Friday, May 9, 2014

The New Normal Can Be Pretty Normal

I think this last week is the first one in which being a transplant patient just didn't come up. Yeah, I got asked about how I was doing. I have a lot of friends who care about me, but I had to say, "I haven't thought about it."

I take my pills every day, though I hope for them to be reduced drastically on my next visit to Vanderbilt (in July). They are a reminder that something very difficult happened to my body. I still can't run very well. My sprint is a joke, and a quarter mile would be a long jog.

My feet are getting better, though. They burn, tingle and feel numb much less than they did a few months ago. My stem cell transplant doctor tells me that's because we're reducing the steroids.

Otherwise, I just go about my life. Every now and then I have a day where everything is difficult. I don't want to get out of bed, and everything I do is like slogging through swamp. Usually, I just cancel those days and hang out in bed. Nothing fixes it.

Those days are few and far between, though they do happen once or twice a month. It's only been two or three weeks since the last one. Nonetheless, nothing about my bout with leukemia (and especially the stem cell transplant, which was by far the hardest thing) has affected me enough for me to think about leukemia over this last week.

The burning in my feet kept the reminder alive for the last few months, but though they burn some now, and they swell if I sit too much, it's so minor now that I don't think about it. I have to sleep close to 8 hours for the swelling to go away, but that's a habit now.

Best of all, the exercise I try to do every day is finally working! I do odd body-weight exercises because I'm so weak compared to my pre-leukemia days, but now I'm progressing to more normal exercises (like pushups). I can carry groceries in without gasping for breath because of the exertion. I pick things up and move them around like I'm an adult male.

Actually, the strength part was pretty good in the last part of 2013, too. Pneumonia in January of this year sapped an incredible amount of muscle from me, especially considering I was only down for about two weeks. It's May, and I've finally got all my strength back that I had in December.

I work all day without thinking much about it, although many leukemia survivors, especially transplant recipients, never return to full-time work.

I am two years and four months past transplant, and I got a serious preparation for that transplant. I used up my radiation allotment for my whole life. If I ever get prostate cancer, like a lot of men do, there will be no radiation option for me. Radiation worked excellently for my dad. The surgery sounds pretty unpleasant, so my plan is to avoid prostate cancer.

Here I am, though. I'm kickin', everything seems to be working in my body, and I like the new norm. Physically, it's not much worse than the old norm, and in peace and wisdom, I am far ahead of where I would have been without that wonderful intermission in my life we call leukemia therapy.

I'll quit now. For the record, this is written for BPDCN and acute leukemia patients who are still going through treatment and wondering what they have to look forward to. Fight the good fight! Do everything right! You can come out on the other side of this much wiser and only somewhat beat up physically.