And What Followed...

Friday, December 29, 2006

From Carlos - Christine in Hospital for New Year's Eve

Hi, everyone.

I spoke to Christine this morning, Friday 12/29. She sounded not happy about still being in the hospital for obvious reasons. Overall she was positive though, said she was happy, pointing out that she reached the anniversaary of when the doctors told her she had less than a year to live. It's been a year, she is still here -- enough said, as she put it.

She's been in the hospital for 10 days now. She has "complications" but so far the docs have not been able to figure out specifically what they are. It's not a virus, it's not a bacteria, it's not GVH (thank God, she said). They have been giving her vitamins and minerals as they continue trying to figure out what's going on.

Most likely, she will still be in the hospital on New Year's Eve, as she was on Christmas. If anyone wants to put on a hospital mask and hang out with her, they are welcome to. She's thinking about escaping her room and partying on the roof. Or maybe holding wheelchair races in the hallway (winner gets hospital ice cream). She also pointed out that she can score pretty much anything from the pharmacy -- morphine, vicodin, or my personal favorite, codeine. If anyone has other ideas as to how she can ring in '07, she is open to suggestions.

She's also open to suggestions regarding a nickname that would reflect her recent weight changes. Before going back to the hospital she had lost 27 pounds, and since being in the hospital she's gained 13. She thinks she should have a nickname. She doesn't want to be called Yo-Yo Pechara because that's "too easy." She's thinking maybe Spongebob Pechera or Shrinky Dink Pechera.

In closing, she asked that I say to everyone on her behalf the timeless words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, everyone." Then she laughed, which was a relief because for a second I thought she was turning cornball.

Christine's friend, and possibly yours,


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From JT - Christine still in hospital for holidays

I'm writing this for Christine because she's not feeling well enough. She remains in the hospital and probably be staying for longer. She's okay but still struggling with stomach and other complications. Her LA friends got her a big Christmas Tree and even stayed overnight to make sure she didn't spend the holiday weekend alone. She is in room #5105. Please keep her in your prayers.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

From Barak - Sitting on Santa's lap

This is Barak writing from CP's hospital room.

OK, so sitting on Santa's lap did not really happen. That would be inappropriate and would scare the little children. But tonight was about as close as you can get to that from here.

There was a Christmas party for grown-ups at the City of Hope. Santa came from the North Pole, bringing gifts and granting wishes. (Actually, Christine and I arrived after Santa had left, but someone paged his little helpers and Santa made a special second visit.)

All the patients got raffle tickets, and Christine won! I guess it's her special luck. Her prize was a gift card that she hopes to use after she leaves the hospital. The entertainment consisted of a guitarist, a Harpist and a banjo player, the perfect combination for Christmas carolls.

Then beauty queens from Miss Asia USA walked around handing out scarves and posing for photos. At one point, Christine had everyone pose with their arms outstretched like Broadway stars. The funniest thing was seeing Santa leaning over to Christine, clearly nervous about spoiling her imprompu Christmas photo shoot, and asking her for stage directions. (In the end, they all followed her lead.) We took a few photos and shot some video, sang some carolls and told a few jokes.

I think Christine forgot that she was still tied to an IV pole, because in the end she insisted on taking group photos with the carollers and playing the harp from her wheelchair. We got some candy canes from Santa, and in typical Christine fashion we were literally the last people to leave the party.

It looks like Christine will be here for a few more days, just healing and getting better. She's a little uncomfortable with cramps, but in very good hands and on very good medication. Christmas may be a little lonely this year, buy it'll be one heck of a good day to be alive.


From Jerome - Christine on 24-hour cocktail

Hey everyone, I'm in the room with Christine (wink wink)and she wants everyone to know that she's sorry for not being able to send Christmas gifts and cards. She's hoping to have a belated Christmas as soon as she gets better.

She's not doing so well. She's in alot of discomfort

She's on a 24 hour cocktail of morphine and ativan.

Christine's thinking about you and she misses you. But she still has a fight ahead of her, so please keep her in your prayers!


p.s. An elderly woman stopped by with a beautiful blue afghan that she hand knitted for Christine. They were strangers to each other but the outpouring of love was immeasurable. I was honored to be a part of that.


been on on morphine/ativan cocktail all day & heaading into motphine lala land onight..
hey, i see double. Quick! There goes the whitte rabbit,
TERRIBLE news. I will Most likely be in hospital from now throughon Chritmas. (Wwhhhhaaahh!) EMOTIONS RUNN HIGHER

MyHOLIDAY cards and giftsi are just collectuing dust home.sorr;y;;; I' so ou t of it. did i kiss someome last nght?

does anyone vwant t rent cozy cute a cabin idyllild got this weeken. strwberry crek, Arr: Sat23 Dep25

Me cant go no more :(



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

From Barak - From Christine's hospital bed

This is Christine's friend Barak writing from the hospital room. Christine is currently recovering from today's General Anesthesia, as well as Ambien and Ativan. The doctors have been supplying her with saline and electrolytes to rehydrate her body and replenish her with nutrients.

Her IV tree has several bags to supply her with everything that's been depleted. She's feeling like a jellyfish on ecstasy, filled up with fluids and rolling on cloud nine. In short, they are taking very good care of her at City of Hope. The biggest discomfort is a nauseating tummy ache.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we expect to get the results from today's tests and procedures, and I'm hoping that she gets to go home real soon. Christine hopes she can still go to Idyllwild this weekend, where she was planning to spend a relaxing and quiet Christmas making s'mores and throwing snowballs.

Your prayers and support are very important to Christine, and she holds you all close in her heart. She feels blessed to be able to share her updates with you, and wishes everyone a safe and joyful holiday season.

- Barak

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Set Back - Back in the hospital

Hey guys, sorry to keep this short but here is what's happening. I was admitted to City of Hope today for dehydration and severe weight loss and other related complications. (Lost over 20 lbs in one month... not good for the kidneys.)

Gonna have a bunch of tests & procedures tomorrow, which includes an endoscopy... which means I'm going to be put under (woo-hoo! I LOVE general anesthesia). The results of tomorrow's tests will tell us what to do next.

Graft-vs-Host is the suspect in this latest bout.

It's no fun to be tethered to an I.V. again, but thankfully they are just pumping me full of saline tonight.

much love,

From Den - Emergency! Pray for Christine!

Just got a text message from Christine, who was apologizing for having to postpone our planned Thursday dinner because she's just been admitted to the hospital for dehydration and severe weight loss. She asked me to update everyone.

She says: "Not exactly sure what is going on, just know that I'm in a dangerous situation. Heading to the emergency room right now."

Super-strong thoughts and prayers time, kids.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

165 Post Transplant - Happy Hanukah!

Happy Hanukah! (And only 7 days until Christmas!)

JC brought a very cool silver-blue Christmas Tree to my apartment this week. Not having any ornaments on hand, we put butterflies on the branches. Looks tres chic. My brother in NYC has a: ChristmasKwanzaaHanukahPanchaGanapatiSolsticeIdal-AdhaSoyalOmisokaYule Tree. That's his way of not keeping any of his friends out of the celebration.

We are 165 days post-transplant and counting down the 15 days to Day 180. Less than 50% of patients who make it through the type of procedure I went through actually survive past 180 days. "Fortunate" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. By sheer coincidence, Day 180 will be NEW YEAR'S DAY. Pretty awesome serendipity, if you ask me.

Actually, yesterday was the anniversary of the biopsy that started this whole rollercoaster ride. It's amazing even to me, that I'm above ground. I had a quiet celebration and then snuggled in bed for the rest of the night.

I hope everyone's holidays have been effervescent, magical and candy-cane blessed so far. And if it doesn't seem that way yet, just open your eyes a little wider. The world can only be as beautiful as you allow it to be.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Losing too much weight

I've been reading the concerned e-mails of the last few days and I am truly humbled by the responses for help. Today, blood levels nudged up just a wee bit, which brought me breathe a sigh of relief and made my doctor very happy.

I am "active" for 3-4 hours a day. The rest of the time I am conked out. The fatigue is not just "feeling tired": it's complete and total physical, emotional, mental drainage of chi and stamina. (Though I am in total denial of it sometimes.)

I may have lost a considerable amount of weight in only three weeks, but I like to think of it as my old "cancer weight" shedding away. The weight is actually back to where it was BEFORE diagnosis. My "Beyonce butt" has sadly melted away and now baby ain't got back, but a pair of old tight jeans that I haven't been able to fit into for years, hung loosely on me the other day. (I can see it now… the new Hollywood diet craze: lose weight fast by having a marrow transplant.) Seriously though, if I lose more weight, my doctor is going to force feed me enough steroids to make me eat like a horse and will start infusing me with lipid (i.e. FAT) bags. When they infuse you with one of those babies, you gain poundage in only a few hours.

But I am confident that this weird transition of sluggishness and rabid anorexia is only temporary. Each day there is a little bit of progress. Each day there is another joy. Despite the limitations of post-transplant-ism, I've been able to sneak out of the house to see the Philharmonic, have three TV interviews, enjoy some lovely dinners, and attend the Video Game Awards
(which had me practically bedridden for 3 days after). On Sunday, BR came over with a shopping bag full of ice cream, chocolate bundt cakes and whipped cream in an attempt to fatten me up. On Monday, RB grilled shish-kebabs to help with the blood cell count. Baby steps, ya know.

Much love this holiday season,
Christine P

Thursday, December 7, 2006

From Jennifer F - It takes time

i had a bone marrow transplant in april and it is really important that people around the area help christine out. i actually had my mother live with me for the first 100 days and i have my girlfriend who lives with me. things are very tiring and trying.

i don't know how her platelets are doing-but if she is getting transfusions and also if her platelets are not above 50,000, she should not be driving.

i cant believe people cannot drive her back and forth to her hospital appointments that is very serious to have someone there.

i live in new jersey. if i lived closer, i would try to help her out. i always make someone go with me because it is hard to go do that alone also

even now my counts went down yesterday and in two weeks when i go back, i have to do all these tests..

when i watched her on the news. i thought it was great they were following up, but i also thought the clip was deceiving. this is not over-and for at least a year to two, things can be hard. they might get a little easier, but things spring up.

thank you

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

From Colleen B - The best way to help

This holiday season we joyfully celebrate Christine’s release from the City of Hope. As everyone reading the posts knows, she went through the fires of hell and came out the other side.

