On My Way

It must sound like something out of science fiction book or movie:  an autologous stem cell treatment to heal my kidneys enough to enjoy life without being attached to a dialysis machine.  I imagine that people also thought that Galileo’s ideas about our solar system seemed hard to fathom at one time.

Finally today is here, and I’m on the first plane.  Or, maybe I should say we are on the plane.  Staying last night in Los Angeles was a good idea.  Even with two alarms set, I woke up every hour because I was afraid I’d miss my plane.  As if to make sure I would not, about 15 minutes after I got up at five o’clock a.m. the smoke detector started beeping every few minutes.  What are the odds that in such a huge hotel, I’d end up in the room where the battery on the smoke detector runs out?  There was no way I could’ve slept through it.  A smile crept across my face, as I thought of the serendipity of it.

When I originally brought up the idea of traveling out of the country for a stem cell treatment, he was utterly opposed.  As I continued my research and verification of the legitimacy of the clinic, I tried to ease his mind about my choice.  Statistics, studies, research papers, and even the personal contact I established with a recovered patient (who’d had the same treatment) did nothing to sway him.  We disagreed about it every time I mentioned it.  He wasn’t the only one expressing doubts and concerns a few months ago.  Some family and friends were finding it hard to believe that stem cells exist within a person’s own body, and that they can miraculously heal damaged tissue.

Chronic illness exacts a heavy toll on relationships, especially on the close relationships.  There were many reasons, but they all added up to taking a break.  We went our separate ways, and I planned to travel internationally alone.  None of my friends or family could go with me.  I understood.  It would be expensive, and take about a week or more.  Going on a medical trip with a person suffering from kidney failure could turn out to be a complete nightmare.  I told everyone that I was willing to travel by myself, because it’s my life and my choice to do what I must to keep it.  My intuition continued to tell me that everything would work out.

A month had passed and he’d reconsidered.  Worry had taken over, and he didn’t want me going alone.  He knew it wouldn’t be a relaxing vacation-type of trip.  Anything could happen, and he agreed to be there to support me.  He’d been to the ER with me a couple of times in the last five months, and had met several of my doctors at appointments.  I wouldn’t have to use any of the money from fundraising for his travel expenses, and he could take the time to go.  My family and friends exhaled with relief.

My initial evaluation was on Monday, the morning after my plane landed, and the warmth and humidity of being in a tropical place thrilled me as I left the coolness of the airport.  While there are other stem cell medicine clinics throughout the world, most offer different and more invasive or less successful types of treatments (bone marrow and adipose tissue) for my difficult problem of kidney failure.  The clinic I selected is one, which has been doing these specific treatments for a few years now.  They have experience:  quiet a valuable asset, and one that’s lacking in the United States.  One of the co-owners, and the doctor who set up my appointments and treatment, partners with local business people to establish the clinics and carefully select the medical staff for each one.

The taxi drove us toward the clinic, through the capitol, roundabouts, and past the large park.  It was simple, nothing fancy, and set back from the road on a small street.  Passing through the white iron gate, we walked to the entrance and were buzzed in by a staff member.   I’d made it.  I was now at the clinic for my evaluation appointment.  I couldn’t wait to see the machine, and the scientist in me was jumping up and down in anticipation.  I thought, “WOW!  I’ve come such a long way to be strong and healthy enough to travel.  It’s really going to happen!  I’m really going to get a stem cell treatment and help move the research forward.”

Thank you God, thank you Angels, thank you guides for getting me this far.

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Tall Tale

It may sound like a tall tale, but as revealed in the front page of my local newspaper today it’s all true.

As I sat at my kitchen counter drafting a letter to my benefactor, I decided to make one more call.  I decided to leave one more message.  What would be the harm?  I thought about what to say, and rehearsed it a few times.  Rehearsing for a phone message isn’t normal for me, but I wanted to convey my words in the right way.  Time was slipping by, and I reached out to hold the door open.  The door leading to my dreams blurring and merging into reality.

