctor appointments all day today. Recuperation really is a full-time job. :)

Another inexplicable-miracle-something has happened in the last week. As you all know, my endocrine system has been messed up, my pituitary gland shut down, sending all bodily systems controlled by hormones into a tizzy and that basically means the WHOLE body. The docs originally said I might have to be on medication for the rest of my life. Well, thanks to prayer and alternative medicine, the results today indicated that my endocrine system is back to NORMAL! My pituitary gland is A-OK! The endocrine doctor was "very pleased" to see that the problem was "resolving on it's own" and my oncologist was simply ecstatic. Next comes estrogen, the PMS hormone. Hopefully that issue will resolve "on it's own" too. This turn of events is simply amazing. Even I'm astounded.

Other good news, my WBC counts are officially in the normal HEALTHY range (not just the "acceptable" range). I can eat salads in restaurants now! I can go to crowded places! (Like rock concerts!) I can swim in the ocean! Also, I'm allowed to FLY on commercial airlines again!!!!! Yaaaay! I have not traveled more than 150 miles outside of LA for over a year… and haven't had a real vacation in over two years. I wish I could get a ticket to everywhere and eat huge salads on all the worlds oceans!

The one-year anniversary of the transplant will be in two weeks. July 5, 2006 was the day my whole body changed and the odds were horribly against us. Remember that wish made that we'd be watching fireworks and "saying Ooh and Aaah a year from now"? Well, I can't wait for July 4th! I'm trying to figure out ways to mark the solemn, yet auspicious day.

Prom Night has been a challenge to plan. Sorry but I spoke too soon about the date. It appears that July 28 won't work for varying reasons, plus it is very likely that a VERY important party/fundraiser will be happening that same night which a lot of us will be attending (Including myself! The Kegger4Kevin). It looks like we are pushing into August now. I'll keep everyone posted.

One request. I visited two dear friends and City of Hope patients today. Joel is a 30-something rabbinical student who is married to a beautiful and strong woman named Heather. They have three young boys together. Robin is also in her early 30s. She is married to a wonderful guy and has a little daughter named Hailey. Joel and Robin are both going through what I went through last year. They just had their transplants last week and are going through a very rough and uncertain time. I just ask everyone to say a little prayer for them. They both have beautiful souls and both have so much yet to give to this world.

The best thing we can do with our lives is to be there for each other.

Much love,
Christine

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

GVH

I got not so great news yesterday. The Graft vs. Host has gotten worse and I'm back on anti-rejection medication and now on prednisone, a powerful steroid with infamous side effects. Chronic GVH shows up in a good percentage of post BMT-patients usually around the one-year mark, but only if triggered. If treated well, the condition is merely a temporary unpleasantness. But if not kept in check, can spiral into something far worse.

Tomorrow, June 6, is the fifth anniversary of my initial diagnosis and it makes me somber to think I have been fighting this disease for so long. I remember when I first got diagnosed; I thought "Six months and then I'm out". I could have never imagined I would still be fighting up to now. Then again, the odds said that I shouldn't have made it this far. I feel both joy and sadness.

On a brighter note, this Friday June 8 there is a good chance you might see me on TV again. I was interviewed for the show "Making the Cut" airing at 5pm and 9pm on TLC. I spoke about the loss you feel when all your hair falls out because of chemotherapy. But I also spoke of the hope and joy you feel as it slowly grows back after cancer. Anyway, I thought I'd let y'all know in case you want to check it out. My hair was still uber short so I look very different.

xo,
Christine

Sunday, June 3, 2007

National Cancer Survivor's Day

Today was National Cancer Survivor’s Day. Every year on the first Sunday of June, events take place in communities across the nation to celebrate life after cancer. City of Hope has one of, if not THE biggest event of them all.

The theme this year was “Academy of Hope Awards”, complete with Oscar statues, stretch limos and the illustrious red carpet. I volunteered, dressing up like Kate Winslet from Titanic, an outfit that included a wig of long luscious auburn hair. My friend CN is a Marilyn Monroe impersonator and she fired up the red carpet while I helped welcome and take pictures of the beaming survivors. We wanted them to feel like stars. We even had paparazzi and adoring fans cheering the survivors on as they stepped out from their limos. Just being there was magical and unbelievably rewarding. One sincere smile coming from one sincere soul can restore faith in anything.

While I was there a young woman approached me and said my name in earnestness. How she recognized me in that giant wig I do not know. But she introduced herself and her eyes welled up as she told me the story of her Mother. How a year ago her Mother was told she was dying of cancer and sorry there was nothing the doctors could do for her anymore. They gave her Mother a bottle of morphine and sent her home to die. This young woman said her mother was at first resigned to her fate but then was inspired when she saw our website. Her Mom decided to fight, went to City of Hope and was given a brand new drug that no one has ever heard of. One year later and there was her Mom standing in front of me, healthy and cancer–free. We both burst into tears and hugged each other for what seemed like forever. Her husband glowed. The young woman’s mother kept repeating, “Because of you, I am alive. Because of you.” And I smiled but all I kept thinking was, it wasn’t just me, it was everyone. My friends, my family, and people I haven’t even met who inspired her to not give up and seek the right doctors and treatment for herself. And then I felt so blessed for having such incredible people in my life. Again, what we have accomplished together is simply immeasurable.

Update on health: I go in tomorrow for another full day at City of Hope. Health-wise, there are still some complications going on with my skin, endocrine system and whatnot. But compared to other patients at 11 months post-transplant, I am doing remarkably well.

Since I started getting acupuncture treatments three weeks ago, my energy and stamina have skyrocketed. I fulfilled another wish and returned to my beloved bike path and actually pedaled all the way from Playa Del Rey to Manhattan Beach and back. Granted, I was slow and it took me three times as long to do it but I did it and even I was amazed. There was no way I could have done it 6 weeks ago. Recently I went to a party my friend was DJ’ing and was able to rock out and dance without hurting myself. Again, I was amazed that I could keep up. The best part was when some college-age kids in attendance asked “So when do YOU graduate?” “Very soon.” I thought. “Very soon.”

Much love,
Christine

P.S. The other night I walked along a warm sidewalk chasing the colored sprinkles and vanilla ice cream dripping down from my cone and onto my fingers. My friends and I talked about plans for beach bonfires, the Hollywood Bowl, and camping in the Sierras. Aah, I thought, summer has officially begun. Care to join? :)