Unfortunately, many seem to misunderstand her current status. Yes, Christine is out of the hospital, but she is not out of the woods. A cold or the flu, even exhaustion, could send her right back into hospital lock-up.

Christine is now in a new and in some ways equally difficult space. She is responsible for cooking, cleaning and managing her life. And she needs to do all of this with very little stamina. Tasks that would take a healthy person ten minutes take her an hour, because she needs to stop and rest so often. The process she is in now is critical. If you see her and she looks grand, know that before she saw you and after you run off to your next activity she will be in bed resting for several hours.

Those of you who know her, know Christine does not like to complain or whine. But her hold on life is still very fragile. Her job right now is to heal and rebuild her immune system. There can be no dancing, no books written, nor movies produced, until this major job is complete.

She absolutely needs all of us to continue to help in any and all ways we can. Our dear saffron butterfly still needs a lot of time in her healing cocoon before she can fly freely and do the thousands of things her soul is crying to do.

It may seem like the crisis is over, but it is not. Christine must stay well, rebuild her immune system and bring her body back to health. The goal was not just to survive the transplant; it is to get back to a healthy life.

Christine thanks God every morning for the gift of a new day. Going out on a simple errand she is thankful to be healthy enough to wait in line and be out in public. The tiny joys most of us overlook are huge to Christine. These outings also deplete the energy reserves she needs in order to heal.

Please keep Christine in your daily prayers and offer her help this holiday season (and beyond). She is alone and still in a serious phase of recovery.

Another way we can all help Christine is with gift cards. She is on her own without an income. Some ideas are gift cards for Trader Joes, Whole Foods, CVS (a local drugstore), maid service, gas, clothing stores (the poor woman has a cancer patient wardrobe, everything she owns holds memories of what medical appointment she wore them to). Or donate time to help
her clean, cook, do laundry, run errands or offer rides. During this season of joy and giving, please check her on-line calendar for ways to help. Offer whatever you can.

Our outpouring of love and support helped Christine get to this place in her recovery. Now let’s help her in this next stretch.

Blessings for a happy holiday season,
Colleen Bollen

Monday, December 4, 2006

Happy Holidays

I went to my first blow out holiday party this weekend at TC's and felt so blessed to see friends I haven't seen since the transplant!

I couldn't believe my own words as I stood with sparkling cider in one hand and bundt cake in the other: "I just got out of the
hospital three weeks ago." My acupuntcure doctor was there and serenaded me. Later I was in a fourway karaoke duet with EK, JW and SG to "Tubthumper". And I got behind the wheel of a Fire Truck, got to turn on the lights and got hugs from strapping firemen.

"I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down..."

We all toasted to life numerous times between hugs and welcomed disbelief that I was standing there to raise my glass along with everyone else. Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Recovery Time

It's hard to believe that less than 11 months ago I was told that I had less than a year to live. Now it's countdown to 2007.

At City of Hope yesterday, the latest results showed blood counts have stayed the same. A bit of calculating found that levels are:

White blood cells = 30% of a normal healthy person
Red blood cells = 60% of a normal healthy person
Hemoglobin = less than 60% of a normal healthy person
Platelets = less than 20% of a normal healthy person

No wonder I've been feeling so tired and out of it! Expressing impatience for my counts to go up, my oncologist DID point out that I was very lucky to be alive, in full-remission, without any major complications. Full-recovery is just going to take "some time".


I want so badly to live and get out there and fly, dance, climb, love, explore and BE. It's torturous, actually. But the risks are too great, so I have to sit, wait, hope, watch, rest and pray for my immune system to kick in and for cells to flourish. Time is precious, even when it means sacrificing some so that you can hopefully have more.

My doctor did say that one way to help blood counts & health (for anyone!) is to reduce the amount of stress in life. Most post-BMT survivors return to a home filled with loved ones to take care of the everyday. I have the challenge of living on my own. Over the last couple weeks, I experimented with the possibility of being as independent as possible and have learned
that, at this point, it is doing more harm than good. Simply doing the mundane such as dishes or laundry is a slow and deliberate process that leaves me worn out and on the couch for multiple catnaps a day. I hate to admit that I end up spending a lot of the day in bed.

So I humbly write this e-mail, of necessities and requests for help. And a solution to reduce the number of e-mails/calls for everyone.

Less stress… I hope.

Every Tuesday I need a ride to City of Hope. It's tricky to say how long the day will be. On a good day, the appointments will last 2-3 hours. On a bad day, 6-8 hours, though those days are very rare. Every once in awhile, I may need a lift to other appointments. Occasionally I may just drive myself if it's a quick trip and I'm feeling feisty and ambitious, but the less driving I do, the better.

Since I am my own caretaker and advocate, the YAHOO group Calendar will be used as a passive way to ask for help. Save the link below for easy access to the Calendar. If you feel like helping, want to visit or need a great excuse to drop by, check the calendar. Unless it is urgent or unusual, scheduled requests for help will not be sent out by e-mail.

I also need help with errands. I`m not exactly sure how to work that out. I guess if you happen to be in my neck of the woods, give me a call and maybe serendipity will step in. Or if you know that you will be going to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, The Co-op, Cost-co, or any errand-type place (i.e. post-office, pharmacy, hardware store) and you'd like some company
or have time to pick something up, call or e-mail to let me know. I will probably need something too.

I know the holidays are here and everyone is crazy busy and I don't wish to inconvenience anyone. But if you feel like taking a break from the crowded rush & bustle and want to walk at the pace of healing, recovery and self-discovery, I got a nice hot cup of tea waiting.

One last request: Flu season is upon us so please, if you have the sniffles or any ills, it would be best to send Season's Greetings through non-physical contact avenues of love. Happy Holidays. Let's celebrate this Season of Love. And Blessings always. Looking forward to a bright New Year.

Much love,

P.S. Looks like I will be on TV again. I have a shoot with TLC tomorrow. Not exactly sure what it's all about, but we'll see...

"Measure your Life in Love"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

From Rob B - Happy Turkey Day from C

Happy Turkey Day all,

I spoke with Christine last night for about an hour and she asked me to give everyone an update on how she is doing. First of all, she sounds amazing and is in good spirits. She loves being home but is still adjusting to her new old life. All of the wonderful phone calls and e-mail's are still reaching her and she is grateful for every one of them. But part of her recovery process is to take things easy and not over tax herself. Just going to the market to pick up an item requires an hour and a half nap afterwards. This is mainly due to the fact her red blood cell count is still very low and I am sure that those of you who have donated blood in the past know how tired you get afterwards. So she is currently trying to build her count back up and until she does, even the smallest chore exhausts her.

All of the messages that she is receiving are being read, but she doesn't quite have the energy to respond to all of them. I had a friend who had to rebuild their blood in much the same way Christine does and he told me that it does take some time and quite a bit of eating to accomplish. But keep those well wishes coming for they are much appreciated and eventually we shall hear from our special friend.

Again, she is doing well, her spirit is positive as always, and her commitment is strong. If anyone has any specific questions, please feel free to write back. Until then a very tired Christine and I wish everyone a very Happy and well fed Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 20, 2006

From Barak - Video Links to CBS TV News stories

Did you miss Christine on CBS?

The story was called "Culver City Woman Gets Marrow Transplant."

CBS 2 and KCAL 9 are sister-stations so it ran on both channels Sunday night. Click HERE to watch the video.

Also attached is the previous story link for "Culver City Woman Needs
Bone Marrow To Live." Click HERE to watch.

Barak R

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On TV tonight!

Hey all,

It's 6:00pm Sunday night and I just got off the phone with CBS and they are coming RIGHT NOW with a camera crew to interview me. The segment airs TONIGHT!

Also, I will be interviewed tomorrow at the KSCI studios for their Thanksgiving special. The taping is tomorrow but I'm not sure exactly when the show will air.


Thursday, November 9, 2006

Donor letter has to be anonymous

Stop the Presses!!! BM, a very aware friend and City of Hope post-transplant survivor cautioned about some of the limitations of writing a thank you letter to the donor:

"My donor didn't get a hat that I included because it had an American flag on it. I wasn't allowed to include anything that hinted at who I was or where I was from..... The receiving hospital will probably screen everything..... and eliminate anything that is 'locational'."

Because BOTH identities of the donor and patient must remain anonymous for at least one year, we have to be careful not to leave any clues that may reveal who I am or where I live. WE aren't even supposed to know that my donor is from China. Someone goofed and the privileged information accidentally slipped out of his/her mouth. Oops!

Soooo... obviously NO names, NO locations... even country should not be mentioned in the letter. No mention of any aspect of my story or the fact that I was on TV or written about in newspapers and magazines. NO clues whatsoever that could indicate anything more than my age and that I am female. Sections of your letter may be blocked out or your entire letter
may be rejected if there is revealing information.

I hope this hasn't hindered anyone's desire to write. My adivce is to just write from the heart. Love. All you need is love. :)

I am in tears as I write this from home!! And still in a daze and overjoyed by this major turning point. We did it! To reiterate:

MRI Scan- Clear
CT Scan - No indication of disease.
PET Scan - No abnormal uptake.
Marrow – No indication of Lymphoma
Graft - Results pending
Prognosis - Promising

As I turned the key to my door, I was overwhelmed by the thought that I was truly lucky and blessed to be walking THIS threshold and not "the other". I entered and found my apartment stuffed with gifts and cards and photographs. I fell to my knees and cried and sent out love and thanks in all directions. Before long my neighbors came over with hugs and cookies.

