Friday, April 30, 2010

Still here, I promise

It's been a full week since I stopped taking tacrolimus and Dana's immune system has been in charge. Since being weaned from the drug, I've noticed that my ability to concentrate has improved and that my skin has become public enemy number one. My allergies are also a bit more acute, but I think that has more to do with this crazy weather.

I have a bit of culpability where the skin issue is concerned. I have been gardening. It started two weeks ago when Chris and I decided to plant a container garden. Simple. All we had to do was go to the local home improvement store and find a container that we both liked and pick up a few plants.

We couldn't find one that we both liked. Chris found one that had a nice shape, but the color was awful and so we compromised. The container and a can of spray paint came home with us, along with an assortment of plants.

What should have been a quick half hour in the great outdoors became a series of projects that spanned two weekends. It was mostly my fault. I insisted on too many plants which meant one very colorful and cheery planter was planted as well as an unintended new garden bed. This one is located at the base of one of the crape myrtles at the front of the house.

Of course, we still had a few plants left over, so we decided to plant another container. Another trip for supplies meant new projects adopted on the fly. Chris wanted to plant ground-cover under the pear trees. More plants.

As we planted, we began talking about the overgrown sago palm guarding the front door. What if we trimmed it back? Another project. It started with an exploratory snip. I cut a frond from the top-most crown. Then I cut another. And another. It was like cutting your Barbie's hair for the first time. Soon, Chris grabbed a pair of shears and joined me. What we thought was three sago palms growing in a clump turned out to be thirteen.

There was a litter of sago pups hidden by the obnoxious growth. Once enough foliage was cut back, we could approximate how long the little bugger had been left to its own devices. The house is twelve years old and there's evidence that some long ago resident nurtured the landscape. At some point, one or a handful of the house's owners stopped trying or didn't realize that trees and bushes need a little attention. We even discovered an azalea bush, withered and gnarled, struggling to grow out from under the palm.

Cutting the sago back helped us realize that it might not be worth saving. It's branched out and has three crowns growing from various points on the main stalk. We could try cutting the extra heads off, but this would likely kill the plant. We've discussed taking out the main tree and replanting one of the pups in its place. The more we talk about it, the less inclined we are to keep the tree. Cutting back the spiky fronds has really opened up the front of the house and made it seem a little more welcome.

While tackling this project, Chris decided he wanted to take out the holly bush behind the sago. What holly bush, you may ask? The specimen that had grown into the bush next to it. The one being overwhelmed by the bully of a bush that seems to have taken over the rest of the bed. It had managed to put up a few distinctly shaped leaves giving testimony to its existence. Chris managed to pull it out in less than five minutes.

This project led to the discovery of a clump of agapanthus struggling for sunlight. We didn't touch them. I have a strange history with agapanthus. I can get them to grow and multiply, but they will not bloom for me. I plan on dividing the clumps and filling in the bed more evenly.

The front bed is looking a little disheveled thanks to our attentions. Chris spread mulch to hide most of the damage. We're discussing what the next step will be. It's fairly likely that the remaining bushes will be trimmed back severely, but that will have to wait until the fall when they become dormant. I hope they enjoy their reprieve.

What does all of this plant talk have to do with my health? I was exposed to more sun over the last two weekends than I have been collectively in three years. I wore sunblock, a hat, and long sleeves. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. I took precautions.

My arms are tan, but not in a conventional way. My transplant family would recognize what I'm talking about. The skin is unevenly pigmented and freckled with spots absent pigment. It is more reminiscent of a chemo tan--that flat brown that busulfan brings about.

I itch. There are plaques of rashes on my face, chest, back, and arms. They are all small and manageable. They are behaving in the normal manner.

I've elected to take a hiatus from the outdoors. I'll stay inside as much as possible and see if the GvHD dies down. There are plenty of projects to tackle inside to keep me busy. I plan on caulking the windows and around the doors this weekend. This will probably lead me to more projects, as home improvement always does.

I am well and I am happy. Dana's immune system is fully in charge and I am grateful.

It's overcast, otherwise, I'd take pictures of our handiwork. Until I'm able, here's a list of the plants that have made the cut:

a silvery-white ground cover whose name presently escapes me

If you're in the area and interested in one of the sago pups, leave a comment, or email me. Chris and I are garden novices, so there are no guarantees that the little guys will survive our attentions, but if they do, you are welcome to them. Even better, if you know what you're doing, you're welcome to dig out as many sago pups as you like. Contact me and we'll make arrangements.


Susan C said...

Wow! You and Chris have been really ambitious.

Hope you find a home for the pups. Do you have craigslist in your area? You might try posting a free listing on that site.

Anonymous said...


Though a dedicated reader of your blog--husband's had two stem cell transplants at MDA--I don't post...however, want you to be aware that the Sago Palm is not a very nice plant. It is one of the most poisonous plants around and it can/could have caused a rash on your skin. It can be deadly to pets.

PJ said...

Ah, scaly patchy Ann. You have a beautiful garden if not so beautiful skin. Hope you don't have to pay the piper too much.

Ann said...


Thanks for the tip about the sago palm. It is a nasty little customer whose popularity in southern landscapes confounds me. The list of horrible things ingesting the fronds can do to a pet or person is frightening. I made absolutely sure that only my gloved hands came into contact with the plant. It might sound silly, but I held my breath while in close proximity to the pollen. I hope your husband is doing well and I'm happy you posted. Perhaps we'll run across one another in an MDA waiting room and you'll say hello? :)

Anonymous said...

Well...I always look for you and Chris but never have seen you at the clinic. We will be there on Tuesday, May 25.

I sometimes write on the site and use the name "Carrietaker."

Ann said...

I know why we've never run across each other in clinic. My doctor has clinic on Wednesdays and Fridays. We're scheduled to be back June 23. I hope your husband has an excellent, worry-free check-up. I'll look for you on the boards. I rarely post there, these days, but I do lurk.