An eternal optimist.  A believer.  A dreamer of possible realities.  This is how I’d describe myself.  When things change in my life, even in the most awful ways, I prefer to believe that it is because there is something better around the corner on the cusp of entering my life.  I didn’t always see things this way, but I have for many years now.  It doesn’t mean I enjoy the dreadful moments and events that occur.  But, I know to let go of them sooner, laugh loudly, and re-dream.

This is part of my way of being.  Many people have tried to convince me that this is not a way to be.  That this is not reality, but mere fantasy.  When you’re life is on the line, you make choices.  I chose to dig in deeper, and grow my roots firmly into this way of being.  What’s the point in sharing this with you, dear reader?  Because I wish for this story of mine to inspire you and give you hope.

I dream of fully recovering from kidney failure.  I dream beyond this.  Why does my recovery have to be enough?  Perhaps I should go bigger, aim higher.  So, I dream of helping others with what I’ve learned as a dialysis patient and about the potential of healing with stem cell medicine.  For fourteen months I have been dreaming this.

I left a message, and then as before I hoped for a response.  Within an hour my phone rang.  My messages had been received.  My voice had been heard.  I listened as the person on the line explained what had happened with the check.  There had been concern that the check had fallen into the wrong hands.  “We would like to reissue the check”, said the man’s voice.  “I am here in town, can you meet me for lunch?”  Of course I replied with a resounding, “yes”.

“Om Mani Padme Hum” I repeated into the void of my car, as I drove to meet the employee of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts the next day.  Mantras come in handy, when you’re anxious or worried.  Essentially they are a prayer repeated over and over.  They connect you with the Divine.  Whether a Tibetan Buddhist prayer like this one, or one to the Virgin Mary, they all speak to something higher than the self.

As I passed by him, I knew he was the man I was meeting for lunch.  We sat down inside the Biltmore, and with a large smile he reassured me that Ty Warner wanted to reissue the donation check.  He was warm and patient, as he listened to me talk about my pending stem cell treatment.  This wasn’t all though.  Ty Warner also wanted to support my efforts to bring attention to how stem cell medicine can help with kidney failure.  “Astounding”, I thought.  My second wish is also coming true:  potentially helping thousands of people have more access to information, which might positively change their lives.

The faith I had in Ty Warner’s kindness, sincerity, and generosity is just.  He is the donor I met that fateful day.  He is the man, who extended his hand to hold mine through his car window.  He is the man, who is opening his heart widely to help push my dreams forward.  My deepest gratitude goes out to Ty Warner, and I don’t have enough words to express the “thank you” from my heart and Spirit.

Dreaming and believing open the doors to endless possibilities.  Effort, work, and resilience will most likely be required on top of the dreaming.  Yet, the doors will begin to open.  I tell everyone that I will accomplish my dreams, and I disregard whatever negative or doubtful opinions they might have about them.  After all, they’re my dreams, and I will continue to have them.

The best possible outcome in Joy & Health. This is my focus. This is what I see.

Leap of Faith

Before I knew about the check fiasco, when I thought everything was done and ready, I tried to book my travel to get the stem cell treatment.  I had been researching previously, and learned that August is the least expensive time to travel there, to the clinic I’d selected.  An hour quickly went by as I reviewed airlines, travel routes, and hotels.  Of course, I selected the travel insurance option.  A woman can’t be too careful, when on dialysis and cruising out in the vast world with a chest catheter ever present.  I was ready to push the button and pay with my new debit card.  The one directly linked to my medical benefit fund at the bank.  Only it wouldn’t go through.  It was the weekend.  My bank was closed.  There was nothing I could do at that moment.

Due to the growing stack of medical bills, almost all of my money is consumed by doctors, hospitals, labs, and dialysis.  I’ve barely managed to handle these bills alone, thankful to those allowing me to set up payment plans of meager amounts:  ten dollars a month, maybe twenty-five at the most.  I do what I can to sort through it, match bills with EOBs, and catch the errors of my insurance company and the group that bills for emergency services at my local hospital.  It is a part-time job.