I am savoring every little moment and inhaling each and every sweet/bitter/sour/salty taste on my tongue. Everything is fascinating and beautiful. The pitch-black silhouette of palm trees against a blue-orange sky, the hazel eyes of the check-out clerk at Trader Joe's, the thick aroma of Korean-tofu soup, the glowing faces of friends and the sound of my family laughing again. TC came to visit tonight and gave me my first homecoming gift: A solid-body mahogany electric guitar complete with Marshal amp and all the trimmings! Woo-hoo!

Though I no longer will be a resident at City of Hope, I am still a patient. The recovery phase can be slow and the doctors will be monitoring my condition weekly. But at this very moment my body is free and crystal clear and it just feels DELICIOUS.

I would not be here writing this had not a complete stranger on the other side of the world agreed to donate his marrow to another complete stranger on the other side of the world. Though he was only a partial-match, he was my one and only hope. If he had refused to donate, I would have not lived through the summer. His gift of life made him my hero. I am not allowed to know his identity for the first year of the transplant, but I am allowed to send one single letter. After one year,
if he agrees, we will meet.

Though the donation center said that I could only send one letter to this hero of ours, they didn't limit to how long it could be. ;) Each member of my family plans to contribute to this great Thank-You letter and we decided to open it up to anyone who wants to be a part of it. If you'd like to thank this man for saving my life, please e-mail the message to me and I will paste it in along with my words. Or send a card or letter by snail-mail and I'll personally wrap together the bundle of love and mail it in one big package. I won't open sealed letters. We will post selected open letters and thanks anonymously on the website so that others can see what a single person, in a single act, can do to make a difference in this world. Hopefully it will inspire others to do the same.

After my last e-mail, I was sent this quote about "Providence" and just had to share:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have
dreamt would have come his way. "
-William Hutchison Murray

Fear just isn't worth it.

Much much love,

P.S. My mother will finally go home on the 13th and from there, I'm flying solo. I am still in a weakened and vulnerable state so I'm going to be asking for alot of help.

In the meanwhile, my first big outing will be this Friday, November 10 at the NuArt in Santa Monica for the opening of F**K (a documentary I had a hand in co-producing before the relapse). There will be screenings at 5, 7:30 and 10pm, and Q&A afterwards with director Steve Anderson at the 5pm and 7:30. I plan to attend the 7:30 screening. Even if you cannot make it on Friday, the film will be playing all weekend and until November 16th, including matinees. For the NuArt calendar schedule, please visit: http://

It's good to be back.

Monday, November 6, 2006



I am between hospital appointments but I have to share this right now. Remember how I said that life can be sudden and unpredictable?

Bad news: The sample from my bone-marrow biopsy (that contained the info that I've been biting my fingernails about for the last two weeks) somehow got LOST. The lab doesn't have it and no one can find it. That's why the results seemed to be taking so long. No test was ever done!!!

My blood counts may be low, but they are hanging in there, so the doctors do not feel it is necessary to do another biopsy. (whew!) Instead, we drew blood for an HLA test today. Results to come next week.

Good News: After 134 days, I am finally breaking out of this cocoon and GOING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (As soon as tomorrow!!!!)

Better News: I am going home a HEALTHY and happy cancer-free girl!!

Best news: It's an effin' MIRACLE!!!

Look out world!

More later.

Love, Hugs & Kisses too!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Day 119 - (129 Days in hospital) Update

Wow. I've been in the hospital for 129 days. Holy peach pits. That's longer than a semester in college. That's longer than it takes to write a Hollywood script (based on a best-seller). That's longer than Boy George's much-buzzed-about musical "Taboo" played on Broadway. That's longer than the ENTIRE official NFL season.

Life is always in transition and in the 129 days that I have been sequestered away, so much has happened.

Some of us joined into marriage to begin a new life, some of us moved to another state to start all over. Some of us were devastated with the loss a loved one. While quite a few were blessed with a baby boy or girl. (One of us, who was told she could not have children because of her marrow transplant, is now pregnant with twins!) Some hearts were broken and some new loves were found. Some of us traveled far to walk through ancient ruins and bask in exotic suns. While some of us focused on the nest and re-discovered ourselves. The home of one my family members burned to the ground. While another friend built his dream second home in the mountains.

In 129 days, two friends who were of my greatest cheerleaders, supporters and activists were suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. They lived the last weeks of their lives fully, grasping every moment, not withholding words of love, holding the hands of those who loved them, those who stayed at their side every step of the way. In the time they had left on earth, they lived a much-lived life. With grace, they stepped up, faced forward and did not run away from their fears.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Life can be sudden and unexpected and your whole world can open up or be crushed in a split second. We all live in uncertainty, but it is in the unknown that ANYTHING is possible. Trust in the uncertain. I think of how different just my one little life was one year ago, before the relapse. The hopes and expectations of how 2006 "should" have been. I was excited to start a life anew, but cancer, for the second time, took that dream away. For a moment, I thought all was lost and that this story would end dark like a Greek tragedy. I'm glad that I was wrong. I look back now and see that I HAVE started a new life. Not the glossy romanticized drunken bohemian picture painted in my head, but one that is true, honest and real, rich and meaningful. 2006 was not what I thought it should be. It was so much more.

I've spent the majority of the last two weeks in bed. It is taking a long time to get up from the serious knockdown from earlier this month. I can't believe it's November already. I'm on even MORE medication, which has turned my brain into oatmeal. I feel like a zombie underwater. But I reached a MAJOR milestone today. I ate breakfast OUTSIDE. For the first time, I am allowed out of my room WITHOUT a heavy surgical mask! Yes, under the trees, in the grass, with nothing between my lungs and the luscious air. Small steps, though. I still have to wear a mask in the hospital or if I find myself in a crowd. It's flu season, so we have to be careful: visitors still ought to wash hands and wear masks and I can't do any huggin' or kissin' until my blood counts get a little higher. Baby steps. It's so vital yet so torturous!!!

Another wonderful milestone: I can EAT OUT!!!!!!!!! I am no longer on a restricted diet! Though again, baby steps. I'm now on a "cautious" diet. No sushi, restaurant salads, medium-rare steaks or buffets. Only thoroughly cooked food in uncrowded restaurants. But, oh the joy of a fine meal and fine conversation with my beautiful friends!!! I can't wait!!

At City of Hope, they held a Halloween parade for all the pediatric patients. These sweet kids and their families gathered at Helford, the main building and then followed a path around the hospital dotted with candy stops, manned by costumed staff from the many departments on campus. The little patients looked like any Trick-or-Treaters: vampires, Cinderellas, pirates, angels and ghouls. The only things that gave away the fact that these adorable faces were fighting cancer were the wheelchairs and I.V. poles. But their eyes shone with the same excitement and glee of any child as they would stop at a desk or a gaggle of nurses and get handfuls of candy. Many of the kids used pillowcases swiped off their own hospital beds. There was so much love and preciousness in the air. All we wanted to do was help these kids feel normal. To feel like they were still a part of this world, this celebration, and this life. It was the best Halloween party I ever went to.

We still have not received the final results of the marrow graft test, but early summaries have shown that there is NO INDICATION OF LYMPHOMA. Now we are waiting to hear if the graft is still holding on and how well the marrow is performing. So far, its performance has been far less than the doctors have hoped for, but they are delighted that I am still alive and kicking. A miracle. Truly a miracle. Prayers WORK.

I am so happy to be alive and I can't wait to start living again. My desire is to be the proverbial "bird out of a cage", "first out of the gate", "man with a mission", but I have been told that going home is merely the next small step in my recovery process. "Whoa, Nelly" is the message I'm getting from doctors and fellow BMT survivors. There is still that "50% mortality rate at 6 months" statistic looming over my head. I'm at Day 119. That leaves another 61 days to go to beat the odds of the next stage. Every day is a coin toss.

Simple pleasures. Soul connection. Meaning. Love, laughter and joy. (And occasional moments of complete nonsense just to stir things up a bit.) That, for me, is enough for now. Enjoy this Autumn. Its wonders. Its snap. Its crispness. We are blessed.

Much love,
Christine P

P.S. Thanks to everyone who came to the Oct 28 Fundraiser/Marrow Drive. It felt like a mini-reunion wrapped up into one big pre-Halloween party. Because of everyone's hard work and participation, it was a tremendous success!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

From Rory - Helping a friend

Butterfly Lovers,

I had the honor of assisting Christine with some minor things on Sunday, and want to give you all an update and some information I gleaned.

For starters, I must say, she looked f**king amazing!!!!!!!! I mean it! She looked really, really great. And even though she got fatigued easily, she was up and at 'em the whole time I was there.

She could not say enough about the prayers from everyone and totally credits her friends and family (and even strangers) for her recovery. So please, keep praying. There is hard evidence that supports the power of prayer and Christine is well aware of it and a big believer. (A special shout out to those of you who have lit candles in churches including Italy, China, Greece, and France...she LOVED this!!!)

She also really appreciates simple emails, voicemails, and text messages--"Hey, I'm thinking about you and sending you love." But because she is so damn polite and accommodating, she feels obligated to return emails, messages, and texts. So please, be sure to let her know she doesn't need to respond and don't ask for an update. She needs all her strength to get well, and simple things like making a call or sending an email are literally exhausting for her. (If you want an update, visit her web site,, or post something on the yahoo group and someone will respond.) Give your love freely and generously and don't ask for nothin' in return.

When she does start accepting visitors, here's how to be the best visitor ever:

-Assure her you don't mind the drive and that it's not a big deal. (She doesn't want anyone to feel obligated or burdened. She doesn't realize it's a privilege and an honor.)

-Encourage her to take a walk outside and assure her you'll be fine to push her in her wheelchair if she gets tired.

-Bring organic bananas, oranges, and mangoes.

-Don't bring gifts just to bring gifts (it'll be more for her to pack and haul when she leaves). Obviously, if there is something you think she'd really love, bring it. But otherwise, don't bother.

