Well guys, it’s coming up on my 6th stem cell transplant anniversary and I’m STILL talking about HSCT whenever I get the chance.
I’ve had more than a few opportunities over the years, and most recently, I was the first Moscow veteran to be interviewed on the HSCT Warriors Podcast. It was an honor to share my Moscow experience with host, “zen” Jen, who had her transplant done in Chicago.
Whether you’re researching HSCT in Moscow, a veteran or currently receiving treatment, I encourage you to give it a listen. There are lots of little details about the treatment, the staff, recovery, Dr. Fedorenko, and two of my “superpowers” that were invaluable during treatment and recovery. Click on the image below for direct access.
While I’ve got you here, keep an eye out for an upcoming announcement about an incredible opportunity I’ve been given to continue advocating for MSrs on a much larger scale, and directly to my target market. It’s an unprecedented chance to share updates on the book I’m working on, speaking gigs, collaborations, and the patented mobility device I created.
DON’T MISS OUT ON ALL THE GOODNESS COMING IN 2019
IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY SIGNED UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES FROM ME, HERE’S YOUR CHANCE
Hello, everyone! I can’t believe it’s September already!
It seems like yesterday I was tearing up the busy streets of New York City, soaking up the energy that oozes from every concrete pore of the city I love so much, and gaining a newfound confidence in my future’s path.
So much has happened since April and I’m dying to share with you what’s been going on in my world of progression-free MS.
You see, here in the northeastern U.S., September typically means crates full of pumpkins, rows of multi-colored mums and occasional cool breezes that sneak their way into the lingering summer heat. They remind us to savor our last chances to dine al fresco or open all the windows in the house before we’re sealed in tightly as the world freezes over for five months.
This year, September means something completely different and exciting for me. As I had mentioned in an earlier post this year, I was considering writing a book. Not long after writing that post, I realized that instead of waiting until I thought it was theperfecttime to write the book, I would plunge ahead with it now, as there really is no perfect time for, well, anything. If that were true, no one would ever get married or have children! It’s all about perspective and creatingyour own perfect timing. I went all in and spent the entire summer carving out the contents of this book from my last 18 years of personal experiences, observations, testimonials, encounters with and counseling of women like me who have been living with disability.
How does September play a role in this story? Well, I have a book proposal deadline of September 30th! In addition to writing the book, I’ve had to create a website under my own name, www.brookeslick.com, hire illustrative designers for logos, book content and cover design, a photographer, and an editor. There’s a bio to be written, a market analysis, a competitive analysis and more that all need to be completed and submitted by 09/30/2018! Whew! I’m out of breath!
Here’s where I need your help! In the eyes of a publisher, one of the most valued assets an author can possess is a healthy-sized “platform”. Platform = how many followers I have that are part of my target market audience and, just as important, how many email addresses I’ve obtained from those followers.
I’ve been so lucky with this blog over the last 5+ years with visitors to the site from 90+ countries and many loyal followers who receive emails any time I make a blog entry. Visitors from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Germany and Norway have been consistent front-runners since day one! The only catch is, I originally created this accidental platform with the intent to share my HSCT experience for anyone, anywhere in the world who was seeking HSCT in Moscow. At the time, I had no intention of gathering email addresses from visitors. It was one of the very first HSCT blogs at a time when there were only a handful of free online resources/bloggers. I wanted to help as many people as possible…no strings attached. This site has and always will remain that way.
What I need now is for anyone who reads this post, “follower” or not, to go to my new website,www.brookeslick.com, and sign up for updates on my book, including the title release, sneak peeks, future release dates, and fun behind the scenes antics. By doing so, you will be helping to build my e-mail list which makes me and my book, which will be tacklingvanity, self-worth and disability in a woman’s world, an even more desirable prospect to a publisher.
The fact that you’ve stuck around all these years humbles me beyond words. But, I’m not too humble to ask PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASEgo to my new website and sign up for updates!
I can’t thank you all enough for your continued support and for taking the time to lend a hand with this big adventure.
It’s evident by this post that dreams can come true after transplant. I wish you all the best before, during and after your HSCT journey. I hope you’re finding this blog at just the right time for you to make a move to free yourself.
Peace, love and thank you.
P.S. Be on the lookout for an official Brooke Slick Facebook & Instagram Page coming soon.
HELLO, EVERYONE! I’M ALMOST 3 YEARS POST-TRANSPLANT AND DECIDED TO WRITE A LETTER TO MY NEWLY-TRANSPLANTED SELF. PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO WATCH THE INTRODUCTORY VIDEO WITH A MESSAGE FROM ME, AND I HOPE YOU ENJOY READING MY “LETTER”.
**PLEASE NOTE THAT EVERYONE’S RECOVERY STORY IS DIFFERENT. THIS IS MINE.
Letter to My Newly-Transplanted Self
HEY, BROOKE! SO, YOU JUST CAME HOME FROM MOSCOW AND YOU’RE WONDERING HOW THIS IS ALL GOING TO SHAKE OUT OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS. WELL, I’VE DECIDED I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU A PEEK INTO THE FUTURE. DON’T BE AFRAID. I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOUR NEMESIS, PATIENCE, IS ABOUT TO BECOME YOUR BEST FRIEND AND THAT YOUR PROMISE TO YOURSELF TO EXPECT AND BE GRATEFUL FOR NOTHING MORE THAN HALTING YOUR DISEASE WILL BE THE GREATEST GIFT YOU COULD HAVE GIVEN HERSELF. HERE’S WHAT’S IN STORE FOR YOU IN RELATIVE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER…
CRAZY THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOUR BODY AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO THE U.S.. THE WEEK YOU GET HOME, YOU’LL GET A FEVER AND RASH FROM YOUR NECK TO YOUR WAIST. YOUR PCP AND DR. FEDORENKO WILL NAIL DOWN THAT IT’S A REACTION TO THE LONG-TERM USE OF THE BACTRIM YOU HAD IN MOSCOW AND THE EXTRAS HE SENT YOU HOME WITH. ONE DAY AFTER DISCONTINUING IT, YOUR FEVER AND RASH WILL BE GONE.
