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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thanksgiving in March

(Photo of Annie taken in Northampton the morning I left)

My oncologist called yesterday with some hopeful news. The preliminary results of the bone marrow biopsy indicate that my cancer is probably some kind of large cell lymphoma, and not acute leukemia. This, he says, would be a good thing. He sent my slides to UC San Francisco to get a final confirmation on the diagnosis, so I still won't know exactly what I have or what the plan is for a couple of days.

BUT. I am already seeing silver linings everywhere. If it turns out I don't have leukemia, it is likely I won't have to go to a far-off medical center for treatment. It's even possible I can do all my treatment here in my hometown on an outpatient basis, meaning hospitalization could be minimal. That would be amazing.

Which gets me on the subject of counting my blessings. As crazy and terrible as it seems on the surface, there are so many things going in my favor right now, it almost seems like the best-case-scenario. Here's why:

* Thanks again to Dr.Dad, I was able to get the basic cancer diagnosis in a matter of days. As soon as I got here, he rushed all the blood tests that, in an ordinary situation, could have taken weeks or even months to obtain.

*I was in the hospital for only 16 hours while getting my tests, and then I was freed! I'm pretty sure the local hospital doesn't usually do CT scans on the late-night on Sundays, and the Bone Marrow test happened at the crack of dawn the next morning. Paternal influence again, no doubt.

*I'm able to go through all this here, at home, with my family. That my parents are alive, healthy and able to care for me is not something to be taken for granted. My mom has set to mothering me in ways only a mother can, and provides the voice of reason when my father threatens to go off the deep-end with medical micro-managing. (Yes, even in this situation, there is such a thing). Though I've built a pretty great family in Massachusetts, there is just no substitute for being here in the house I grew up in, having my mom poach me eggs and run errands for me while I relax on the couch watching On Demand and petting her dog.

*I don't feel as sick as I really am. Yes, I break out in crazy hives when I go in the sun, I'm always tired, I can't poop, and my fever is 100.5 all the time. But I've had the flu and felt worse. I'm not nauseous, I'm not vomiting, I can breathe, I can smell, I can taste, I can read, and I can write. So that's pretty cool, right?
(The only tricky part about this one is I do have to be much more careful about not picking up the odd cough or cold, as my immune system is pretty compromised by now. As I've always had a sort of casual relationship with personal hygiene—really embraced the old "a little dirt makes you stronger" philosophy—I now have to be much more serious about it. No more gnawing on my fingernails, or picking pens off the floor and chewing on them, petting dogs and touching my face, etc. Dr. Dad is this close to making me wear a mask when I go out in public).

*Abby Riley. My best friend and soul sister. She drove me all over California to get my tests done and still took me back to San Diego so I could have a vacation. She made me quinoa with avocados when I didn't feel like eating, gave me a massage, let me nap in her bed and sent me home with lots of hand-me-downs. She is the best best friend a girl could have.

*Annie Lane Clarke. My love, partner and future wife. She has been here by my side since the day after she found out. She keeps me sane, she makes me laugh, she sings to me in bed, she scratches my back. She brought me the quilt from our bed at home, my slippers and my stuffed lobster—a childhood treasure—even though it meant only packing one set of clothes for her trip.Most importantly, she is willing to stay with me for the duration, which means living here, 3,000 miles away from everyone she knows and loves, with only me, my parents and Daisy the dog for company. She loves me and it shows.

*The Clarke family, who made it possible for Annie to be here, took in our dog Bella—in spite of her home-cooked chicken diet—and even adopted our fish, Frank. They took the sheets off our bed for Bella to sleep on, and will be taking care of so many of the loose ends that have already presented themselves. I love you, Clarkes.

*EVERYONE ELSE who is reading this! There are too many to name, but all the love and support I've received from each and every one of you is more uplifting, inspiring and encouraging than you can know. I'm so grateful for the help that's already been given, and from all the help I know is still yet to come. I love you all and appreciate all of you tremendously.


  1. Kia. I am sending you so many positive and hopeful thoughts, and thinking of you constantly. I wish there was something I could do to make things better for you. If there is, please let me know!!! I love you and know that you will be OK!!! So glad you have loved ones at your side.

  2. Choose Life!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for keeping us informed. I love ya Cassie!

  3. The Clarkes (and Whitneys too) all love you! Thinking good thoughts & sending them to you & Annie.
    Love, Emily & the boys

  4. Hi Kia,
    It's Annie's Uncle Jeff here, not just some middle-aged wierdo guy reading your blog until the Dateline guy shows up.

    Sending you our very best from Wisconsin, between our marching and our cheesing and our milking. Need a laugh while you rest, try

    Meantime, we'll all be thinking positive thoughts. The entire state will; it's rural, and there is little else going on. Remember, my dad has had every disease known to mankind, and some more common to womankind, and he's still around telling us all what to do and how, so it can be done, this life thing. Heck, you've chosen it already.