-Offer to help her with everything over and over and over. She's too polite to say "yes" the first three times. Specifically, make her meals, wash her dishes, post an email to the yahoo group for her, send emails for her, and make phone calls for her. (Surely there are many more, but that's all I could get out of her.)

-Just be her friend and engage her mind and spirit. It gives her so much and is really invaluable.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From Joy S - "I saw Christine Today" poem

The wonderful and talented Joy S wrote this for me when she visited a few months ago whilst I was in the "bubble". Can't believe it's already been a few months. For those who do not know Joy S, she is a legally-blind, single-mother, cancer-survivor and one of the most beautiful and strong women I know.

I saw Christine Today

I barely glimpsed her silhouetted form
Through the window of her bone-marrow ward.
I could not see the covering on her head,
The pallor of her skin or eyes,
Or the fragility of her weakened body.
But I saw Christine today.
I looked into the window of her soul
And clearly saw her gentle spirit.
Her serenity and strength were evident.
I heard and felt her smiles and tears
As she read aloud with keen appreciation
The prayer I had written for her.
The rhythmic cadence of her voice
Made me momentarily forget
That here was a woman fighting for her life.
We gazed into each other's soul with wonder.
It was an electrifying connection of two kindred spirits
Who have known adversity and the triumph of faith.
My eyes could not look into Christine's eyes,
But I clearly saw into her soul today.
I cannot read the mind of God
Regarding Christine's future
But I know here is a soul
A being refined through suffering.

-Joy E. Walker Steward
July 27, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Typed by Rory - Please pray for...

(Hi, I'm Christine's friend, Rory, and I'm typing this for her as she dictates from bed):

I'm feeling a wee bit better this weekend, though quite tired right now and that's why Rory is typing for me. No real news to report, other than that the swelling is almost gone and it appears that the acute scary thing that happened is over. As you already know, the bone marrow biopsy is coming up this Tuesday and I just want to ask for everyone's prayers and good vibes. Here's specifically what I'd like for us all to pray for:

1. The marrow is still 100% donor graft.

2. The marrow is healthy and is producing lots of healthy cells.

3. That my white blood cell and platelet counts continue to improve.

4. That my red blood cells come into balance.

5. I can shake off this fatigue and be well enough to attend the marrow drive/fundraiser this Saturday.

I hope you can swing by the event and grab a burger and that you'll let all your friends know. Jerome and Debra from "Cinema Secrets" were on 100.3 The Beat today, promoting the event. And KBIG will be running promos all week, so the event will likely be a fun one!

My doctor says that IF my biopsy results are good and IF my blood counts rise, that I may be able to go home in two to three weeks. "I think I can, I think I can…" :)

Much love,

Saturday, October 21, 2006

From Brian - irving quote

Christine, I was just reading the following words by Washington Irving and I immediately thought of you:

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire,
which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity;
but which kindles up,
and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."

Countless blessings,


Thursday, October 19, 2006


(Warning: Still under medically-enhanced mental crush. Apologize for any loopy-ness that follows.)

This has been quite the ride.
I feel like I am the lithium in my bi-polar life.
To mis-quote Jessica Rabbit:
"I'm not bi-polar, my life is just drawn that way."
Up. Down. Life. Death. Love. Disappointment. Bitter. Sweet.
Victory. Defeat. And Victory again.

C'est la vie.

I'm just looking forward to raising that glass of wine in San Gimignano, Italy.

Though I am joyously overwhelmed with the amazing "you're cancer-free" news from Monday, my body is still clearing the debris from last week and preparing for the bone-marrow biopsy procedure on Tuesday. It's like doing back-to-back triathlons whilst completely inebriated.

I just can't get over how bone-tired and worn out I am. This is sooooooo not me. It takes work to sit up again. I'm scuffling around like Grandma Moses. I can't even write. I think the nuclear powered medications they gave me last week fogged up my head and short-circuited some synapses. But I think I'm getting better. The swelling has gone down considerably. My blood counts are slowly climbing back up again. Whew!

A doctor said it well when I confronted her about the fact that we still DON'T KNOW what it was or what is happening:

"Well, would you rather we NOT know what it is, try to do something about it and it go away, or that we identify exactly what it is and not be able to do anything about it?"

Well put.

I'm starting to fade out…. Need more sleep. Thank you for the continued messages and prayers. They're definitely working. I love you guys.


P.S. I like this quote and wanted to make clear that it has nothing to do with the ride request. I read it as " Do the good that you can and do not fear."

- - - - -

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From Rebecca - Still very weak

Just a quick note that Merry C and I spent the day/night with Christine yesterday. She is still very weak and is really just needing people to help her with food and cleaning up. We spent the day grocery shopping, organizing her pantry and refrigerator and cleaning up A LOT of dishes……

She is doing better, she ate a whole big plate of stir fry and brown rice and miso soup, what a trooper! We spent the evening just talking about stories in regards to our lives over the past years.

She wanted me to write real quick to let you know that she is still very tired and weak and isn’t really taking visitors but knows that you are all thinking about her. She looks towards another big milestone next week.

Keep her in your mind….

-Merry and Rebecca

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From Julia - PET scan results

Dear everyone--

I was lucky enough to see Christine yesterday (Monday) afternoon. I wasn't visiting exactly; she's still too weak for visitors. But I was there to kind of accompany her to a few appointments, wash a few dishes, etc.

She had a PET scan before I arrived and while I was there she had some blood work drawn. Most of the time was spent waiting in various halls to hear about the results of these tests. Mainly we talked and caught up. While she seemed in good spirits, it was clear she was tired and still wiped out from her recent illness.

Finally we got called in and Dr. Nademanee, her doctor, appeared. We were in a small room, which Christine said was the room where she got all of her news--good and bad. She was waiting to hear about 2 things: if the PET scan showed any cancer in her body and whether her blood counts were still really low (which would mean she'd have to have an infusion).

On both counts, Christine got GREAT news. First of all, the PET scan showed that she is cancer-free. Cancer-free! This was the only time I saw Christine kind of break down. She was so relieved and happy. I didn't realize it but had the PET scan showed any cancer at all, it would have meant Christine had only months to live. My understanding is that out of all the people who have had transplantss and lived on, none had cancer at Day 100. All the ones who did simply didn't survive.

This means that Christine still has a fighting chance. This girl is a walking miracle.

The other happy news was that her blood counts went up. I think they're still not great, but they were good enough that she was able to go back to the village instead of having to stay and have infusions. So we took a little tram back from the hospital to the village and celebrated Christine's victory with ice cream.

Christine was still feeling so wiped out that she didn't have the energy to email. So I hope I'm doing her justice with this account. I don't know how to convey how much emotion there was when she found out there was no cancer in her. She's still not out of the woods yet--next week, she'll take another important test which will determine if the graft is producing enough blood cells. But I can't imagine anything beating her, I really can't.

So keep praying, everyone! And let's focus it on that graft producing lots and lots of healthy blood cells. And a big thank you to everyone on Christine's behalf.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Poem by Sliva

Christine Sliva wrote this poem last Spring after helping me through another despondent day of not finding a miracle match. She didn't share it with me until now. I think its message can apply to any of us, at least once or twice in our lives. Thanks for the beautiful words, Sliva...


You Are...

Have you already forgotten the greatness of your strength?
Think of all you have been through
And you are still here.
Not untouched by pain,
Not untouched by love.
You are the meaning of courage,
The image of beauty.
Do not cry for what is lost
But allow tears of joy to fall from your eyes.
You are a warrior
Armed with the power of hope.
Nothing is more inspiring
Than who you are.
You have fallen but refused to stay down.
Again and again you have fought
And are still standing.
I remember a saying:
"It's not brave if you're not scared."
You are the bravest person I know.
Refusing to live a life in fear,
You move forward.
Living in the moment,
Letting go of yesterday
And not counting on tomorrow.
You cherish each bird that graces the sky,
Showing you true bliss exists.
You are much stronger
Than you give yourself credit for.
You are a blessing, my friend.

-C Sliva

I love you and think of you all the time. Keep living, keep loving, keep praying. I am.
Christine Sliva

Friday, October 13, 2006

Day 100 - Clung to life

Well I am glad to still be here, but the last place I expected to be on "Day 100" is HERE, writing this particular e-mail from inside the hospital, hooked up to the 7-foot I.V. poles AGAIN, with my cheeks swelled up like the blueberry-girl in Willy Wonka. I swear, I cannot even recognize my face in the mirror. I'm a walking bobble-head. It is absolutely freaky. Like, imagine Eddie Murphy's stunning make-up job in "The Nutty Professor" but WITHOUT the fat-suit. FREAk-Kyyyy. (Okay, maybe not THAT bad, but upsetting nonetheless!)

While the doctors have not been able to explain what happened or what is wrong, at least they have been able to treat all the icky symptoms that have stormed in this week. There was one point where it felt like my feet were on fire, all my fingers were cramping into their own violent mudra, my abdomen felt like there were steak knives plunged into it, there was a sledgehammer in my forehead, my eyes were swollen shut and I was shaking like James Brown on crack, ALL at the SAME time. Honestly, at that moment I thought it was over, and as I began to make peace with it, the fever broke.

Today was my first day without painkillers. I was simply and absolutely delighted but depleted, and conscious enough to catch up on the emotional part of the last few days. The best way to describe it is that feeling you have just after a car-accident or an earthquake. Sort of the "what-the-heck-just-happened-oh-my-god-I-could-have-died" restlessness and irrepressible desire to cling to someone or something or life itself. What I clung to was everyone's messages and prayers… visualizing our interconnectedness with each other… and focusing on the faith, hope, trust and love you just GOTTA to
believe in to make it through.

