In the last post I said that this feels more like an ending of sorts. But, apart from that rather vague description exactly where does one start in describing, let alone summing up the finale to what has been the most life changing episode in our lives?
To avoid breaking with tradition, I'll start with last Friday. We boarded a flight from Baton Rouge to Houston and then to LA. Both of us nervous and a little giddy at what was coming up. We had known about the A3M event for several weeks and had avoided saying anything about it on the blog, because anything can happen.
Exhibit one to this is Ann's latest bout with GVHD and pneumonia which landed her in the hospital. Right after that was the "5 Year" visit, the one where you're supposed to get the "golden handshake"; the one where the doctor says, "you look great" and "thanks for coming in", or most importantly "you survived / beat the odds / are cured" or some combination of words that equates to those sentiments. Ergo, posting that we were poised to take a "victory lap" with so many plates spinning seemed like tempting fate.
So last Friday, we boarded a flight from Baton Rouge to Los Angeles by way of Houston. The trip was anticlimactic to say the least. Modern air travel is only palatable because of the mass adoption of the smart phone and audio and video compression algorithms. 5 fours later and 2 hours ahead of what time we were used to, we arrived at LAX.
We were collected at baggage claim by Ahn Nguyen and her husband Ted (from A3M). As it turns out they were there not just to meet us but also to prevent us from accidentally bumping into Ann's donor and family who were flying the same airline from a different destintion and only about 10 minutes behind us. We were clueless as to the subterfuge, and just ready get our bags, and go. Ann was suffering the effects of jet-lag at this point much worse than I was. So after a great dinner and a brief tour of the city, we checked into out hotel room and almost collapsed.
The next day, the big event was scheduled for the evening, which left us most of the day to mess around. We did a little walking around downtown LA before Ann started worrying about her breathing. That sent us back to the hotel, but not before seeing most of downtown LA barricaded off by private security and teamsters who were there apparently to shoot a Kia Soul commercial. The film crews, cameras and Mercedes fitted out with steady cams were neat to look at - the day glow safety orange Kia...no so much.
Once back at the hotel we started getting ready for the big night.
Remember what it felt like to go out on a first date? Or junior Prom? Yeah - that picture just about sums it up. Nervous was the secret word of the day. Ann and I had joked several times about what would happen if we met her donor and she didn't like us. All joking aside, meeting Ann's donor wasn't just a very real possibility. In a matter of about three hours, it was a certainty. Don't think the thought of breaking my leg and having to go to the hospital didn't occur to me - it did.
Before we could flee, and spare the world from what unwholesome despicable people we were, Anh turned up at our room and ushered us down to the silent auction A3M was holding.
We arrived and ran into Nancy Sakakura! Long time readers of the blog will recognize Nancy as one of the people who comments most frequently and our history and friendship goes all the way back to the darkest days of 2007. Nancy was the 1st patient I ever reached to out who responded. She gave Ann and me such hope that the odds could be beaten, bone marrow transplants could be survived and life could begin to "look" normal once again. Nancy and her blog about her transplant at City of Hope gave us a road map of what treatment, transplant, engraftment and recovery would look like. I will be forever grateful to her for taking the time to share with us, because without her friendship everything would have been so much darker.
OK, so this is a good place to draw Part 1 to a close. Next update we have the event and meeting two of the most genuine and precious people in the world.