Let the celebration begin! TEN years ago today, I had either just completed or was very soon to start my bone marrow transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. I can't remember the exact time but I remember that a small bag of frozen stem cells were brought into my room, thawed and hung like an IV and, in approximately 45 minutes, it was empty and transplant done!! While there was a sense of relief, it was quite an uneventful day! Of course, the worst was yet to come. The details that followed are not important. What IS important is the love and support of people who were with us (and I do mean us!) through this most difficult time!
I have been asked repeatedly, "how did you do it?" My reply, "how could I not do it?" First of all I had a strong FAITH, the most supportive FAMILY and the best FRIENDS in the world! There is no way in the world to have made it to this milestone without these 3 things!
First of all, thanks be to the Lord for his grace and mercy - for giving me the chance to continue living my life. I held tightly to Jeremiah 29:11, shared with me by my sweet friend, Gina Paulette. One of the first things that Dr. Foran, at UAB told me was "Live your Life". I had just been told I had cancer and their was no cure - these were very encouraging words!
To my husband, Barry, thanks for being my rock! Thanks for being there for me every day that I was a UAB - while managing to work as well - and for being there for the girls at night! AND thanks for every word of encouragement before and since. It is the little things that get to him - but on this big thing, he never wavered!
To my daughters, Elle and Annie, thanks for going with the flow! You have no idea how much you inspired me every day. I loved those sweet words from Elle on the phone and hearing Annie's sweet laugh. This Mama had to get well to watch these two beautiful, sweet girls grow up! The sweet Care Bear that Elle gave me when I went to the hospital still sits on my nightstand and I am reminded daily of the sweet encouragement of a 2 year old and how much that impacted my recovery!
To my parents, Robert and Nell McLendon.... there are no words to describe the impact they made on this recovery. For 7 weeks straight, my sweet Mama stayed at my house - cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of the girls and so much more! During this time, we lost my dear Uncle Clinton but my Mama stayed in Tuscaloosa for me. My Daddy was back and forth, taking care of home and helping us out in Tuscaloosa. If there is one thing that I learned from my Daddy, it's dealing with what life gives you and doing it to the best of your ability. My Daddy's legacy will always be a part of my life. Oh, how I miss him saying that "everything will be alright."
To my Allen family......thanks to my mother and father in law, Keith and Sue Allen, Barry's aunt, Deborah Turner, Barry's sister, Suzanne Camp, and her family - thanks for always being wherever needed. Your love and support means more to me than you will every know.
To our Sunday School Class at Circlewood Baptist Church and our church family at Circlewood....Wow! I couldn't begin to list the things you all did for us. Just know that every quarter for the parking garage, every meal, every prayer, every Christmas carol, every EVERYTHING will always be near to our heart! What a most encouraging "Circle of Friends"!
To our precious friends, Jane and Jerry Eure, who are like another set of parents to us......thank YOU for everything you did. We could always count on you!!
To my Class of 1978 of Pike Liberal Arts.... the medical spending account you all created was always there when we needed it most! How amazing, after 26 years, you all came together to support my family in this way. If that's not encouragement, what is? There is a lot to be said for a small school with a graduating class of 36. Wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!
To my fellow DCH Employees.......Administration, Therapy Departments, Organizational Development and Education and others - the food, the cards, the flowers, the prayers, the PTO (PAID TIME OFF) and more will never be forgotten! Yes, friends at DCH shared enough of their personal leave for me to get paid for nearly 4 months when I had no PTO left. Absolutely amazing! I begged Human Resources to tell me who donated so that I could write thank you notes but they would not! SO...if you are reading this, please KNOW how very much I love you for doing this for me and helping to save my family from financial crisis! DCH will always have a special place in my heart and this is one big reason! A wealth of encouragement came from DCH!