This is why I don’t have another way to pay for the travel other than this one debit card.  In case you’re wondering.

Periodically I would visit my friend downtown to tell her the latest news.  Walking through the door, I found her hard at work like usual even after business hours were over.  The decision was firm in my mind, and I’d finally chosen the clinic I believed would give me the best stem cell treatment for a fighting chance at kidney recovery.  It was June, and my friend listened patiently and attentively to my remarks about the clinic and the field of stem cell medicine.  Excitement lifted my voice, as I divulged trivia about the patient, who had successfully recovered following the same treatment.  I had spoken to this patient, and almost fell out my chair as I learned that this happened two years ago.  There had been no complications.  Only functioning kidneys as a result, and an end to dialysis.

This particular friend has always been a generous soul.  I go to her to get her opinion, and I highly value it.  Her comments were what I sought that day.  Nothing more.  As I rose to leave, she asked me what I thought it would cost to travel to the clinic.  Following my reply, she immediately grabbed her checkbook, and without hesitation wrote me a check for the exact amount.  Looking at me, she said now I could go whenever I was ready, and that I could use the funds however I wanted.  Once in the solitude of my car, salty wet drops smeared my makeup and rolled across my neck.  There have been so many reasons for tears throughout this health crisis, although the ones cried for joy are much sweeter.

Quietly resting in my bank account, these funds waited.  I waited for Monday.  The earliest day I could go to my bank and fix the problem with my debit card.  The problem was partially mine, since I’d forgotten to lift the transaction limit on the card.  I thought it would be simple.  It wasn’t.  Plans were crumbling, and monies were unraveling.

Days passed, and my iron-strong intuition kept pestering me that I needed to book the trip.  I needed to go no matter what.  I prayed for guidance and clarity, as I do more often than people realize, and remained open to seeing and hearing whatever messages might come through.  I had enough to pay for the travel, but not enough for the treatment.  Not even enough for the deposit with the clinic, for which I had negotiated.  I knew I had to go sooner than later, and at the time I was still attempting to figure out what had happened to the pivotal donation check.

Everyone has moments when they have to decide to leap or not to leap.  I was facing mine.  Friends kept telling me to “GO”.  One of my doctors randomly called me and said, “you just need to go, get the treatment, get well, and get that catheter out of your chest.”  I listened.  I heard the message over and over.  It was time to leap.  To have faith that my friends, family, community, strangers, and the Divine would hold out their hands to support me and get me there.

“Dearest Archangel Gabriel, give me the strength to get through this”, I asked every day and night.  With lightly sweaty hands and fingers, I pulled up the travel itinerary on my computer.  Rechecking the details, I confirmed.  My debit card worked this time.  It was done.  Like falling off a cliff into the darkness unable to see the bottom, I lept into my future.

A handful of people knew about this before today.  People, who I could count on to be positive, and who wouldn’t think I was too crazy.  Truthfully, I must be a little crazy to take this leap.  Faith and believing in the Light, the Divine, the Goodness in others requires craziness.  Some have been callous.  Some have been all talk.  Some haven’t viewed organ failure as a serious malady, warranting immediate action.  Never mind them.  I relish having the experience of seeing the best of humanity, or as penned by the devout Tukaram, “how then can a heart feel it is broken and in need if we are held in the arms of infinite compassion and strength?”

I AM going.  Today, in this moment, I am savoring the secrets I have yet to tell.  Shortly, they will have their moment as well.  Confusion and misunderstandings are fading fast.  Time will fly by, and then I’ll be boarding the plane, racing to a renewed lease on life.  I may only be leasing my body for a lifetime, but I can’t wait to extend the lease.

To you, who have listened, given, prayed, reached out, reconsidered, cheered me on, and embraced me with love:  my eternal thanks.  Without you, I couldn’t have made it even this far.  Blessings, blessings, blessings.