My Third Transplant-a-versary

My Third Transplant-a-versary May 4, 2019

Three years ago today(1), I received a bone marrow transplant. A complete stranger offered a part of himself to save me. I will carry that gift for the rest of my life.

It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. But, as it turns out, accepting a gift of life from someone is not as easy as they make it look on television.

The truth is, I always hated accepting help from other people. It was a solid part of my personality. I believed it made me weak and dependent.

Worse, I thought it made me look vulnerable. And then, as is the way of things, I was brutally disabused of my bullshit.

Learning to Accept

The transplant(2) offered me a simple choice. Either accept someone’s gift of life and learn to make it a part of myself right down to my cells. Or die.

Lying there, my death was not some abstract maybe. In the hospital, it was all around me.

A man stands next to a grave with an umbrella protecting him from the glaring sun.
The author at Rose Hill Cemetery, ©2019 Polly Peterson, used with permission

And so I had to know, not just admit grudgingly, that I could not survive on my own. Raised to believe I was independent and free and separate, I had been pushing the world away. I had to stop. It was a tougher choice than you would think.

Now, I walk around every day with someone else’s blood coursing through my veins. Each breath, every heartbeat, is a gift from some unknown stranger who thought I was worth the effort.

Apparently, I can live with that.

Gratitude

Beyond my donor, there were at least a dozen of doctors and more than a score of nurses and other assistants who did their duty. Maybe they get paid, but there is not enough money in the world to compensate for what they do.

More, there were the hundreds of people who prayed. And in a fight for my life, all prayers were welcomed, regardless of religion or sect. They say there are no atheists in foxholes; there are also no denominations in a fight for your life.

And in the end, probably a dozen or more seriously determined bad-ass practitioners threw caution to the wind and got down to brass tacks. The miracles of science merged with the miracles of magic, and I walked out alive.

To all of you, thank you.

Life 2.0

It has been three years since the transplant. In many ways, things are back to some semblance of normal. I am back in the office and work full time at the same job I had before this all happened.

Yet, at the same time, the experience has changed me. The acceptance of this gift, of my transplant, has opened up whole new levels of acceptance.

The things that would happen “someday” are happening now. My wife and I are in a clergy training program, meditating every day, and doing the work. It is not easy, but there is no time to put it off.

I guess, in the end, you never know what people have been through. And you never know what you are capable of until it is your turn. Thanks, Universe. Lesson learned.


Notes

(1) Yes, my transplant took place on May the Fourth. Star Wars Day is now my extra birthday. Perfect.

(2) Before I was diagnosed with leukemia, I was completely unfamiliar with both the disease and its treatment. In brief, the doctors kill off a patient’s cancerous bone marrow as much as possible with poisons (chemotherapy), radiation, or both. They then dump millions of someone else’s stem cells into the patient’s bloodstream. The donor is alive and well somewhere, but many people never get (or necessarily want) to meet theirs.

P.S. If this story has moved you at all, please consider giving to City of Hope or joining the bone marrow registry.

About Christopher Drysdale
Christopher Drysdale is an animist, martial artist, shamanic practitioner, healer, psychopomp, and meditation teacher. He’s been pagan for more than 30 years, has a master’s degree in anthropology, and thinks making the world a better place is a pretty good idea. He makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more about the author here.
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  • It is a humbling experience when one has to depend on another person for survival, but in reality we are all dependant on each other. At least in the great US of A. There are very few in modern industrialized counties who are not completely dependant on others, be food production, power, etc.

    I am glad you made it through this ordeal and are thriving. May you have as many more anniversaries as you desire.