To my Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae sisters..... the collegiate sorority experience is awesome but it is nothing compared to the love and support that I received from our local Tuscaloosa alumnae group. I will never forget coming home one day and our sitter saying to me "Girl, we almost didn't get all that stuff in your freezer" to which I replied "what stuff?" My Alpha Gam sisters had packed my deep freezer FULL of meals that we could just take out and heat! This is not all they did for us and I could never thank them enough. More encouragement!!
To my childhood friends and the best friends anyone could ever ask for.....I will never forget seeing the faces of my dear friends, Pam Lawson Thompson and Tami Caldwell Meeks in my hospital room not long after I received that dreaded diagnosis. They continue to inspire and encourage me to this day. To the entire Lawson family, whom I have written about before.... there are no better friends!! Your love and encouragement meant the world to me! To Hank and Maria Strother, thank you for your support from the bottom of my heart!
To my precious friend, Kim Marsh.....Kim organized meals to be delivered to my home every other night for 3-4 months. She organized house cleaning, monetary donations, and a fabulous welcome home celebration as well. All because she cared! Most importantly, she was a communication line for prayer requests and updates. We didn't really do Facebook, Caring Bridge, Take Them a Meal that we all use now. She did it the good old fashioned way - phone calls - all while taking care of her own family and her physical therapy private practice. What an amazing, encouraging friend!
To my college friend, Phyllis McCaleb Brasfield...... the love and encouragement of you and your family was amazing. Thanks for taking me to lunch, sewing classes and helping me to "live my life"!
To every person that prepared a meal, sent a gift card.....you can never understand how much that support means until you have experienced it. It was so helpful to not have to worry about meals. I wish I could name each and every one of you but I would for sure miss someone. Please know that everything was much appreciated and encouraged our family!
To the MANY prayer warriors...... I lived for the mail to come every day... every single card, prayer gram, prayer list, gift, pink basket, CD, cute hat, etc. that was sent to me meant something - every word encouraged me!! I still have every card! I can't say enough about your love and support!
To the medical staff who diagnosed my cancer and took care of me through this process..... All I can say is "So thankful for you!" When Dr. David Hinton gave me my diagnosis in December of 2003, I told him he must be in the wrong room - that I had a 2 year old and a 7 month old with a trach at home and it couldn't be me. He said to me, "There is so much hope in your situation with all that is going on in multiple myeloma research right now". I took that as encouragement and thus the journey began. I can't begin to describe how thankful I am for Dr. Hinton and the incredibly caring staff of the DCH Cancer Center (now the Manderson Cancer Center) and for the UAB Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, especially Dr. James Foran, Dr. Donna Salzman and Dr. William Vaughn who provide outstanding medical care which led to a successful transplant.
If you have made it this far (there was no way to make this short!), I hope that you have seen just how much people living with cancer NEED your love and support. When I say "I couldn't have done it without you" I mean it! Whether you were mentioned by name in this blog or not, if you did anything - say a prayer, donate money, send a card, provide food, send a gift, encourage me or anyone in my family or anything else - know that you were a key to my success. Again, I am thankful to the Lord God Almighty for giving me new life on this day in 2005 and to you ALL for being the hands and feet of Christ!
I am Blessed Beyond Measure!
Love and Blessings to you ALL!
On the day that I was diagnosed, our family met a sweet new friend, Debra Lightsey. Debra had previously had a bone marrow transplant and she was my "guiding light" - Her words of encouragement to Barry and to me were a huge inspiration to us in the early days of my journey. Unfortunately, Debra's course required a second transplant and she was later called home to be with the Lord. What a life well lived! Loved this sweet lady!
Some years after my transplant, I found out that one of my childhood friends and fellow P.L.A.S. classmates, Jim Drinkard, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. No one has ever fought a braver fight with such a disease and inspired so many people in the process! After a three year battle and multiple transplants, Jim was also called home to be with the Lord as well. I had no words to explain this!
There are others that I have met who encouraged me and whom I have encouraged that have not survived this disease. I can't describe the feeling that I have in knowing that I survived when others did not. While my heart is exploding with JOY on this 10th year, it still hurts for these precious families! Blessings to the families of these dear friends!