NOW THAT YOU GOT THE DRAMA OUT OF THE WAY, YOU’RE EXHAUSTED, EXCITED, THANKFUL AND GLOWING IN ANTICIPATION OF YOUR HONEYMOON PHASE! ENJOY IT! YOURS IS ONLY GOING TO LAST ABOUT 3 MONTHS, WHEN YOUR SPASTICITY STARTS TO RETURN LITTLE BY LITTLE, BUT THIS TIME, YOU’LL TAKE THE TIME AND EFFORT TO MANAGE IT WITH STRETCHING EXERCISES THAT WILL BECOME PART OF YOUR DAILY ROUTINE…FOR LIFE. NO SHORTCUTS!
HOPEFULLY, YOU DON’T MIND A LITTLE SNOW ON YOUR HONEYMOON, BECAUSE EVERY TIME YOU CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES, IT’S GOING TO LOOK LIKE A SNOW SQUALL FROM ALL THE DRY SKIN CAUSED BY THE CHEMO YOU JUST ENDURED. IT’S ONLY GOING TO LAST FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS, AND YOU’LL BE TOO DISTRACTED BY THE HOT FLASHES YOU ENDURE FOR THE NEXT YEAR TO CARE! YOU’LL BE REMINDED THAT CHEMO IS TOXIC! SO TOXIC THAT YOUR FINGER TIPS WILL PERIODICALLY CRACK AND BLEED. I WISH I COULD TELL YOU THIS IS GOING TO GO AWAY EVENTUALLY, BUT, YOU’RE ALMOST 3 YEARS POST-TRANSPLANT NOW AND O’KEEFE’S WORKING HANDS HAND CREAM IS A NIGHTLY BEDTIME STAPLE.
No Pain, No Gain? Physical Therapy
ALL MOSCOW HSCT VETERANS KNOW DR. FEDORENKO’S MANTRA IS GOOD FOOD, GOOD ATTITUDE AND PHYSICAL THERAPY. FOR YOU, HE PRESCRIBED BEGINNING PHYSICAL THERAPY ONE MONTH AFTER YOU RETURN HOME. I KNOW YOU CAN’T WAIT TO START. YOU FEEL BETTER AND HAVE MORE ENERGY THAN YOU HAVE IN YEARS, THE REFLEXES IN YOUR FEET AND KNEES ARE REACTING NORMALLY, AND YOU ARE SO ANXIOUS TO BE ABLE TO SAY “LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!”…NOT SO FAST.
WHEN THEY ASSESS YOU ON YOUR FIRST DAY OF THERAPY, YOU’RE GOING TO BE SHOCKED AND HUMBLED THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN GET OUT OF A CHAIR WITHOUT USING BOTH YOUR HANDS TO PUSH OFF AND WHEN THEY GIVE YOU A GENTLE SHOVE ON THE SHOULDER, YOU WILL STUMBLE BACKWARD LIKE A FRAIL 95-YEAR-OLD. DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU WERE BUILDING STRENGTH WHILE YOU WERE CONFINED TO A HOSPITAL ROOM FOR A MONTH AND WHILE YOU WERE LOCKED IN YOUR MS SUIT OF ARMOR FOR 7+ YEARS? REALLY?
YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPIST IS GOING TO SET GOALS FOR YOU AND YOU’LL COMMIT TO INVESTING AT LEAST ONE YEAR TO MEET THEM. YOU’RE GOING TO TELL YOURSELF “I BREEZED THROUGH HSCT, I’LL KNOCK THIS OUT OF THE PARK, TOO”, AND YOU DO, BUT YOU ARE GOING TO EXPERIENCE MORE PAIN, SORENESS AND HUMILIATION THAN YOU HAVE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.
3 MONTHS POST-TRANSPLANT AND ONE MONTH AFTER YOUR BEGIN PT, YOU WILL BEGIN TO EXPERIENCE EXTREME JOINT PAIN. KNEES, HIPS, LOWER BACK, YOU NAME IT. IT’S GOING TO FEEL LIKE SOMEONE POURED BATTERY ACID INTO YOUR JOINTS, AND ROLLING OVER IN BED WILL REQUIRE PULLING YOURSELF INTO A FETAL POSITION AND GENTLY POSITIONING YOURSELF. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE MOMENTS WHEN YOU WONDER IF YOU’LL EVER GET ANY RELIEF. YOU WILL. 3 MONTHS LATER, ON THANKSGIVING MORNING, YOU WILL WAKE UP AND HAVE ZERO JOINT PAIN…ZERO! YOU’LL ASK YOURSELF WHAT THE???!!, AND IT NEVER RETURNS. IN THE COMING MONTHS/YEARS, MANY OTHER VETERANS WILL EXPERIENCE THIS SAME JOINT PAIN.
