Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Letter

Tomorrow is one year since I watched the large red bag of marrow be gently hung on Ann's IV pole by Dr. Andersson. I think back to all the craziness of that time, and in comparison to what life is like now and it feels like a dream. Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on us and I was being told that I would have to leave the hospital soon and leave Ann behind in the most vulnerable state I could imagine.

I wanted to say thank you to the parents who donated her cords for the 1st transplant, but they did so chance to ever find out who they are. This time however, Ann has an adult donor that the NMDP has the contact info for and now we can.

I have struggled with how to write a letter to her donor. I've drafted it and redrafted it time and again. But I still come back to the fundamental problem of how to say thank you to someone who has literally saved the life of the person you would willingly die for.

I wish I had the eloquence of Shakespeare or the wit of Wilde. But I don't, and lacking their considerable talents I offer this instead...

Dear Kind Stranger,

One year ago my wife was struggling for life, as leukemia destroyed her from the inside. I could only watch in despair as my best friend in the world and woman I loved gradually began to slip through my fingers. Because of my Wife’s cancer we needed a bone marrow transplant, but because of her race the chance of finding a donor was almost impossible. Our chances for a happy life together, to love each other, to one day raise a family, and to dream to do the small normal things that people do each day as a celebration of their love for each other were grim.

Then something remarkable happened…you decided to step forward and through great selflessness gave us another chance. I can only imagine that the choice you made to donate was born out of hope and optimism, and oh how I wish I could show you all the things that have flowed from your choice. To say you have changed our lives forever is nothing if not the most remarkable understatement.

Because of you I have enjoyed my Wife’s smile, her laughter, and a million small moments so precious that I would save them forever. Simply saying “Thank you” for what is the greatest act of selflessness I have ever seen seems too easy and far too small. I aspire to say something greater and more profound, something that carries the weight of everything I feel and care about. Something that celebrates your altruistic spirit and raises you aloft so you can be given the recognition such an exceptional person truly deserves. Without you our world would have come to an end.

I feel a great grief in closing this, and feel my words have been fragile in the face of your overwhelming kindness. I hope that it is enough to say that you have given us not only life but also hope. You are my hero.

I'm undecided as to whether or not this is good enough.


Anonymous said...

That is the most perfect letter you could possibly write. It conveys all of your emotion, gratitude and the heavy magnitude of your situation in a deeply felt, eloquent prose. Don't change a word...send it as is. Excellent!

love and prayers from a little further north

Daria said...

It is a very good letter ... I can't imagine it being better.

PJ said...

What you've said is quite enough. I feel the same way about my donor. Here's to the 1st anniversary of Ann's transplant, and to many many more.

Susan C said...

It's a warm and heart-felt letter, Chris.

Jim said...


It made me misty-eyed. Well said, friend.


Anonymous said...

Amazing letter. Wouldn't change a thing.

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Special invitation to leukemia bloggers. This month’s Book Club selection at is by leukemia and transplant survivor, Evan Handler. Handler is a noted Broadway and television actor best known as Charlotte’s boyfriend/husband in Sex and the City. He has also appeared in Lost, The West Wing, and Studio 60. This funny and poignant book covers his diagnosis with AML, his remission, relapse, and treatment with bone marrow transplant at John Hopkins and Memorial Sloan-Kettering. You can order a new or used copy of the book from my site. Discussion began today and will continue for the next three Mondays in September.
Take care, Dennis

Nancy said...

First of all... HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANN!!! It's a miracle and everyday is ever so precious.

Secondly, Chris, where were you when I was writing my donor letter? Your letter is perfect.

Here's to another great year for the two of you to share.... Congrats on your First Birthday and may you have many, many, many more!!!

love you, n

Anonymous said...

Happy one year super star!!!
Amazing letter- it brought tears to my eyes and they are very dry from gvhd!
xo- Lea

Ronni Gordon said...

It's a wonderful letter. I know what you mean about not being sure what to say. "Thank you" seems so inadequate, but that is what we want to say.

Congratulations on the one-year anniversary. Are you going to try to meet the donor?

Anonymous said...

Chris, the letter is perfect. Anyone who writes from the heart, writes perfectly.

Wendy Ü

Wiley said...

Chris, you letter has an eloquence that only sincerity can give! I write for a living and strive for such clarity and eloquence. I wouldn't hesitate to send that letter out!