Over the centuries, people have referred to many things as the “bread of life.” Well, I believe that blood is the bread of life. Blood is the magical fluid that, driven by our engine, the heart, courses through approximately 100,000 miles of veins, arteries and capillaries in our body. Amazing. So, what happens when our bodies begin to morph, making problems in creating this bread of life?
After retiring, I took courses for Literacy Volunteers and began teaching in Florida. While I was there in early 2009, I began feeling a lack of energy. This was very unusual for me, because throughout my life I have been a super-charged individual. I visited my general practitioner, who sent me to Florida Cancer Specialists.
Through additional blood tests, I was diagnosed with JAK2. It took me three weeks to learn to pronounce the name for this myleproliferative disease, essential thrombocythemia, which is a fancy way of saying that my bone marrow creates too many platelets in my blood. I was prescribed a chemo medication, which began to rein in the platelet production.
As time went by, it took more of this medication to control the platelets and I became quite anemic. It appeared that my good red blood cell-making machinery had broken down.
In 2012, I returned permanently to my North Tonawanda home and am now under the care of Dr. James Thompson of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I began to receive blood infusions every other week. A bone marrow biopsy indicated that I also had RARS-T, a Myelodysplastic Syndrome with Ringed Sideroblasts. Don’t you just love all of these big words? I was placed on an additional medication that would hopefully kick-start red blood cell production.
This short health history brings me to the crux of my story. On my weekly trips driving to and from Roswell Park, I see signs posted for blood drives. They remind me of the times in the 1960s and ’70s when my brother Jim and I donated blood through the Red Cross. Before we both had to stop due to medications we were taking, Jim had donated 31 gallons and I had donated 17.
My father, in his jocular manner, once said, “Who’da thunk it?” And indeed, “who’da thunk” that the giver would, in time, be the receiver? Studies continue to progress worldwide on this rare blood condition, but at the moment it appears I must continue to be infused until these studies find the right medication for either a control or a cure. I’m praying for the latter.
Each time I am prepared for infusion, I look up at that small bag holding a pint of blood and say, “Thank you to whoever you are who has given me this gift of life.”
So please, I urge you: Whenever you see signs for a blood drive, take a few minutes of your time and donate. If you have given on a regular basis and continue to donate, thank you. For those who have never given, just do it. It is not painful and takes about an hour of your time. You get to lie down comfortably, take a short nap if you wish and, the best part, you get cookies and juice when you are finished. You can then walk out proudly saying to yourself and to the world, “I have given someone the gift of life.” What a tremendously gratifying feeling.
You never know; you could someday be a “who’da thunk it” like me.