THERE WILL BE A LOT OF MUSCLE PAIN INVOLVED WITH PHYSICAL THERAPY. REMEMBER WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WALKING FUNNY AND YOUR FOOT, LEG AND HIPS STARTED TURNING OUT WHILE YOU WALKED TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING? DO YOU REMEMBER HOW PAINFUL THAT WAS? WELL, NOW, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO HAVE IT ALL SHIFTED BACK INTO PLACE, BUT IT’S GOING TO MAKE YOUR PREVIOUS PAIN SEEM LIKE A WALK IN THE PARK. YOU’RE GOING TO BE PUSHED TO YOUR LIMIT, AND SOMETIMES, YOU’LL PUSH TOO HARD AND REGRESS. GOOD ADVICE WILL COME FROM AN HSCT BUDDY, KEITH. HE’S A CHIROPRACTOR FROM CANADA. HE’LL SUGGEST THAT YOU CUT YOUR ONE HOUR PT SESSIONS TO 30 MINUTES. AT FIRST, YOU’RE GOING TO FEEL LIKE THAT WOULD BE THE EASY WAY OUT, BUT, YOU’LL QUICKLY COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT MORE PAIN, DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN MORE GAIN AND YOU WILL REACH ALL OF YOUR GOALS 5 MONTHS EARLIER THAN EXPECTED. BOOM!
YOU’LL TAKE THE ROUTINES YOU LEARNED AT PT AND BEGIN DOING THEM AT HOME. DOING THEM EVERY OTHER DAY WILL BE YOUR PLAN, BUT IT WILL BE 2 YEARS BEFORE YOU FIND THE PERFECT ALL OVER BODY WORKOUT. IT WILL COME IN THE FORM OF A HULA HOOP. YES, BROOKE. I SAID A HULA HOOP. STOP LAUGHING!
Let’s Keep This Short – Followup Chemo
3 MONTHS POST-TRANSPLANT, YOU’RE GO
ING TO BEGIN ONE YEAR OF FOLLOW-UP CHEMO, ONE EVERY THREE MONTHS, JUST AS DR. FEDORENKO HAD PRESCRIBED BEFORE YOUR HSCT BEGAN. THE GOOD NEWS IS, OVER THE NEXT 3 YEARS, ONLY A FEW MOSCOW PATIENTS WILL REQUIRE FOLLOWUP CHEMO. YOURS IS GOING TO BE MITOXANTRONE, AKA THE “BLUE DEVIL”, DUE TO ITS TOXIC NATURE. ONCE AGAIN, THE PLANETS ARE GOING TO ALIGN FOR YOU. YOU’LL BE BLESSED WITH NO SICKNESS, A FANTASTIC INFUSION CREW AND TWO SUPER COOL HEMATOLOGISTS TO MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS. DON’T GET ME WRONG, 2 DAYS AFTER EACH OF YOUR CHEMO INFUSIONS, YOU’RE GOING TO HIT A BRICK WALL. EVERY OUNCE OF ENERGY OVER EVERY INCH OF YOUR BODY WILL BE SUCKED OUT OF YOU. BLINKING WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST TASK OF THE DAY. NO WORRIES. WITHIN A WEEK, YOU’LL BE BACK IN THE SADDLE, TEARING IT UP AT PHYSICAL THERAPY. SUCK IT, MS!
SO, GET THIS. A COUPLE OF WEEKS AFTER YOU GET HOME, YOU’RE GOING TO REALIZE THAT YOU NO LONGER NEED THE TREKKING POLE YOU’VE RELIED ON FOR THE LAST 2 YEARS. YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR BODY WILL NO LONGER CRAVE IT FOR BALANCE. YOU’LL KEEP IT IN YOUR CAR, JUST IN CASE, BUT, IN THE FUTURE, YOU’LL ONLY NEED IT FOR LONG WALKS OR UNEVEN SURFACES. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, A YEAR FROM NOW, YOU’RE GOING TO FLY SOLO, NAVIGATING THROUGH SOME VERY LONG AIRLINE TERMINALS TO DALLAS AND WON’T EVEN TAKE THE POLE. YOU’LL GET TO MEET THE ORIGINAL NINJA, AMY PETERSON, AND A HANDFUL OF YOUR SOFA SISTERS IN THE FLESH, BUT, YOU’LL STILL BE WEARING YOUR FOOT BRACE, THE ONE THAT KEEPS YOU FROM WEARING ANY OF YOUR FANCY SHOES AND BOOTS. A FEW WEEKS AFTER THAT TRIP, YOU’LL WAKE UP ONE MORNING AND DECIDE THAT YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THAT FOOT BRACE. YOU’LL PUT ON YOUR SHOES WITHOUT IT AND THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE THE BRACE WILL BE A YEAR AND ½ LATER, WHEN YOU’LL FIND IT IN A STORAGE BIN, WHILE LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS, AND YOU’LL BE THANKING GOD YOU CAN WEAR CUTE SHOES AGAIN.
Stop the Train…I Want Off – Revaccination
WHAT ABOUT THOSE REVACCINATIONS?! IT’S GOING TO BE ALMOST TWO YEARS POST-TRANSPLANT WHEN YOU DECIDE YOU’RE GOING TO SUCK IT UP AND GET YOUR VACCINATION TITRES DONE. THE RESULTS SAY THAT YOUR DTAP (TETANUS/DIPHTHERIA/PERTUSSIS) VACCINATION IS NO LONGER VALID. YOU SPEAK TO YOUR HEMATOLOGIST AND NEUROLOGIST, AND DECIDE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH IT. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY YOU COULD PREDICT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU THE MORNING AFTER YOU HAD YOUR VACCINATION. NO WAY!
