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taken 8/4/07

Courtney and her kids

Courtney and her kids
taken 8/4/07

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day +117 "My 34th Birthday"

Monday, April 7, 2008 (late post)

You know as I have gotten older I don’t find myself thinking about my birthdays as much. I know a lot of us who are in our thirties and older probably feel the same way. Birthdays aren’t so much of a milestone anymore. It’s “before we were married” or “after this child was born” or “when we lived here”.

So I thought my 34th birthday would sneak on by. But I got cancer when I was 33 years old. And I found myself thinking a lot more about my 34th birthday. There were some really dark and difficult times when I was first diagnosed with an acute form of Leukemia.

Would I see my children grow-up, graduate from school, fall in love and get married? Would I even reach my 34th birthday that was just 6 ½ months from now? So at midnight when it was official, Todd sweetly wished me “Happy Birthday." And I cried. I sat there and cried. I had made it…

Todd sat with me and comforted me. He never doubted that I would miss my birthday or any other birthday, anniversary, graduation, or wedding. He told me he had taken today off so we could celebrate.

It was a wonderful (and tiring) day. The girls were off to school and Todd took Aidan to Melissa’s so we could shop for my birthday present. We went to one of my favorite stores, Target. I hadn’t been out in so long. I picked out a pair of storage ottomans that I had been wanting for the living room. Todd said that we needed to pick up Aidan around 12:15.

So we headed back to Melissa’s and as soon as we turned on her street I noticed a lot of familiar cars. “12:15, huh?” Pretty specific time… I knocked on the door and when Melissa opened it there was a big group of friends, shouting “Surprise!” I was completely shocked that I just didn’t start crying as I walked around the room hugging and greeting everyone. It was absolutely wonderful! We all chatted away the hour. So many beautiful smiling faces that I hadn’t been able to see in such a long time! After it was over I just wished I would have thought of taking pictures! (Thank you, Melissa, for being so sneaky.) I confided to Melissa and Michelle later that I would have been bought to tears if I hadn’t already used them all up last night.

After the girls got home from school we had an early dinner (3:45pm) over at Chili’s near our house. I think we’re pretty brave to head out with four kids especially when one of them is a two year old! It was a nice time and the kids were so well behaved. We finished off the day and ate cake and ice cream.

I don’t think I’ll ever let a birthday “sneak” on by again. I just may not admit to my true age!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day +115 “Kylie’s Birthday Party”

Saturday, April 5, 2008 (another late post)

I would have to say that today was the best “milestone” yet. We finally celebrated Kylie’s 8th birthday. Kylie turned 8 last September. We had planned a “High School Musical” party for September 29th and sent the coolest CD invitations to some of her friends. We had bought all the party supplies (thanks, Mom!) and planned the activities in the beginning of September. I was almost as excited as she was! Unfortunately, the party was postponed due to cancer.

Kylie is one of the BEST kids. She easily accepted having to hold off on the party until I got better. And who could have ever imagined 6 months later we would be able to have her party. Artie, Todd’s mom, was here helping us out the past few weeks and was leaving later today - so all the more reason to have the party.

It was so awesome to see the girls having so much fun; singing and dancing to HSM on the karaoke machine (thanks Kelley and Jimmy!). See for yourself how much fun the girls had.

After all was said and done, Kylie thanked us and said, "It was the best party ever!!" So, even though it was a crappy reason to wait, it was well worth it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day +113 “Clinic Visit”

Thursday, April 3, 2008 (late post)

Today Melissa came to clinic with me (Thanks, Melissa). This was the fastest clinic visit I’ve ever had. We were in and out relatively quickly and home before noon. I think I’ll ask her to take me from now on. Sorry, Todd.

The phlebotomists weren’t all that thrilled to see me walk in. Emmit said “No way! I am not even gonna try!” So the other one did (sorry, can’t remember his name). It was only one stick today! Maybe next time Emmit will have more confidence!

Melissa and I hung out while waiting to be called back to the exam room. Like I said, we didn’t have to wait too long. Vitals all looked really good. Hopefully, I’ll be taken of the Norvasc (high blood pressure medication), although I’m pretty sure some medication I’m taking is actually causing the high blood pressure. Ugh! Medicines and their side effects!

Dr. V was thrilled with my labs today. All of my blood counts (WBC, RBC, platelets, ANC) were in range. And that’s a first since all this started! She also congratulated me again on the biopsy results and DNA tests. She asked how I was doing and I told her the same thing I tell her every visit – just plain tired most of the time and tired, achy and sore muscles the rest of the time. I also had been experiencing frequent nausea the past few weeks. Dr. V reassured me the fatigue and soreness will improve once she starts weaning me off a lot of the medications responsible for the symptoms. So she looked over my record and discovered my stomach problems and nausea started when she doubled my fluconazole dose. I have a pretty bad history with the –azole family (anti-fungal). She said that not only will I start feeling better, but, that by reducing the fluconazole, she is basically starting the reduction of the Prograf (anti-GVHD, immunosuppressant). And that’s good news! FYI: An anti-fungal medication like –azoles are used preventively (blood borne fungal infections are life threatening post-transplant), but also to regulate and maintain oral Prograf levels.

All in all, it was a short and very sweet visit. It is always nice hanging out with Melissa and having girl talk! My next one won’t be until April 17th. Let’s hope that one goes just as well!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day +111 DNA (STR) Test Results

April 1, 2008

Bone Marrow Engraftment Results: STR Analysis*

% Donor (Tracy): >95%
% Recipient (Courtney): Below Detection

*Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) are highly polymorphic DNA markers that are used to detect the engraftment of normal donor cells (Tracy’s cells) in the bone marrow transplant recipient (Me) post-transplant. DNA isolated from WBCs of the patient and donor is characterized with 10 polymorphic DNA markers prior to the bone marrow transplantation. The patterns are compared and one marker is selected to distinguish donor and patient as uniquely different from one another. This will be subsequently used to assess the status of donor cell engraftment. [Source: Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory]

Translation: Tracy’s cells have successfully engrafted and are producing all of my blood cells. Her cells are now my cells and are cancer free.

Tracy and I genetically speaking are “blood twins.” What flows in her veins now flows in mine. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been brought to tears as I truly comprehend the gift of life that Tracy has given me. How can you possibly begin thank someone who has saved your life? I love you, Tracy.

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