Some good did come out of this. All the tests that were done have presumptuously pointed to the fact that today I am DISEASE FREE: meaning there's not single a blip of physical cancer inside! There is one more test we have to do on Monday. The PET scan. The big one. It measures not physical things like tumors, but big C "activity". Sort of like the MI5, the PET scan can warn of enemy activity and imminent threats. I hope they come up with nothing. They are also scheduling another "marrow graft" test soon. I hope they come up with something good.

There is a rumor going around the 5th floor today that I may be discharged and sent back to "the village" in the next day or two. This is neither good news nor bad, neither a promising sign nor a troubling one. It just is. I am still just as vulnerable and swollen as I was at the beginning of the week, but because the doctors don't know what else to do, they are sending me back to the village in hopes that everything clears up on its own. (Now I know why they call this place "City of Hope".) They also assured it would be better to be sequestered in the village because it was less likely that I would be exposed to a hospital infection. At this point, I am just focusing on making it to the next day.

Thank you thank you thank you so much for the continuing prayers and messages. I cannot even begin to describe how vital they are to the healing. I know this is not easy for anyone, and it must be tiring after pushing through your own struggles to read and pray for someone else's. Now that's what I call Heroic. I am tearfully thankful to know that I am not alone in this room. And I'm wishing and sending out nothing but love. Nothing but Love.


P.S. This has obviously been very hard on my mother. Everyone involved has agreed that she needs to take a break. So she is leaving for a week starting tomorrow. My father will return with her. And we'll take it from there.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

update from JT - Christine still in rough patch

Today Christine’s worn out and feels physically “broken” by the events of the last few days. The acute pain and burning have subsided, but she remains in great discomfort. The swelling is still pretty bad. She’s having an easier time breathing. She can talk a bit but it takes great effort. Her white blood cells are dangerously low and the usual injections don’t seem to have any effect. This is more cause for concern than the swelling.

Her doctors have yet to figure out what is wrong. She’s back in isolation. She’s obviously scared but encouraged that a few of the bad scenarios were crossed off the list. But her Mom asked to continue to pray for Christine because they can’t say if she’s merely fighting something temporary or something worse. She is having more tests today, including a second CT scan.

Now Christine, I hope you don’t mind me stepping in here, but I have to put my two cents in:

I know everyone is chomping at the bit to see Christine but she is really in a rough patch and needs all her strength to get through this. I heard that a couple people stopped by unannounced and while her Mom says it is a nice gesture, Christine is left more drained than before. You know she will never say no to a party or to a friend. No matter how bad a day she is having she will always be there for you. She is a saint and while we all love her for that, it can backfire in this situation. So we have to be responsible here and give her some room so she can get up and better.

That said, her Mom says she’s boosted by everyone’s prayers and messages. Keep ‘em coming!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

update from JT - Keep those prayers coming

this just in...

Christine's fighting an as yet undiagnosed severe infection and/or allergic reation and/or graft versus host disease and/or early indications of graft failure. (pray that it is definitively not the last two)

Her head and upper torso have swelled up so bad that she can barely talk or move. Her pain is addressed with potent sedatives and bags of ice. Her face and lips are so swollen that she has difficulty breathing and eating.

She is to have an MRI of her brain and a CT scan of her entire body taken today.

She is too sick to respond to calls/e-mails or have visitors but she's awares of everyone's prayers.

The doctors are running a gamut of tests on her but everything so far has come up inconclusive.

The good news is her fever broke and her blood pressure is coming down to normal.

Keep those prayers coming!


msg from Doug - Fight On

Hey Christine,

You are so strong and wonderful, I don't see how this can stop you. You've been through this fight for so long and have won so many battles against such crazy odds, that you have to win. I believe it. Everyone who knows you believes it. Every post you get is a testament to that. Every person who knows you and loves you is proof. I can only imagine how scared you are right now. But you don't have to be. If you need strength, just think about your friends and family who you've touched and are with you. We are an ARMY, and you are not alone. You got so much love, there ain't nothing can stop you.

You will win.


msg from Tony C - More prayers needed now!

Dear Friends of Christine,

I just received a call from her mother, Lu Pechera, and she requested that I send out this note to you all urging you to pray for Christine. She didn't give me any details other than that and just wanted everyone to focus their thoughts and prayers to her right now. Wishing you all the best as we pray for her.

-Tony C

Monday, October 9, 2006

Scared right now - Need prayers

I am fighting through a sedative fog in my hospital bed to write this so forgive me if i sound less than eloquent.

The past 24 hours have been a terrible storm of 104 degree fevers, cramping, burning, violent chills, heart palipilations, swelling and malaise. My blood counts plummeted to critical levels, lower than when I was moved to the village. I am writing because a doctor said that this may be an indication of graft failure. What that means is that even though the marrow grafted, it may fail to produce enough white cells, red cells and platelets to keep a patient alive. So I just need you guys to pray for me because there isn't much else the doctors can do if that is the case. I'm tethered to IV poles again. And honestly, though I have peace in my heart for whatever God has planned for me, I'm sorta scared right now.

The "cardiac failure" miscommunication occured not just because of a bad cell phone connection, but probably because I was terribly out-of-it when I talked to Cray, There was a nurse in the room taking my vitals and i probably mumbled to Cray about how my blood pressure was too high and my pulse rate was way above normal and that they were going to do an EKG because they were worried about my heart.

It's so weird to live in these extremes. Saturday night I spoke to a black-tie standing ovation, escorted to the stage by Mr. Helford himself (as in the guy whose name is on the hospital I am in right now) and the very next night I am too weak to stand and fighting for my life. I was shaking in tears throughout the night because of the pain and my mom tried to comfort me by saying, "just remember last night, you were in glory." One day the you feel like the world is wide open and the next you feel like the world is ending. But you just got to keep pushing and going and loving and BELIEVE.

I love you guys all so much. I'm not exactly sure what is going on myself. But I am sending my heart out to all of you.

much love,

Sunday, October 8, 2006

From Mike - Pray for Christine- possible Graft failure

An update relayed from Christine in the ER.... Want to correct that rumour saying that Christine is having cardiac arrest right now. Christine said “cardiac failure” should have been “graft failure,” and blamed a poor cell phone connection for the miscommunication. In other words, she’s been told the fever and symptoms she’s currently experiencing are possibly due to graft failure – so she definitely needs all of our prayers, meditations and positive thoughts. She also said she can’t take calls right now because she’s being sedated, but updates will continue to be posted here. Christine is being readmitted to the acute care part hospital. They don’t know what’s causing all of this.



I want to inform all of you to please send out all your prayers and meditations to Christine NOW!

She is in the ER ROOM and is going to be admitted to the hospital. The doctors don't know what is wrong with her and it is very bad!

I just spoke with her 2 minutes ago and she is very weak and doing everything she can to stay alive! Give her all the support you can through your prayers and meditations.

p.s. sorry if this is getting to you several times...we are having difficulties posting this message.


Thursday, October 5, 2006

Day 89 (99 Days in the hospital) - Busy little patient

Today is Day 89 post-transplant. 99 days in the hospital. The big milestone "Day 100" (post-transplant) falls on Friday the 13th! My counts are still lower than hoped for at this point, so we still don't know how much longer until I go home for the next stage of recuperation. I am tearfully thankful that I am still here. Tomorrow I go in for the next battery of tests to see how the weather is inside.

But right now I need some help. "Cinema Secrets" in Toluca Lake will be holding a fundraiser/marrow drive on Saturday, October 28. Debra, Mike and their team of make- up and costume maestros have generously stepped forward to make a difference. There will be an In'n'Out truck at the event from (I think) something like 11 to 4. Every burger sold will go towards helping Jerome and I in our fight against cancer. Jerome is a very good friend of mine who will be admitted for a bone marrow transplant in the next month. His odds are the same as mine. So tell all your friends, (especially ethnic minorities!) to go there if they haven't signed up on the registry yet, if they haven't got their Halloween costume yet, if they have a few dollars they can drop into the donation can, or if they just want a good burger. I plan to have my very first "double-double-animal-style" of 2006 that day!

This Saturday my Mom and I will be kidnapped by Limo to a hoity-toity fundraiser for City of Hope where I will be honored as a "special guest speaker". From what I hear, the Los Angeles equivalents of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Astors will be there. It's going to be weird speaking to such a discriminating crowd whilst sporting a big blue surgical mask.

One more thing, remember that F-Word movie I worked on? We are rolling out in theaters across the country starting in November.

It's a long road to recovery. But it sure never gets boring around here.

From the hospital bed,

Friday, September 29, 2006

Marrow is holding it's own!

I got blood test results today that revealed my levels nudged up just a wee-little bit (first time WBC levels were above 2.0, normal is 4.0 to 11.0) and my platelets have NOT gone below 50 (normal is 150 to 350).

This means that the marrow is "holding its own", without any injections or transfusions. A good sign. Thus, there is a small small small possibility that I may be going home in a couple weeks! The next step on the way to recovery. We are
so lucky to have gotten this far. It was a one in three chance. It remains a one in three. But I am so so grateful to continue to still be here and share this beautiful life with you guys.

October 15 is the weekend of that great milestone : "Day 100". :)

Much much love,

P.S. FYI - In the middle of writing this message I had another emergency come up and went to the ER and back. Everything seems to be under control now. Each day is like Apollo 13. The situation, your strength and your fragility changes, with every hour. Makes you really appreciate the now.

Life is not about how many years you live, but how many moments you love.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rollercoaster recovery

I know I haven't sent an update in awhile. It's been a rollercoaster ride here, on all levels. I'm sitting at one of the "shared community" computers trying to bust this out before they call me into my next appointment.

After we got the good news of the marrow grafting, all sorts of complications and not-so pleasant things started happening all over and inside my body. Sometimes they were annoying, like random hives on my skin to downright excruciating pain in my abdomen. It felt like i was going through some weird intratransformational restructuring from the inside out. I've been to the emergency room a few times, had my medications switched and turned and re-dosed and changed again. I've been saved by a few transfusions along with lots of TLC. Because my blood levels have been so low for such a long time, it is taking a cumulative toll on my body. Blood feeds, cleans and connects EVERYTHING and when that system has been run down for so long... well, it's just not very fun.