YOU’RE GOING TO WAKE UP, AND YOU’LL NOTICE HOW SORE YOUR ARM IS. YOU WON’T BE WORRIED. IT’S PAR FOR THE COURSE. IT WON’T BE UNTIL YOU STAND UP WHILE GETTING OUT OF BED THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE TRANSPORTED BACK TO YOUR PRE-TRANSPLANT BODY. THAT’S RIGHT! YOU WILL BE CRAZY OFF BALANCE AND YOUR RIGHT FOOT WILL DROP SO MUCH THAT YOU’LL HEAR IT MAKING A SWISHING NOISE AS IT DRAGS ACROSS THE FLOOR WITH EACH STEP. AS YOU ATTEMPT TO WALK DOWN THE HALLWAY, YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF GRABBING ON TO THE WALLS AND THEN SEARCHING FOR A PIECE OF FURNITURE TO NAVIGATE THE ROOM. YOU’RE GOING TO FEEL LIKE THIS FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS AND YOUR FOOT DROP WON’T BEGIN TO ALLEVIATE FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. ALMOST A YEAR AFTER THIS VACCINATION, YOUR FOOT WILL STILL NOT BE AS STRONG AS IT WAS BEFORE THE VACCINATION, BUT IT WILL BE BETTER THAN IT WAS PRE-TRANSPLANT. THE ONE UPSIDE TO THIS INCIDENT, IS THAT IT WILL REMIND YOU JUST HOW BAD YOUR CONDITION USED TO BE COMPARED TO AFTER TRANSPLANT. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
You Say You Want a Revolution…The Russia Facebook Forum
SOON AFTER YOU RETURN FROM MOSCOW, YOUR MOSCOW COMRADE FROM HAWAII, JEFF, WITH HELP OF THE 2ND OF THE 3 MSKETEERS, TAMMY, WILL CREATE A FACEBOOK GROUP SPECIFICALLY FOR PATIENTS SEEKING HSCT IN MOSCOW. THEY WILL ASK YOU IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ADMIN AND YOU, OF COURSE, ACCEPT. IT WILL BE SLOW GOING IN THE BEGINNING AND 9 MONTHS IN YOU’LL ONLY HAVE 100 MEMBERS, BUT, 3 MONTHS LATER, AN AUSTRALIAN WOMAN, KRISTY CRUISE, THE ONE YOU MET IN MOSCOW, DELIVERED TO THE HOSPITAL AND WHO GOT YOU HOOKED ON TIM TAMS, WILL BECOME A ROCK STAR IN THE HSCT COMMUNITY AND START A WORLDWIDE HSCT REVOLUTION WHEN HER STORY IS AIRED ON 60 MINUTES-AUSTRALIA, AFTER THEY ACCOMPANY HER TO MOSCOW FOR HER TREATMENT. HER STORY WILL OPEN THE FLOODGATES TO HSCT IN MOSCOW AND AROUND THE WORLD. NEW FACILITIES WILL OPEN. MORE FORUMS WILL BE CREATED, AND IN TWO SHORT YEARS, THE RUSSIA FORUM’S MEMBERSHIP WILL SOAR TO OVER 2,000 MEMBERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. YOU AND YOUR COMRADES WILL DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO MAKE IT AN ORGANIZED, INFORMATIVE SANCTUARY FOR THOSE SEEKING HSCT IN MOSCOW. YOU WON’T THINK SO IN THE BEGINNING, BUT, EVENTUALLY, YOU’LL HAVE TO WALK AWAY. YOU WILL BEGIN TO SLOWLY TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS TO ALL FORUMS EXCEPT RUSSIA. YES, THERE WILL BE MANY. THE STAMPEDE FOR HSCT, WILL BRING OUT THE BEST AND THE WORST IN PEOPLE. THE DRAMA THAT YOU WITNESS WILL WEAR YOU AND YOUR PATIENCE DOWN. LIFE AND A BUSINESS VENTURE WILL FILL YOUR DAYS AND YOU WILL ABLE TO GET BACK TO LIVING, JUST AS YOU HAD HOPED PRE-TRANSPLANT. THAT’S WHY YOU DID THIS. REMEMBER? TO GET YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FUTURE BACK. THERE WILL BE OTHER ABLE VETERANS IN THE WINGS WHO COULD MANAGE THE RUSSIA FORUM, BUT, EVEN AT ALMOST 3 YEARS OUT, YOU’LL HAVE A TOUGH TIME FINDING THE PERFECT FIT AND WILL STRUGGLE WITH LETTING GO. BUT YOU WILL…WHEN IT FEELS RIGHT.
Thank You for Being a Friend
DURING YOUR TIME IN MOSCOW, THAT LITTLE GROUP OF SOFA SISTERS (SISTERHOOD OF THE FEDORENKO ALLIANCE) THAT LISA STALLINGS MALLOY PUT TOGETHER, WILL GROW TO OVER 25 MEMBERS FROM ALL OVER THE PLANET. EVEN THOUGH YOU’LL ALWAYS HAVE A UNIQUE BOND, ALMOST ALL OF THEM WILL GO BACK TO THEIR RESPECTIVE LIVES, AND COUNTRIES, BUT, THERE ARE A FEW WITH WHOM YOU’LL BECOME VERY CLOSE. LISA, TAMMY, KRISTY, VICKI, AND TONI (WHO’S A NON-SOFA WHO HAD HER HSCT IN GERMANY) ALONG WITH A HANDFUL OF OTHERS…THEY’RE LIKE THE SISTERS YOU’VE NEVER HAD. HSCT THREW YOU IN EACH OTHER’S PATH, BUT THE SIMILAR SENSE OF HUMOR, QUICK WIT, STRENGTH AND LOYALTY THAT YOU ALL SHARE HAVE CEMENTED LIFELONG FRIENDSHIPS. YOU’LL ALWAYS BE ONE PRIVATE MESSAGE AWAY FROM A HUGE BELLY LAUGH, OR A SHOULDER TO CRY ON. YOU’D DO ANYTHING FOR EACH OTHER AND WILL STAND IN EACH OTHER’S DEFENSE, UNCONDITIONALLY. PRICELESS.
