On this day five years ago, I received the news that a recent lung biopsy showed that my lungs were inflicted with a severe form of graft versus host disease (GVHD) called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS). BOS, I came to find out, was a known but uncommon side-effect resulting from a bone marrow transplant (for leukemia) that I had had earlier in the year. And by severe I was told it meant the BOS was incurable, non-reversible, and, in most cases, aggressively fatal. I was also told — because I had asked and insisted on an answer — that, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of the time, BOS had only a 13%, five-year survival rate. In other words, there was an 87% chance that within five years I would be dead.
Well, it’s been five years and here I am – a newly minted Thirteen Percenter.
Can a brother get a “Hell yeah?”
Anyway… at my most recent appointment with my oncologist, in addition to his standard declaration whenever he sees me of, “So, I see you’re still alive,” he also declared that my present condition may just be a miracle of sorts because it appears that my incurable BOS may have actually been cured… somehow.
I don’t think I would be overstating if I said that, because of all my goings on these past five years – goings on such as leukemia, GVHD (and not just of the lungs, but also of the eyes, liver, and intestines), prednisone side-effects, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and heart failure to name a few – I think I’ve learned a thing or two about life in general and living it in particular.
Now, if you search around this site, I’m pretty sure you will find that much of my writing, mostly encapsulated in my haiku, reflects a lot of the insights and learning I’ve garnered from these goings on. However, just because I like you all so much and don’t want you to have try to sift through this site for days on end in an effort to discover these insights and learning, and because short, pithy lists are all the rage these days, I will identify for you the top thirteen things I learned about how to not only not die, but mostly about how to best live your life filled with happiness and meaning, regardless whether death is looking you directly in the face or not.
While we have quite the cat already – Jack Kerouac – whom I introduced some time ago and can be found as part of Photography page’s gallery collection, I am and always have been a dog man…besides, Kero-chan will have nothing to do with me as he is wholly devoted to the lovely and loving wife, and who can blame him.
But that is fine by me. As a true dog man I can remember clearly all my dog buddies who were there for me all throughout my life. My first dog as a child was an old hound dog named Mickey. I remember with fondness how his tail would always slap at me whenever he was happy. And while all my dogs were great friends to me, my bestest of best friend of all was our last dog Shikibu, a tiny little snowball of Maltese magic.
There are several reasons I am still here on earth after all the leukemia and lung disease as a result of the bone marrow transplant BS. First and foremost is that Universal Power Source of Infinite and Abiding Love we often refer to as God answering all the many, many prayers from all who love me in the form of my lovely and loving wife’s angelic grace and care, and a close second was Shikibu’s love and devotion to me throughout all that BS. Rarely could I leave my chair throughout all that BS, and rarely was Shikibu not by my side throughout all the BS…tucked away snugly, seemingly impossibly so sometimes, between my left hip and the arm of my recliner. Although eternally a puppy in looks and demeanor, she was an elderly lady when the cancer bug got me in 2009, and she was there for me through the worst of it. She died in 2011, not long after we all pretty much realized that I was going to be hanging around a little bit longer after all. She had many serious illnesses herself toward the end but it is my firm belief she held on long enough to know that I was going to be okay. It took me a long time to get over her passing; though I’m not sure that I really am…or ever will be. But recently I had finally reached a point where I was in need of more canine companion.
We knew we wanted a rescue puppy (it had to be a healthy puppy as I have enough issues of my own for my lovely and loving wife to attend to) and we knew we were going to be patient in the process. I did not realize, though, just how patient we’d have to be. I did most of my puppy searching through www.petfinder.com – it’s a very helpful place as it allows targeted search options. Still, I had no idea there are so many dogs in need out there. It took a lot of time. Always getting close, but never getting the cigar, so to speak. We’d find a pup we all could agree only to find that it was either too far away or that someone had just adopted it or any other multitudinous hurdles of a reason. It started to become tedious so we decided that we were going to wait until springtime to continue the search. That way we wouldn’t have to potty train a puppy in the snow. But a couple of days ago I just fired up the link on a whim and right away I came upon “Stella’s Boys” and that was pretty much all she wrote. We found exactly the pup we were looking for…the mostest cutest Plott Hound mix puppies you’ve ever seen
I wanted another hound dog, in honor of Mickey. One son wanted a Retriever for their loyalty and playfulness. And the other son wanted a brindle coated dog because of their unique look and cool name: brindle ~ Brindley …get it? And the wife did not want a horse-sized dog. All these desires came together courtesy of the awesome folks at the Delaware Puppy and Pet Rescue, Inc. Remembering the other pups we lost out on because of delay, I quickly filled out the online Adoption Contract and waited hopefully for the call back, which came on Saturday in the form of an email from Dianne, a hero and angel of a foster mom to the puppies, and many others, saying that we had passed the background check – a call to the references I provided and our local Vet – and invited us to her home to meet with the boys.
Yesterday we made the beautiful two-hour drive to Landenberg, Pennsylvania. If we hadn’t been on such a mission, the wife and I could have easily spent the entire day taking pictures, as the countryside drive was so pleasantly pastoral. But we were on a mission and as soon as we got to Dianne’s home and I saw all the cute puppies, I knew we were coming home with more than one.
And we did. And now I once again have my much needed and appreciated canine companion…thankfully so.
While I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be seeing many more, if any more, pictures of Kero-chan here, I cannot make that same guarantee about the newest members to our family. And while she will always be my bestest of friend and I will forever miss her, I’m pretty sure Shikibu, up in doggy heaven with Mickey, Kipper, Colonel Kish, Juno, and Sebastian, is perfectly okay with that.
Now whether Kero-chan is okay with the invasion…well, that’s a different story.
An in-depth article will follow but I just wanted to say real quick what a magical evening we had with George Winston last night. I knew he was a musical genius because we’ve listened to his music for thirty years and have seen him perform before, but I had no idea he is as kind and compassionate — and funny! really funny! — as he is. I suspected he was; but last night it was confirmed.
Now that I finally made the move and mothballed Marrowish, I feel a wonderful sense of relief and freedom. Instead of feeling guilty about not posting articles regularly on two sites, I only have to feel guilty about one. That’s a quick and easy 50% reduction of guilt in my life.
However, because I’ve integrated all of Marrowish’s posts and what not into this site, there is now much work for me to do: fix link structures, update categories, delete unwanted posts, realign the pages, and on and on. Actually, blog maintenance and upkeep is something I enjoy and when doing it, I can lose hours and hours of my life without even noticing.
I think it’s fair to say that one reason I enjoy doing it so much is because it gives me an excuse not to write. Of course when I’m not writing when I know I should be…more guilt.
Not to mention all the hours I sink into trying to learn GIMP, the open source, Photoshop-like photo editing software I use. I don’t know what it is about photo editing software, but it kicks my butt. Which is why it is so hard for me to create decent looking banners and logos. Which is why the ones I do create tend to look like crap. Which is why I’m constantly changing them.
I find that my restless indecisiveness nicely compliments my resolute procrastination.
I don’t get much traffic here so I know all of the changes and upgrades I make mostly go unnoticed; but I’m sure at least a couple of inadvertent visitors must have noticed that I have had about 5000 different banners on this site in the past month.
The good news is, I think I’m finally getting the hang of GIMP and finally getting the site somewhat presentable so hopefully I will be spending less time monkeying around with all the maintenance and banner editing and more time writing. Which means, of course…less guilt.
Though…I have been meaning to learn more about the intricacies of search engine optimization.