But I am just so happy to be alive and breathing today. I am tearful every morning when I see the sun and the trees outside my window. Another day. Another gift. Another inhale. I've lost a few friends here during my stay. Each one a beautiful soul. Each one hoping, hoping, pleading for 'just a little more time' to be. To just be. There is no fear of death here. Only the fear that the life you planned for or the love you hoped for will never be.

Here you will often find yourself face to face with a stranger, but a stranger you know very well, because you both can hear the clock ticking and you don't know how much time you have left to live and love. A lot of my day is spent with other patients and their families, holding hands, answering questions, soothing anxiety with much needed hugs and... just being there for someone who needs someone who has been there too.

In a couple weeks I wil have another "graft test" done. Why? I asked the same thing. "I already have 100% graft!", but the doctor just nodded and said, "Yes, but sometimes things change". In late October I will get the BIG test, the PET/CAT scan that will give us a more definitive answer to my prognosis. We've beaten the odds thus far, but there are a lot more odds to face in the coming months. My next goal is to make it to New Year's Eve. Even in recovery, uncertainty still lays heavy. Right now it remains coin toss.

So each day continues. This fight. But I am trying to do good while I'm here. I'm still helping to spread the word, set up marrow drives and help with fundraisers. By the way, "Cinema Secrets" and In'n'Out burger have teamed up for a fundraiser/marrow drive at the end of October to benefit my foundation and help my friend Jerome. It's going to be huge. We'll be speaking at the event. Hope to see you there.

More updates. More often. I promise. The last two weeks have just been too hard. Wish I had a personal assistant. :)


P.S. I visited the blood donor center here yesterday and was told that they are in great need of platelet/blood donations. If you feel like doing some good, save a life and make a real difference, they could surely use your help.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Get yourself screened

I plan to send out a more detailed update on my progress very soon. Even with the 100% graft, it's still been a rollercoaster ride on all levels. My days are consumed with appointments, tests, waiting rooms, fatigue and naps. Reaching out to other patients and families, talking and connecting and sharing story, helps us all to learn and heal together. Everyone here is living on the precipice and that heightens the moments and makes simple words strikingly heavy and meaningful. A patient looking at you straight in the eye and saying "I hope to see you next week" is truly what is in his heart. I usually give the longest hug I can and try not to cry. The best response I've heard was (by a dark-humored patient) "If not, I'll catch up with you later." This is what they really mean by living on the edge.

For those of us who want to keep in the realm of life and vitality, I just found out that there will be a Health Fair at City of Hope tomorrow (Wednesday the 20th). There will be FREE Health screenings, information booths, pharmacists to question, and healthy food giveaways and door prizes. But the mother of all is the as- seen-on-TV, made famous by Huell Howser, 20 foot long 'Super Colon'that you can walk through. It's a pop-culture legend! I'd love to take a picture of Tom Cruise pouting in the middle of the colon with the line "Look at all the s**t I have to go through." Let's put that on the New York Post.

Well, I want my friends to stay healthy so I thought I'd send out this announcement. Get yourself screened!

Stay well. Be well.


Saturday, September 9, 2006

Day 66 (76 days in hospital) - Notes from the Edge of Life

This weekend all our thoughts are on the lives lost on September 11, 2001. And for the families who have kept the spirits of their loved ones alive each day since. As a native New Yorker, I hope we can all take a few moments of silence in remembrance and in honor.

Two nights ago, a tangerine moon rose over Los Angeles. I sat writing at the campus Bistro, as the last visitors silently filed out of the hospital. A patient waved from a window on the 5th floor, adjusting his mask before rolling out of sight, his I.V. poles in tow. Every night on campus, the air becomes thick with dreams, fear, faith, prayers, anxiety and existentialism. Sitting outside the hospital was like being next to a six-story sub-woofer, thundering the tearful, almost manic thoughts of all the souls inside fighting to stay alive.

I wished I could have lit a beacon and shined it into every room, to burn away any troubling thoughts and bring peace into hearts, including my own. Suddenly I felt a comforting hand upon me. It was Uncertainty, and she graced me with a smile of assurance. 'What will be will be and know that only good can come of this. It is not the challenges that enter life that define us, but how we live through them. Be brave. No matter what trauma or challenge you face, don't let it break your spirit because it is the only part of you that lives on.'

The next night, I sat between two great California pines overlooking the sculpture garden, thinking about my brother Francis Rex, who I like to think as watching from above. "Another New Day" by Stereolab from the album "In Between" randomly played next on the ipod. "How fitting", I thought. And how lucky am I, are we, to be alive and here at this moment. Our turn on the ride. Our chance to leave a mark, whether through sweeping worldwide changes or through loving one heart. How lucky are we to be given a chance to express whatever we want, in whatever form, and to share all of it with others. Our one chance to create light… or darkness. Our forefathers knew well that true happiness was not found in the goal, but in the pursuit.

We received news today, news so good that I am exhausted from the joy. Now that's a good place to be… Joy is good, but to be exhausted from joy is the ultimate of blessings. We got the results back from the latest `graft' test. As you all know, it was looking dicey there for a while because my marrow seemed to be fighting the donor's marrow. The transplant was chimeric, part-old marrow, part-donor marrow. Not good. It was creating all these troubling complications. But the test today read "100% donor marrow". It's official. The donor marrow has GRAFTED. This is a very good sign and a great sigh of relief. My doctor was jumping up and down and her assistant shouted "Woo-Hooooooo!!!" I felt like Miss America. I was one of the lucky few. Of course the rest of the day was spent calling immediate family, with lots of tears and "I love you" racing back and forth between wires and satellites.

I'm so thankful to be alive. Now our hopes and prayers focus on the donor's marrow happily and quickly setting up shop. It's all about reconstructing a brand new immune system and rebuilding the blood, from scratch. We've turned onto a promising road, but a long one. Well, I've always embraced adventure.

In the greater of things that illness can teach, is the lesson that what truly matters is not whether you live or die. Your body may survive but your soul may be broken. While we all want to live long and meaningful lives, the journey is more about keeping your soul intact and alive, not necessarily your body. Your spirit is what will be remembered and is the legacy that will be passed onto the future.

September 11 is Monday.

Much love,

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Update from Jackie - Pray for better counts

Hi Everyone,

I talked to Christine today and she wanted me to let you know that they retested her blood today.

Her counts have not yet risen and her platelets have dropped by 50%.

She asked that everyone please pray for her. Pray that those numbers go up.

On a brighter note, I went to see her monday and her spirits were up and she looked so good! Her spiritual "counts" are way above normal range, and that's just as important as what comes out of the lab's scientific computer.

Much Love,

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Day 58 (68 Days in the hospital) - Exhausted

Life here on the hospital grounds has been about the simple pleasures and divine, yet fleeting, moments: Sitting in the Japanese garden watching Koi swim under the bridge. Listening to the waterfall with eyelids closed, in the rose garden. Resting under big oak trees, talking with friends old and new about life and the meaning of it all.

I've been moved to a different room in the village. It's set a little back from the pathway and has a small porch governed by a halogen-orange lamppost. It's a nice place for conversations with good company on a warm night. Crickets are chirping, furry critters are walking through the grass and the trees whisper all around. It feels like you're living "down on the Bayou", waiting for a Cajun to show up with a fiddle and a bucket of crawfish.

I just returned to my room after getting a blood transfusion. Hemoglobin levels are critically low. No wonder I've been feeling more exhausted than usual. Honestly, it's been a rough week. Blood counts have fallen again – plummeting down to a critical level, lower than when I left the main transplant ward. Had to get a couple not very pleasant injections because of it. The virus has given my system a beating. I'm weaker than I was a week ago and find myself back to relying on the wheelchair. My doctor is concerned and is re- adjusting my medications and dosages.

I asked if the latest test results were bad. She said "No, but they aren't good either." We were expecting blood levels to be much higher by now. I'm feeling relatively okay but things just don't look on paper. All those numbers just don't match to what I feel inside.

How can this be?! Just to answer some questions that a few have already asked:

"Can't you just put more marrow in? Flood out your old marrow?"
Alas, no, it just doesn't work that way, and according to the docs, it causes more serious complications.

"Can't they put another person's marrow in?"
Sadly, there is no other person. Secondly, it would literally be considered a secondary separate transplant with worse odds.

"Can't they just give you a shot?"
They can (and do) give you all the medications possible to help keep your body within a certain acceptable balance, (I take 25+ pills a day) but ultimately no one but God knows what the outcome will be. At this point all we can do is continue to hope and pray and live one day at a time.

It's hard to believe that summer is already over. Eight months ago, I didn't know if I would be alive to see Labor Day. Now that it is here, I look back and just want to thank every person who has prayed and worked and stood by my family every step of the way.

I know that many of us have been dealing with our own difficult times, but we take turns holding each other up and being strong for one another. One thing that defines a true friend is someone you can depend on to be there when times get rough. And who will also be there to celebrate when things turn good again.

This weekend is not just a last chance to wear your fabulous white pants. It's that time of the year when we have a chance to just stop and BE. To slow down, look around and spend the day with the people you love and who love you. Sometimes we get so obsessed with what we want from life, that we can't see the blessings that are right there in front of us, including the people in our lives. No matter what you are doing this weekend, going to the beach, having a BBQ, taking a luxurious afternoon nap or escaping to an exotic isle, don't forget to hold the people around you a little closer. Whether it be in your arms or in your heart. It's been scientifically proven that hugs are healthy for you.

I may be sequestered away in my little hospital room, but I want my friends to be healthy, so I'm sending out a huge, fuzzy, soothing bear hug… and I hope you can feel it.

Much love,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

msg from Julie D - Visit with Christine

I spent an hour yesterday walking on the COH grounds with Christine. It's good to see Christine out of the hospital. After 63 days, now staying in the cottages as she recovers.