Did That Just Happen?
SPEAKING OF FRIENDS…FOR YEARS, YOU’VE BEEN MAKING EXCUSES FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO GO TO SOCIAL FUNCTIONS. YOU DIDN’T WANT TO PUT YOUR LIMPY SELF ON DISPLAY. HELL, YOU COULDN’T EVEN STAND TO SEE YOUR REFLECTION AS YOU WALKED BY A STOREFRONT. THAT COULDN’T BE YOU, COULD IT? THAT’S GOING TO CHANGE NOW, AND AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS OF ISOLATION, YOU’RE GOING TO JUMP (NOT LITERALLY) AT THE CHANCE TO GO ON A GIRLS WEEKEND TO DEEP CREEK, MD. YES, YOU’LL HAVE TO USE YOUR TREKKING POLE FOR UNEVEN SURFACES, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BUT WHO GIVES A DAMN! YOU WERE ABLE TO DECORATE ALL THREE STORIES OF THE RENTAL HOUSE BEFORE THE GUESTS GOT THERE, AND, THERE’S NO BLACK CLOUD OF MS PROGRESSION FOLLOWING YOU EVERY DAY.
THE BEST PART OF THIS TRIP WILL BE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU RETURN HOME. YOU’LL BE PUTTING YOUR LUGGAGE AWAY AND MAKE A DISCOVERY THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND MILLIONS OF OTHERS, OLD AND YOUNG, WHO HAVE MOBILITY/WALKING DEFICITS. WHILE TAKING YOUR SUITCASE FROM ONE END OF THE HOUSE TO THE OTHER, YOU HAVE AN AH-HAH MOMENT AND ASK YOURSELF “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?”. YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT YEAR WORKING WITH A DESIGN TEAM AND BUILDING ON THE CONCEPT, WHILE ATTEMPTING TO MAKE INROADS WITH POTENTIAL MANUFACTURERS. YOUR HOMEMADE VERSION OF THIS MOBILITY DEVICE WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU LIVE WITHIN YOUR HOME AND WHEN IT FINALLY HITS THE MARKET, WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE OUTSIDE THE HOME AS WELL. TRADITIONAL MOBILITY BARRIERS WILL BE BREACHED, AND YOU WILL EXPERIENCE FREEDOM YOU NEVER THOUGHT WAS WITHIN YOUR REACH. YOU ARE DETERMINED, AND SO AM I! GET READY, BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE SOME BOLD MOVES TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Shit on a Shingle(s)
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR ACYCLOVIR! DURING YOUR RECOVERY, YOU’RE GOING TO HEAR OF OTHER VETERANS WHO GET SHINGLES. THE SHINGLES VIRUS CAN APPEAR IN ANYONE WHO HAS HAD CHICKENPOX, THEN, IT CAN LIE DORMANT IN YOUR BODY FOR DECADES. IF THE VIRUS IS REACTIVATED LATER IN LIFE, WHICH IS COMMON IN PEOPLE OVER 60 OR PEOPLE WITH A COMPROMISED IMMUNE SYSTEM (YOU), IT PRESENTS IN THE FORM OF A PAINFUL, BLISTERED RASH. YOURS WILL APPEAR IN JULY, 2015, ON YOUR LOWER BACK, WHICH IS ALSO A LITTLE OVER ONE YEAR POST-FOLLOW-UP CHEMO. YOU WILL CONTAIN IT TO A 2 X 2 INCH AREA BY DOUBLING YOUR DOSE OF ACYCLOVIR UNTIL IT DISSIPATES…ABOUT TWO WEEKS. DURING THE NEXT 5 MONTHS, YOU’LL GET IT ON YOUR KNEE TWO TIMES AND YOUR FOOT ONCE. IT WON’T SURFACE ABOVE THE SKIN THE LAST 3 TIMES BECAUSE YOU WILL INSTANTLY RECOGNIZE THE TINGLING UNDERNEATH THE SKIN’S SURFACE THAT ACCOMPANIES SHINGLES. YOU’LL ATTRIBUTE THE OCCURRENCES TO STRESS COUPLED WITH AN IMMUNE SYSTEM THAT’S CONTINUING TO BUILD. LESSEN LEARNED.
Paying it Forward
IN ADDITION TO YOUR ONLINE WORK, YOU’LL HAVE AND TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT HSCT IN NEWSPAPER ARTICLES, TELEVISION SPOTS AND SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS. YOU’LL DONATE ANY LEFTOVER FUNDS FROM YOUR FUNDRAISING EFFORTS BACK TO THE COMMUNITIES WHO RALLIED TO SEND YOU TO MOSCOW. WHETHER IT’S A DONATION MADE TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO WAS PARALYZED IN A CAR ACCIDENT, PAYING THE ELECTRIC BILL FOR A CANCER PATIENT IN NEED, OR BUYING A PAIR OF KINDLES FOR A YOUNG PATIENT AND HIS BROTHER AS THEY TRAVEL 2 HOURS EACH WAY FOR HIS IV INFUSIONS, THOSE FUNDS WILL FIND A PLACE WORTHY OF RECIPROCATING THE GENEROSITY YOU EXPERIENCED LEADING UP TO YOUR TRANSPLANT.
