Five weeks ago today I entered this magical place, the Maximov Center for Cellular Therapy. I traveled alone. Much like childhood summer memories, I was climbing the ladder to the high dive for the first time, and as we all know, we make that climb alone as well.
For two years I had been climbing that ladder. The one filled with trepidation, fear, the backward glances. Glances of my past and what I used to be able to accomplish in a day. And the very real two years of an uphill climb, battling every day, and loosing the battle no matter how hard I fought. The day I arrived in Moscow, my climb was nearing the last few rungs of the ladder before pulling oneself up and onto the boards.
Do you remember that first time? That long haul up the ladder? The slow but steady walk to the end of the board? And then what did you do, what did we all do? You stood there and stared. Looking down at the water, contemplating how very high the board seems from up here when on the pool deck it looks much lower. And you stand there, wanting to jump but pondering it in your mind a few last seconds before you fling yourself out over the water, laughing in the delight of your accomplishment.
That was me five weeks ago. A bundle of uncertainty – would I pass the physical, would Dr. Fedorenko accept me? I was over his age limit, would HSCT even work for me? How would I handle the chemotherapy and apherisis and re-infusion?
And then, you just jump! Arms flailing, legs wriggling in the air jump off into the unknown. But you do so with intense trust. Trust in a new family you have just met, and with the exception of Dr. F, do not speak your language. You place your whole being in their loving hands.
My first jump off the high dive was a little frightening, and every day, every stim shot, every chemo bag, and endless days of twelve IV bottles a day were each a climb up the ladder, and a big, long jump. But each day became easier. People cheering me on daily from the U.S and many from other countries as well made those steps up the high dive easier and easier to climb. So much so that soon I was bounding up the ladder anxious for treatment and all it brought. Bring it on, I’m ready for the fight.
And now things are drawing to a close. My last week here at Maximov, with new family and friendships forged-although mostly in sign language and translation Apps! Treatment is completed with the exception of daily antibiotic and blood pressure shots, and I am discharged Friday afternoon. It will be a day of so many mixed emotions, I almost dread the sun rising that morning. Excitement at the new journey before me, anxious to finally see the sights of Moscow, and then…..
Leaving this cocoon of awesomeness, of safety, love, and many blessings. Where a miracle treatment is performed by genuine and caring people. Bound by a simple desire to heal and change the lives of others for the better.
Time to leave the cocoon, make my new path, with a new way of walking and talking, into the world. Sadness, tears, joy and laughter will fill the hallway before I walk out the isolation doors, and will most likely continue as I take the cab to my hotel home for three nights. Time there to rest, reflect, shop a bit, and see the sights of Moscow before the arduous thirteen hour flight to Houston.
This place is special, and to all who have been with me, helped me through this and supported me with love and kind words, I thank you. You have changed my life.
Tomorrow you will meet Snizhana as she visits and we walk the grounds!