To think she only had about a 30% chance to survive because her bone-marrow match was a partial one, but, right now it looks like she is doing just that. Her family have been to hell and back with all this but have been sustained by their deep faith.

As we slowly walked around (had to do it after sunset because she can't be exposed to the sun) she, wearing a heavy-duty mask to keep out bacteria and germs, marveled at a cottontail rabbit, a squirrel, and even a large spider we saw dangling in front of us. She chose to leave the sidewalk to walk on the grass just to feel it beneath her feet, even through her shoes. All of these sights and sensations gave her instant pleasure.

While the rest of us are stressed to the max just getting through our daily lives, Christine is teaching us how to live and appreciate the small yet important things. Along with other cancer warriors, her story and her writings from her first transplant will be in a book, Writing for Wellness.

The book will hopefully find a publisher soon. I believe that the method developed in the writing class at City of Hope is a good one and one that can help many, many people as they and their family members go through the "cancer experience" which mostly, today, includes survival, thank God.

-Julie D

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A little set-back

Well, I just found out today that I've contracted a dreaded viral infection. No one can say where it came from. In addition to the concerning "chimeric" transplant, it also explains why my blood counts are not rising. For normal healthy persons, this virus is common and does not cause any acute problems, but it can prove fatal for newborns and those with "suppressed immune systems" (moi!) Thankfully, it is treatable with heavy medication. 15 years ago, it would have been curtains for me, so in a strange way, I'm "lucky" to have contracted it now. It's amazing how far medicine has come in just a short matter of time. It's another mountain to climb over but I'm just hoping to see waterfalls on the other side.

My hair is slowly growing in. It sort of feels like thick peach-fuzz, or a little chihuahua. I've finally mastered the G-D-C chords on the guitar. Visitors are staying longer. Walking is easier but is still exhausting, but with each day I am walking farther and walking longer, even if it is just a few extra feet.

Like all of us, I'm just taking it one day at a time. And putting trust in God. Today was warm, sunny and beautiful... and I'm
breathing it all in while I can.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Day 46 (56) - Fighting from the inside out

Since I last wrote we got some news explaining why my WBC blood count has dropped so low, to neutropenic levels. We received the results from the marrow/graft test. It appears that, at this point, the transplant is not 100% successful….. yet. My blood is partly the donor's and partly my "old" marrow. I guess you could say there is a serious turf war going on inside me. The dueling WBC's, the cells that fight off infections and foreign bodies, are in battle with each other over who gets to stay. Civil War. Of course, in order for the transplant to work, we need the donor's marrow to graft.

When I got the news I just closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. This was not good. The doctor left the room to order another blood test, leaving the door open. I sat alone on the examination table watching my feet dangle. I could hear a woman sobbing into her cell phone in the courtyard below. Sunk into his wheelchair, an obese man pushed past my door, his oxygen tank trailing behind. The flourscent lights hummed above me and, on cue, the room began to spin. I focused on my breath again. Just a little more faith. Just a little more strength. Just a little more time. There is hope. It's strange to think that a part of me has to die in order for me to live.

I just want to thank everyone for all the cards, gifts and care packages. The encouraging e-mails, calls, and visits all add up to a blanket of love, wrapping me up in the good stuff.

You have all been a source of comfort as well as courage during the past several weeks. A bunch of savvy girlfriends even put together a huge "Diva box" and filled it with all sorts of luxurious goodies and sparkly stuff. Each day, for ten days, I'd reach into the box and open a new gift that would hint at a new brilliant life ahead. It was wonderful.

I'm sorry to be missing out on all the weddings, baby showers, house warmings, screenings, readings, concerts, birthdays and opening nights. I really wish I could be there. SO much has happened for so many of us in the last eight weeks. But
summer is almost over. I hope all of you are taking advantage of the time that is left to create some chocolate dip strawberry-topped memories.

Meanwhile, here is a poem that my friend Michelle wrote for me in a card included in the "Diva box". It was lovely, I had to share it. Like the poems says, I wish that all our "hearts will always remember…"

Much Love,

- - - - -

May you soon wander freely
Among life's lovely flowers
Reveling in the beauty
Of each joyous hour

May you soon stroll
Along your beloved seashore
Glowing under the warm sun
Enjoying the fury of the ocean's roar

May the coming of your summer
Soon be announced by the gentle turtledove
And may your heart always remember
Just how much you are loved.

-M Mirandon
August 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

msg from Tim S - Ebb and Flow

While at City of Hope for my own three month oil change, I was able to track Christine down over the course of the day. She was about 20 minutes ahead of me in get blood drawn, appointments, and consultations.

My inside sources lost track of her for about 20 minutes, but I found her in the Village. As you can tell from her most recent posts her strength and stamina has a natural ebb and flow. On this day she was able to walk to the hospital which is about two blocks. This is a good thing, but then who knows what tomorrow will bring. Being able to travel in a car also shows that she is doing okay.

If you have been through this process, you know that at one moment you can be feeling your freedom returning only to have it snatched away, by natures callings, fatigue, or just over doing the most simple thing.

Talking is exhausting. Being 'on' is exhausting.

Currently it seems as if her own blood cells are having to teach donor-man's cells how to act appropriately. Seems that donor-man's cells are still a little slow on the uptake a bit in learning what they should be doing. Obviously, they have never lived within a woman before and are taken aback by the whole deal. Bufferfly's cells are being tolerant as they can be, but will soon just grab the little dudes and get them working for their pay. This will be good.

As usual she was in good spirits. When she comes out the other side of this she has a lot on her plate. Each items will be a work of joy. She is blessed to have so many dear friends and you to are blessed by making her aquaintance.

She looked good, Envisions the wonderful salad that will come in 50+ days. I can stil taste the first one I had. Folks always guess that BMT folks want some exotic mean when they become free. What we really crave are fresh fruit, berries, and that salad...

Always a joy to visit with Christine.

Tim S

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Baby Steps

We are now 42 days post transplant, 52 days since being admitted to the hospital with another 58 days to go.

I just wanted to write in real quick. Transition to the village has been both wonderful and challenging. Been taking lots of baby steps. Ten days ago I was bedridden. Five days ago I was shuffling around, relying on a wheelchair for support. Today I can walk the two blocks to the hospital without having to stop to rest. It's simple yet extraordinary.

I've been blessed to meet many heroes and courageous souls during my stay here. Some stories are inspirational, some break the heart. The word "cancer" may conjure thoughts of fear and death in some people, but here in "the village", daily conversation whirls around the subject of life and love. Of connection, commitment, faith and trust. There is no time for facades.

My daily routine is scheduled around doctor appointments and prescription medications. It's a matter of finding the balance between light exercise, deep rest, meditation and mental stimulation. Cabin fever is a good sign. I get emotional with every hug I share with visiting friends and family. When alone, I escape by reading or playing music. There's a grand piano in the small theater here and I've been tinkering with "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees: (I like to listen to it on my ipod as I hop around the rose garden.) A couple friends came by the other day and we thought to take advantage of the theater for rehearsals and skits. I plan to sit in the orchestra and shout "More energy!"

These days, it is challenging to remember things and write fluently. My doctor assures it has to do with what my body has been through. "Cognitive dysfunction" or "ChemoBrain" thankfully is temporary, but it's disquieting when your brain is only able to think in sentence fragments.

Even though I must hide from the sun and wear a heavy surgical mask, it is so revitalizing to be outside. My doctor just gave the approval for me to ride in a car. I can leave campus, but only for a short time and have to stay in the general vicinity. The
first place I visited, of course, was REI. It was the first time I left the hospital grounds in over seven weeks.

It means a lot that there are angels out there who continue to spread the word, conducting marrow drives, and educating friends and family about signing up on the registry. Let's continue the good.

In terms of health and recovery, my blood counts plateau'd last week and this week the levels have actually gone down to a semi-critical level. This has caused a bit of concern and we are praying that things improve soon. Each day is still a struggle but to be alive… that alone is a blessing

The other night my mother and I briefly left the room to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We only saw one shooting star, but it was enough to make a wish.

Much Love,

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Update from Jocelyn - The new digs

Hi Everyone,

I spoke with Christine today at her new digs, which she calls the ultimate slacker's pad, and she sounded great. She's still tired, of course, but getting stronger every day. In fact, yesterday she learned (drumroll), that she won't be needing anymore platelets!!! However, she still encourages us to donate on her behalf as she has many friends at City of Hope who could use them (she didn't give specific names). Stephanie, who donated last Saturday, gave 2 almost 3 units of platelets...(I am told she didn't make it to 3 because the machine couldn't keep
up with her!!! Christine calls her the Barbarella of the platelet world!) will be Christine's last batch of platelets because she is doing so well!

Also wanted to pass on some information for visitors. Christine loves having visitors, make sure to call ahead as she has many appointments during the day in the hospital, and, at the doctor's request for the next one to two weeks, we should try to limit visitation time to under an hour since it is imperative that Christine gets plenty of rest during this time.


Sunday, August 6, 2006

Six weeks later

Alas, the new room in the village had NO DSL. And for some reason I can't access my dial-up either. I only have access online when I go to the "main house" of the village. Only two computers are provided for the entire community and are available only during business hours, thus there is usually a wait and a time limit. My point: I should be able catch up with my e-mail by 2010.

Last night, for the first time in six weeks, there was nothing between me and the sky. The stars were dim but palpable. Though having to wear a heavy surgical mask prevented me from breathing in the night air, I could feel it in the pores of my skin and it was delicious.

There is quite a bit of wildlife on campus. I saw a hawk swoop by clutching its prey. I watched a cottontail bunny rabbit in the grass munch on a guava. A squirrel came up to my door, hoping for a treat. Hummingbirds and butterflies flit and whizz by. It's like a mini- animal park.