The Big Reveal
YOU KNOW HOW YOU’D GIVE ANYTHING TO PEER INTO THE FUTURE TO SEE WHERE YOU’RE AT PHYSICALLY/MENTALLY AFTER HSCT. WILL YOUR LIMP BE GONE? WILL YOUR MRIs HAVE SHOWN ANY PROGRESSION? WILL YOU STILL USE A TREKKING POLE? WILL YOUR BALANCE STILL SUCK? THE BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE YOU OR ANY NEWLY-TRANSPLANTED PATIENT IS TO IGNORE THE RECOVERY STATISTICS!! YOU KNOW, THE ONES THAT SAY YOU WILL SEE MOST OF YOUR RECOVERY WITHIN 2 YEARS OR 3 TO 5 YEARS. YOUR RECOVERY WILL BE AS UNIQUE AS YOUR DISEASE HISTORY AND YOUR HSCT EXPERIENCE. STOP LOOKING AT THE RECOVERY TIMECLOCK, THE GRAPHS, THE CHARTS AND THE SCIENTIFIC BABBLE. SOME OF THE BEST RECOVERIES I’VE SEEN ARE FROM PEOPLE WHO WALKED AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER AND THE FORUMS, AND GOT BACK TO LIVING WITHOUT LOOKING FOR REASSURANCE FROM OUTSIDE SOURCES. PEOPLE NEED TO STOP COMPARING BECAUSE THERE ARE NO APPLES-TO-APPLES COMPARISONS WHEN IT COMES TO AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES AND YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER!
FOR YOU, THERE’S GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS, IF YOU EVEN WANT TO CALL IT BAD NEWS. BAD NEWS WOULD BE THAT YOUR MRIs HAVE SHOWN THAT YOUR MS HAD PROGRESSED, OR YOUR SYMPTOMS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE THAN THEY WERE PRE-TRANSPLANT. NONE OF THAT HAS HAPPENED.
YOU ARE PROGRESSION-FREE AND YOUR SYMPTOMS ARE THE SAME OR BETTER THAN THEY WERE BEFORE HSCT.
YES, YOU STILL LIMP, BUT, IT’S NOT AS PRONOUNCED AS IT WAS BEFORE AND YOU DON’T USE YOUR HIP TO LIFT YOUR FOOT. YOU USE YOUR LEG. YOUR CONTINUED FOOT DROP WILL ATTRIBUTE TO YOUR LIMP, BUT IT WILL UNPREDICTABLY COME AND GO. SUCK IT UP. YOU’RE WALKING, AREN’T YOU?
NO, YOU DON’T USE THE TREKKING POLE LIKE YOU USED TO…ONLY IF YOU ARE WALKING LONG DISTANCES OR ON UNEVEN SURFACES.
YOUR BALANCE IS NOT 100%, BUT, MUCH BETTER THAN PRE-TRANSPLANT. THOSE CORE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES YOU’VE BEEN DOING AT HULA HOOP CLASS ARE GOING TO PAY OFF. YES, I SAID HULA HOOP!
THE DEXTERITY IN YOUR RIGHT HAND IS STILL HUGELY LACKING. YOU WON’T BE LEARNING TO PLAY PIANO ANY TIME SOON OR TYPING 90 wpm LIKE YOU USED TO.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, ALL 3 OF YOUR POST-TRANSPLANT MRIs ARE PROGRESSION-FREE.
A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU IN FEBRUARY 2016 IS WAKING UP TO PRIVATE MESSAGES FROM INDIVIDUALS IN ENGLAND, SOUTH AFRICA, CANADA, MEXICO, EGYPT, ETC., SEEKING ADVICE REGARDING HSCT. YOU ARE THEIR AMY PETERSON. BE HONORED AND HUMBLED.
THIS IS THE YEAR DR. FEDORENKO SAID YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN IN A WHEELCHAIR WITHOUT HSCT. YOU’LL BE THRILLED TO KNOW, YOU’RE STILL WALKING TALL AND YOUR FUTURE IS FULL OF ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES.
RAISE A GLASS, GIRL. YOU HAVE A LOT TO CELEBRATE! MAYBE I’LL SEE YOU AROUND SOMETIME.
The hotel manager graced us with a bucket of champagne to celebrate our accomplishments.
With so much to celebrate as many Moscow veteran HSCT patients approach their 1-year, post-transplant birthdays, a select group of my SOFA (Sisterhood of the Fedorenko Alliance) sisters, who are far enough into their recovery to safely travel, took the opportunity to meet in Dallas to savor our successes together and, for several of us, meet face-to-face for the first time. These are women who have been there for each other 24/7 for over a year, before, during and after their stem cell transplants. One of the sisters, Kristy Cruise, from Australia, comes to the U.S. once every two years to visit her in-laws. 2014 was one of those years and we didn’t want to miss out on a chance to gather. What we thought was going to be a relaxing few days, turned out to be a mini media tour with tons of sister laughs, good wine, good food and a few tears sprinkled in. One of the sisters, Vicki Wilson, who flew in from Little Rock, Arkansas, contacted several television stations in the Dallas metro area to share our story of triumph and the unique bond that we all share. ABC and CBS heeded the call and came to interview all of us at the NYLO Hotel where we were staying. The ABC segment featured all of the sisters together, whereas, CBS decided to take the local angle and featured our very own police officer, Sheli Godbold, who lives in a Dallas suburb. We kept the hotel staff hopping and the hotel guests guessing as the local media and their camera crews set up their encampments throughout the hotel. I was even stopped in the lobby by a group of business associates who had seen us on television and wanted to know all about HSCT. Score!! Media tour success!!! Both interviews can be viewed below.
