Monday, March 4, 2013

Baby of the Family

      Stem cell transplants are amazing, medical procedures.  Whether allogenic, requiring the healthy stem cells from a donor, or autologous, taking cells from the patient - it's a miraculous process.  With the allogenic, the search for a donor begins with immediate family members, with siblings having the highest probability of being a match.  After that the search goes national and sometimes even global through the registry. If you want more information, go to
     I had the autologous transplant.  Healthy cells are "harvested" from the patient; treated, tested, and then frozen to be transfused back into the cancer patient.  Both of these transfusions have similarities before the transplant. Cancer cells must be killed through several sessions of intense chemotherapy, which of course, destroys healthy red cells, white cells and platelets in the process. The last session before "Day Zero," the treatment reaches a "reverse pinnacle," and almost complete annihilation of blood cells. One of my doctors called the process "draining the pond." This was the toughest "marathon" I had ever run. But I will write about that later.

Saturday, Chris and I, with our daughter, Callie, and boyfriend, Timothy, joined transplant doctors, nurses, stem cell transplant patients, donors and others as Team Match Makers. We raised funds for Be the Match Foundation and had our own tent for the celebration of healing and life. Several donors were present. One patient met her donor for the first time.
Dr. Jennifer Potter introduced each stem cell patient that was present. What a unique group! Some young, some older, working, retired, some with family, some alone. Even a former Olympic gold medalist joined as a survivor. Jennifer presented the medical staff to cheers from all: Dr. Bhushan, Eddie, Brenda, Jodi, Leah, Patricia, Jennifer, Katy and more. She presented from oldest patient to youngest, according to our "new birthday." The first, a woman who was seven years from her transplant. Cheers, hugs...shared pain unites us. A healthy man, six years old...more cheers, more hugs. Shared pain unites us. Hannah, from England, Shannon, from Frisco. A daughter accepts her father's card; with tears as he could not be there to celebrate. Shared pain unites us.

I have read accounts of POW soldiers. Even years after their captivity, they still share an unexplainable common bond. The torture and the pain that they endured united them forever. I remember during the years when I used to run marathons, I would come across someone with a T-shirt or a bumper sticker that read "26.2." We would begin to talk as complete strangers, while not strangers, as we told of the races we had run. Why? The pain and the common experience united us.

 As I continued to listen to the announced birthdays, I realized that the name list must be nearing an end. And then it occurred to me. I must be the "youngest patient" here.  As I stood with Chris, who had been beside me through the entire journey, Jennifer called my name.  Kevin Weaver was the baby of this new family!  4 months old, no immunizations, baby hair on my head.  Through cheers and tears, Dr. Bhushan stood at the perimeter of the group, smiling as he looked on each of his patients.  Such an humble man, content to be on the outside, looking in.  And the first day I met him flashed into my mind - that day in July he gave us an hour lesson, teaching me about my cancer and suggesting the pathway to remission.  So naturally, when Jennifer called my name, I walked to Dr. Bhushan, the man who helped save my life, to give him a hug of gratitude.

     In his book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years", Donald Miller describes the effect of adversity on the story of our lives, "But in that place, I remembered about story, about how every conflict, no matter how hard, comes back to bless the protagonist if he will face his fate with courage.  There is no conflict man can endure that will not produce a blessing.  And I smiled.  I'm not saying I was happy, but for some reason I smiled.  It hurts now, but I'll love this memory, I thought to myself.  And I do."

     Thank you, Chris, for enduring the pain with me and continuing this chapter of our story.  Thank you, Jennifer Potter, for organizing our team and celebrating with us.  Thank you, Dr. Bhushan, for leaving your home country to share your gifts with us.  Thank you, Medical City staff!

     Ultimately, God is my healer, but here are some of his helper-angels!
Dr. Bhushan

Jennifer Potter
Eddie (one of my nurses)
Brenda (one of my stem cell transplant coordinators)
Jodi (one of my nurses)

Timothy & Callie (Callie is in green!)


My best friend, Chris & me (She's the pretty one!)          
Leah Atwood ( stem cell coordinator)

1 comment:

Chris Weaver said...

I'm so glad we could be a part of such a celebration! Life is sweet and better when shared!