My energy wanes from low to extremely fatigued so I am not romping through the grass just yet. But it is SO GOOD to feel the sun and the wind and the earth.

much love,

Friday, August 4, 2006

Day 30 (29) - Good News

August 4, Day 30 (39)

Good news.

My blood counts have been doing so well over the last couple days that the doctors have decided to move me to the village... TODAY. The village is a small cluster of "outpatient"
bungalows located on campus. The rooms are by no means fancy... more like a medically
themed Hotel 6, but at least we will be out of the busy main building. It is quieter, has
more privacy and each unit has its own kitchenette.

The nurses keep on reiterating "You're not out of the woods yet" and then follow with a laundry list of things to avoid (like sunlight), symptoms to watch out for (like a cough) and
medications that are essential. Supposedly if I forget to take two pills in particular, I won't survive more than 24 hours. The hospital staff goes on to say that if complications, infections or rejection were to occur, it would most likely haqppen in the next 6 months, but more likely in the next 70 days. No champagne popping yet but things are looking good so far. Think good thoughts.

The staff here says that my recovery had been "remarkable". I attribute it to all the prayers and good vibes that are whizzing through the air. Thank you so much for the continued prayers and for being with me every step of the way. Medicine can treat, but it is love that heals.


Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Trasnplant Day 27, (36 days in the hospital)

Tuesday, August 1, Day 27 (36) .

Halleluiah! I'm online! A tech came into my room this afternoon and said "Congratulations, you have DSL!". Good timing, because it's only now that I feel strong enough to sit, focus, read and type, for a few minutes at a time, at least. There is still a long way to go but I am so thankful to have made it this far into the transplant. It's been a rough ride, but I'm SLOWLY getting better with each passing day.

Picture a boundary of a 15-foot radius surrounding your humble bed. Now imagine not going beyond that boundary for almost an entire summer. Yet, within that circle you experience one of the most remote and arduous of journeys, with 90% of the time not extending beyond center. It's been 36 days since the heavy doors of this hushed, sterile ward sealed off the aromatic chatter and pungent textures of the outside world. And each day has been draped with uncertainty, with Hope clinging to the yards with long arms.

The effulgence of life is so real here because death lingers so close. It would be too easy to describe the experience as "surreal", but the world inside the heavy doors does bear closer to a disjointed dream or stuff of placid nightmares. Except for the one hour when you are "unhooked" in order to take a shower, your heart is literally tethered to a pair of six (or seven?) foot long vertical poles on rolling casters, via catheter tubing from your chest. This is also known as the "IV tree", whence hangs a buffet of chemotherapy, narcotics, nutrient support, antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, and antirejection drugs.

Nurses and long-term patients share a special dark humor with each other to help cope with the daily activity of holding on. One of the running jokes is that you are "married" to the "IV Tree" for your entire stay. As a result, some people have taken to christening their trees with special names. Men, especially those under 40, call their trees the "mother-in-law" or simply "in-law". Women tend to be more whimsical, with "Antonio Banderas" or "George Clooney" being the popular guys to have by your side 24/7 while facing each day.

And with each day it is the tiny goals, the littlest of accomplishments that bring applause and tears: Going 24 hours without needing narcotic pain medication; Feeling well enough to raise your arms above your head; Regaining the ability to swallow food. Less than a week ago, I tested my strength and stamina by trying to stand in the shower. When I was finally able to stand for the entire five minutes, the nurse clapped and cheered and then sheepishly pumped her light-blue, non-latex glove in the air.

I love showering. Though the private bathroom is just five feet from my bed, the shower is only time I can "escape" from the bland heavy air of the hospital ward. The faucets turn, the hot water flows down, I close my eyes and suddenly I am covered in Plumeria lather in an outdoor shower on Maui; I am kayaking sea caves in the Meditterean; I am dancing in Virginia rain.

Four days ago, I was finally allowed to leave my room, covered in mask, gloves and isolation gown. I took a short walk in the morning and starting yesterday, I take another short walk in the evening. There are many stories in this hallway. Some tragic, some inspiring. There was the 3-year old girl and her mother who waved to me through the window. A year and a half ago the little toddler was fighting for her life . Three times her mother was told that her little girl would not make it through the night. Now the little girl smiles with cherubic cheeks, healthy.

There is also Rodrigo, who had a transplant 28 years ago and now works as a BMT nurse to help others make it through.

Okay, there goes my energy... need to doze off for now. 27 Days Down. 73 more days to go before I can leave the hospital.

I can't believe it's August. Sending much much much love.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Update from Aaron - Milestones

Hi folks. I just want to tell you about my visit with Christine on Sunday afternoon. As always, it was wonderful seeing her, and we talked for about 30 minutes. She looked tired, but she also looked good, and she is very encouraged by how she feels a little more energetic as each day passes.

Christine is measuring her progress by way of the little things...things most of us would never even think about, but what for her are significant steps. For example: sitting in a chair. Christine said that a week ago she couldn't even sit in a chair. You know, it takes a certain measure of body strength to sit in a chair. But 99.9% of people are way past that point of their bodies being able to do it, so it never even crosses our minds. But there are a lot of muscles in our bodies -- like, say, in our backs -- that see to it that we can sit in a chair. And if those muscles are severely weakened or in pain...well, for some people simply sitting in a chair for more than a minute is as daunting a task as doing 50 straight push-ups is for others.

Christine told me that a week ago she could not sit in a chair. The first time she tried she
absolutely could not do it. She then set out on a goal to be able to sit in a chair for as long as 5 minutes. She gradually built up to that, and she did it. On Sunday she told me that the last time she tried, she was able to sit in a chair for nearly 15 minutes.

Christine also used the example of drinking from a simple cup. (Think standard Styrofoam cup size.) Before it would take her several hours to drink an amount that any of us could literally down in four or five gulps without the cup even leaving our mouths. At this point, though, she is able to fully drink the contents of a cup in less than an hour.

Christine said she feels grateful because she knows that a lot of people who went through what she is going through were never again able to regain the strength to sit in a chair; or to drink a full cup of juice. But she has achieved those simple milestones. And they ARE milestones. And that gives her strength and hope.

Christine absolutely loves it when she is able to receive visitors. And she is tickled saffron when she talks about the impression her friends have left on the other folks there. Christine recounted several -- SEVERAL -- instances when a nurse walked in on her friends doing something...shall we say...out of the ordinary for your typical visitors at City of Hope. She gave me a nice little demonstration of the various facial expressions her nurses have made when walking in on Christine's friends being...well, Christine's friends.

But Christine absolutely loves it. And she thinks the nurses on her floor secretly love it too. Christine said they are so used to visitors to the other patients being serious and morose. Most visitors who come to see people at City of Hope exude a vibe of sadness. But Christine's friends come to City of Hope with a vibe of being alive and ENJOYING being alive. Christine said that everybody notices; and that THAT is a major source of her determination to fight on.

Oh, Christine and I came up with a simple little game, and Christine has asked all of you to contribute either when you come to visit or even here on this site: The Duo Game! At one point during my visit Christine noted how she now has someone else's cells flowing through her body, and she ended the thought by saying she and her donor are now " Simon and Garfunkle." And that's how it started. All of a sudden we started trying to name as many famous duos as we could.

Yeah, Christine and I both agree it doesn't make much sense. But for some reason we really got into it, and we spent a lot of time coming up with endings to the sentence, "My donor and I now go together like ______ and ________." Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Abbott and Costello. Hall and Oates. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Barnum and Bailey. For some reason, though, we couldn't name any famous duos that didn't make us feel...well, a bit dated. We just couldn't think of any from the last few years. And no, duos like "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie" don't count. The main rule is that both individuals had to have (have to had?) become famous AS a twosome. Anyway, we surmised that maybe people
these days are so into themselves that folks with talent (real or marketed as such) aren't as interested in sharing the glory and the spoils with someone else. But extra points to anyone who can name for Christine any famous duos of the late 90's or 2000's.

I was also able to get out of Christine a particular desire she harbors: a puppet show! It seems that glass partition separating Christine from her visitors provides a great set-up for a puppet show, and Christine has been wondering how such a thing would go over. Now, I was in Chinatown right before heading out to City of Hope, and I had gone by a friend's cult toy store to get a little something for Christine to add to the gallery of knick-knacks and playthings in her room. I wound up getting her an obscure little Luke Skywalker X-Wing fighter pilot figurine. So when I learned of her desire for a puppet show, I was ready to use it to act out a few choice scenes from "Star Wars" for her. But she was getting tired and it was time for me to
conclude my visit, so unfortunately no show on Sunday. But in someone out there who will visit Christine this week is a puppet show that will make her smile. :-)

It was great spending time with her.

Oh, hey, Christine...Dave Wakeling and Rankin' Roger!!!

(Hmmm, still feel old...)


Update from Julia - Visit

Hello, everyone--

I went to go see Christine yesterday and am happy to report that she looked and sounded great. Traffic was light and City of Hope was pretty quiet; I highly recommend visiting on a Sunday.

We got to chat for about 45 minutes. I ran into her mother in the elevator on the way in and once I introduced myself as Christine's friend, she immediately gave me a huge hug. What a great mom!

I don't have much info on what exactly is happening white cell count-wise, but I do know that she's been noticing a big difference in the last few days. Her energy is up and she even briefly stepped outside her room one day. Yes, that's right, she actually left the bubble! Granted it was just an excruciatingly slow shuffle down the hallway but still. The funny thing was that
apparently it gave her motion sickness--she's that unused to moving around a space larger than her room.

Another change is that she's starting to have enough energy and focus to read. It still exhausts her to do simple things like sitting up, but she seems to be in a good place. She's got a long way to go, but when I'm with her it's hard to believe that she's sick.

She's full of more life and light than most of the people I know walking around. I know hospitals can be depressing and scary, but seeing Christine always makes me so happy. So go visit if you can! And bring snacks for the hardworking nurses who take care of her (I forgot to but won't forget again).

Keep up the good thoughts and the prayers!

Julia C