During our ABC interview.
In addition to being picked up at the airport by my gracious sister, Lisa Stallings, who gave me an awesome tour of the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, then Garage, with her BFF Cindy Cathey, I had the privilege of meeting the woman who made it all possible for me to find out about HSCT and, in particular, HSCT in Moscow, through her fantabulous blog, Amy Goes Ninja on MS. It was an incredible moment with lots of chills (at least for me) ha ha, and that comfortable feeling that I had known her forever. The entire trip was a dream come true for me, and, quite frankly, there is no way in hell that I could have made this trip alone just a little over a year ago, without a trekking pole, no less (see pics).
Taken after my not-so-graceful, yet, victorious trek through the airport.
I took lots of wonderful pics throughout the week, so, I’ve chosen my favorites and have posted them below (they are clickable). Until my next post, cheers to HSCT!!
That’s exactly what’s going on here in the U.S. and abroad! We are sending the call out to everyone who will listen about HSCT (Hematapoietic Stem Cell Transplant) for autoimmune diseases and the hope that it can bring to so many who think that they are out of options. Several Moscow veterans, including myself, and a woman from my area who will be going to Moscow in a few weeks, have had to opportunity to give a shout out to the public, via the media, singing the praises of HSCT. We’re making as much noise as possible on television, radio, and, of course, social media.
Vicki Wilson’s interview with Good Morning Arkansas
Kristy Cruise’s interview with 60 Minutes Australia.
My WTAJ-TV-10 Interview with Diana Rees
Carol’s Radio Interview
In the meantime, I had my 3rd of 4 followup infusions of chemo (see post from April 27, 2013 for an explanation of the reason for my followup chemo) in February and I’m happy to say that I tolerated it very well. I didn’t even have my usual couple of “crash and burn” days. I just kept chugging along. I have one more to go in mid-May and then I’m home free. My true recovery clock will not begin to tick until that day.
I continue to walk without a trekking pole and have completed my physical therapy about five months earlier than expected because I met or exceeded all of my goals. As Dr. Fedorenko suggested, it did play a huge part in my physical recovery due to years of lack of use and/or misuse of my muscles.
I did have one bout of bronchitis a couple of months ago which I jumped on right away with antibiotics. Surprisingly, I recovered from it much more quickly than I have pre-transplant.
Most of my days are filled with normal, everyday tasks without the dread that used to accompany them. Who would have thought doing laundry could be so fun…not! ha ha I was fortunate enough and physically able to make a 15-hour road trip to Atlanta last week. That is something I never would have been able to do a year ago. Heck, I would have been lucky to be able to get in and out of the car or sit for that long a year go. By the way, I did all the driving. I was able to meet with Brandon Eurek and his family who have been some of my biggest fans since the moment I announced I was having HSCT (see pic below).
Keeping Calm with Brandon!
I also spend a portion of every day trying to spread the word about HSCT in one way or another. As much as I would like to be banging on the doors of political figures to make this treatment more quickly available to the public at large, I know that could take years. I want to concentrate on the people I can reach who need help NOW! If I had $5 for every person who has said they wish they hadn’t waited to have it done, I could afford to pay someone to type this for me! If you want to have this treatment and you think you could never afford it, you may be surprised what you can accomplish. If you do have the funds and you’re simply waiting until you’re “bad enough” to have it done, I beg of you to reconsider and move forward as quickly as possible. Time is not your friend.
As long as HSCT events occur and my post-transplant life evolves, I will continue to keep blogging. I will, for sure, be posting about my very last dose of Mitoxantrone. That will be a day of celebration! It was just a year ago that I was packing my bags for Moscow. I’m so excited for the next group of HSCTrs who will be filing into the halls of Pirogov during the month of April. We are all so blessed by this opportunity. I’m wishing the same for all of you.
As much as you all may have thought that this trip was supposed to have been all about me, saving myself from my MS, what you may not have known, is that it’s always been about a whole lot more to me. I knew that living and blogging this experience in real-time may be the one and only chance for me to directly touch the lives of others who are having or considering having HSCT for HALT their MS as well. It’s a mission that has kept me focused during my treatment and has served as a soulful reminder of this rare opportunity that I have. Lucky for me, today, I had an up close and personal opportunity to assist a friend and fellow HSCTr, Kristy Cruise’s, cohesive entry into Pirogov Hospital for her pre-testing. That first day there is full of so many unknowns, and being able to be help to make that as comfortable for her as possible was truly a labor of love. I’ve even already had the opportunity to identify some of the food she’s been served . She sent me the distress picture early after lunch with the “What do you think this is?” tagline. Of course, I let her know that it was a chicken croquette and they were quite tasty. ha ha I have included a couple of pics of us right before we left the hotel for hospital.
About to head to the hospital.
Delivering Special Agent Koala Bear to the hospital for pre-testing.
With Kristy successfully placed, and her already being ushered off for testing, Dr. Fedorenko had requested a 3-day post-discharge exam and consult. I passed with flying colors and he proceeded to continue to warn me that I would be suffering from the side effects of chemo for at least 3-6 months. So far, my main side effects from that have been dizziness and fatigue quelled only by periodic naps. He reminded me that I only had to wear a mask in a crowded situation, such as the plane ride home or an enclosed space with groups of people. I was a little surprised when he said that I would not be able to go swimming until the last week of June, due to potential exposure to bacteria in pool water. That was just fine with me. I usually don’t get in until the first week of July, anyway. One very pleasant tidbit of information was that he said there was no reason why I couldn’t drink wine. Really? I mean, REALLY?!! I do love the occasional glass of very dry red, and, as summer is upon us, the thought of a crispy Reisling on the patio in the evening makes me shiver with excitement. For some reason, I had just assumed that it might be at least 6 months until I was able to partake. Who knew?! He also said that I can begin driving, as soon as I feel comfortable doing so…perfect!
Dr. Fedorenko and I said our goodbyes and I headed back to hotel to meet with mom. Our goal for the day was to try to get me to the mall across from the hotel. Whether it took 15 minutes or an hour, I was determined to get there. We opted to wait until later in the afternoon for the temps to cool down a bit and we headed out across the plaza, down two sets of long stairs, through a parking lot, and just as we were about to cross the street to the mall, I realized that #1, I was already exhausted from getting up early, #2, my feet were sore from yesterday’s trip to the Market and, #3, that the 2 or so hours that I had intended on spending in that mall were more likely to be an unproductive 1/2 hour. I was close enough to reach out and touch it (see pic), but, I know when to cut my losses, and tomorrow is another free day for us.
So close…yet so far. Not a happy camper.
We opted to head back to this cozy little restaurant we’d wanted to try out that is right outside the hotel, and we would give the mall another try bright and early tomorrow morning when this Energizer Bunny’s batteries were fully charged. Below are a couple of pics from the restaurant called Sole Mio. The food was fantastic, the prices were reasonable and the service was impeccable.
This lovely little restaurant, Sole Mio, also has fab takeout pizza. Pectopah, means “restaurant”.
Cheese balls with ham and melted cheese inside. Delish. Love the presentation!
The restaurant, Sole Mio!
Mom and I enjoying a little Coke before dinner.
So, yet another productive day in Moscow as I continue to build strength while trying to incorporate an appropriate amount of rest. It’s a challenge for me, but well worth the sacrifice. Tune in tomorrow, at a time unknown to see what kind of trouble mom and I might be getting into. As the week progresses, I will be addressing what I can expect upon my return to the states in the way of recovery, reversal, and all around expectations of myself and my plans for rehabilitation. This, my friends, is just the first leg of the race. And many miles to go…
After a day of rest at the hotel, today, was to be a day where I try out my sea legs to see how much or how little endurance I may have. One month of isolation in a hospital, does not lend itself to muscle strengthening, and I knew that, but, WOW, I definitely underestimated the amount of atrophy that can take place in such a short amount of time. Just the act of getting a normal, everyday, full-length shower and getting dressed almost completely wiped me out. Normally, I’m able to push through the fatigue. but, when you couple that with the dizziness/edginess that comes with recovering from chemo and being on a steroid (that always makes me feel like death!) and I knew it was not going at what I consider to be a “productive” day.
Last night, my friend, Kristy Cruise, of Australia, arrived in preparation for her HSCT pre-testing which will begin on Monday. She, mom and I had agreed to meet for the hotel’s breakfast buffet, and I really was looking forward to it. First obstacle? There is no elevator to the 3rd floor restaurant. Every other floor has access to an elevator, but not that one. Mom had already been up the stair case several times and knew that it would be a bit of challenge for me, but I could do it. Mom opted to get me safely up the stairs (see pic), literally, one step at a time and to the restaurant and she would meet with Kristy and return.
Stairs to the restaurant in the hotel.
We had a lovely breakfast (see pics) and chat, and it was decided that even though I fully intended to go the flea market for a short stretch, that it wouldn’t be very wise to do so, just yet.
One of the many restaurants at Best Western Vega Ru
Special Agent Koala Bear, reporting for breakfast.
Mom and Kristy proceeded over to Izmaylova Market for a very productive couple of hours of souvenir shopping, site-seeing and photo ops. I will admit, I took one of the most peaceful naps that I’ve had the entire time I’ve been here. Wise choice, Brooke. Slow and easy. Earlier, Kristy had graciously gifted me with one her Moving Mountains t-shirts and a few trinkets. One of my fave “trinkets” was a container of Tim Tams from down under. They are kind of a chocolately, toffee wafer type of cookie that are to die for. But, last, but, not least, was a very thoughtful “Ninja” charm (see pic) that she picked up on her way through Japan this week. It is to remind me of the brave “Ninja”, Amy Peterson, whom, had she not blogged her HSCT experience here, I wouldn’t be here right now and about to venture on a life free of the constraints of MS.
Pink “Ninja” charm.
Below are a couple of pics of me and Kristy in our room. Just a couple of members of the Sisterhood, hanging out.
Me, Kristy and one of her Moving Mountains t-shirts.
So, my first whole day on the outside. Was it everything I had hoped? It was spent with friends and family. There were laughs, and tons of food and naps. and, as it should be, the healing of me has just begun. For this “Impatient Penny”, it’s not an easy task to hold back, but days like these, no matter how limited are precious to me because my life of fear is waning and a life of living awaits. Well worth the wait, if I do say so.Peace, love and naps, from Moscow. 🙂