Story in photos


The story in photos, including recovery.

Day 100!

Hello Everyone!

Geraldine, Viviane, and Martine on Mother's Day

Geraldine, Viviane, and Martine on Mother's Day

I know its been a long time since I have blogged. My apologies. Things are going well for me. I get stronger and stronger everyday. I reached a milestone on Mother’s Day. That day was Day 100 (100 days from day zero of my second transplant). It was truly a day of celebration! Viviane and I got dressed up in our “princess dresses” and enjoyed a nice brunch with my family.

I am still going to MCV every two weeks to get my blood counts checked and I recently had a CT scan which I will know the results on Thursday. My blood counts are still all over the place. It will be awhile before everything returns to an altered state of normal. I keep hearing “be patient with your body” from the doctors. Did they not know that I have the patience of a saint? :) Well, maybe not, but I am eager to start a new chapter in my life.

May 18th is a special day to me (for personal reasons) and this year, it is the day that I will be starting school. I have learned a great deal through my journey and something that I realized, is that I have a passion and a need to connect with people. So many individuals have reached out and shown me love which has fueled my passion for living. All of the support, hospital visits, text messages, emails, phone calls, all the work the people did to restore this website, cards sent to my house, flowers, care packages, and everything else is nothing short of amazing. I am in awe of this outpouring of love and will be forever grateful for it. Seeing how so many people have touched my life, that has inspired me to go back to school and pursue a Master’s degree in Nursing. I would really like to work with children & Oncology because that holds a special place in my heart.

Meeting Cheyenne and being on that transplant floor, I saw and heard many children that were also going through the transplant process. I know that life is not fair, but knowing that children have to endure and fight this disease is tragic.  It is for that very reason that I am going back to school and furthering my education. Children deserve more, and we owe it to them to make the world a better place.

The road ahead won’t be easy, but I am eager to begin my renaissance.

I love you all,

Geraldine

Your donations at work

Hello friends,

I’ve spent some time over the past week reconciling the donations and medical expenses. Your contributions have been extremely helpful, and as promised, have only gone to expenses related to Geraldine’s ongoing battle with this disease.

The donation tracker was a bit off from the last time that we had it live.  It had recorded about $7100 in donations directly from the site. However, after reconciling this, I found that it the actual records in Paypal added up to about $6700.  Some folks had problems with the Paypal interface and tried to donate multiple times, which inflated the numbers in the tracker by a small amount.  Paypal also charges fees for processing these transactions, so about $6500 went directly to the bank account that has been set up for this site.

Geraldine has paid around $8200 in expenses related to her treatment. However, there were also other donations that people made by check or to her family directly. These were immediately deposited into the same bank account. So, as a result of all of you who donated via the site or otherwise, her expenses have been completely covered.  I can tell you that this has been a huge relief to a woman that has been placed on disability, but would rather be working and cancer-free.

Bills are still trickling in, but there is still money left over to cover them.  There’s also a possibility that some expenses may be reimbursed by the insurance company. That money will go right back into the donation pool.

Once this process is complete and she hopefully makes the recovery that we all hope for, the remainder of any of these donations will be given to another person or group in need.

As of right now we won’t be bringing the donation utilities back online until we have some kinks worked out.  There may not be a need for further donations anyway, so if we do re-launch it, we would likely do so only to test the functionality for future cancer bloggers.

Funny characters, missing pictures

Some of you may have noticed that when we rebuilt the site, some strange symbols appeared inside the text of some posts and comments.  This is because of character encoding and decoding when we retrieved the MySQL database back up.  I won’t bore you with details, other than to say I’ve gone through all posts and removed these manually.  If I’ve missed some, please let me know.

I have not cleaned up past comments yet.  Some of these are in en Français. I am too much of a novice at speaking/writing French to successfully edit these, but perhaps Geraldine will be able to help at a later date.

Most pictures have been replaced.  There were a few missing, but google had thumbnails of them. Categories and tags have been reassigned, mostly from memory.

All in all, I’d say that rebuilding the site is complete now.  I’ve backed it up again, but as stated before, it is very hard to back up in a single location.  You can back up the pieces, but the whole thing takes time to put back together. 

Thanks for your patience.

Progress

We’re close to having the site rebuilt.  As you can see, the theme is back, along with the header, layout and some images.  Thanks to Google’s wonderful ability to cache almost anything, I’ve been able to recover the “About” page and a few images that I was missing.  I’ve uploaded a lot of the images that I personally had saved, and am trying to track down a few stragglers.  It will take a while to get these images back into the posts that they belong to.  Most of the posts have been cleaned up with categories and tags applied. These categories and tags look a bit different before because I was going from memory.  The posts and comments and pages have not had their content changed in the slightest, so at least we have that going for us.  Geraldine should be posting again soon.

The donation widget and tracker will remain offline for a while.  While we do have the code for it, it will take a significant amount of work to get it back online as the site is now in a different location (note the .com instead of .org address.)  We also have plans to release the code to the public as a free, open-source offering. We’d like to make it easy for other people that may be going through times like this to set up a non-profit site such as this one.  Please bear with us, we want to get this right before we re-launch donations again.

We’re back!

For the past week, a friend has been helping us work with the backup database for FoG.  Now we have it all back and hosted on a different server. We really just wanted to make sure that we could get to all of the posts and comments as soon as possible.

MANY thanks to my friend Tom Wilk. He doesn’t know Geraldine very well, but when he heard what happened, he jumped in the thick of things to get the database restored.

As you can see, the pictures are gone and the formatting looks a bit funky in places, but we do have all of the raw data back.  With some cleanup and design elements back in place, we’ll be good to go in no time.

Rebuilding the site

This post was from the temporary blog at http://friendsofgeraldine. wordpress.com

—————————————

Hello, friends.

I want to bring you up to speed on what has happened to the site FriendsofGeraldine.org and let you know what our plan is moving forward.

First let me say that the amount of questions and comments that I’ve received have really surprised me.  I knew that a large group of people supported Geraldine, but I had no idea how many people would notice any changes to the site so quickly.  Thanks for your support of this website.

Now to address some commonly asked questions:

What happened to the site? We host the site on a friend’s server.  His account was hacked into and they deleted everything, including this site and his entire portfolio (he’s a full time freelance web developer – http://www.littlerobothead.com)

Who did this? That is unclear at this time.  It could have been a random attack.  However, the night that it was destroyed I received a couple of anonymous, harassing emails from someone using a gmail account called shouldbemorecareful@gmail.com. They deleted the account that night, however, rarely are email addresses or the computers that use them untraceable. And they unknowingly left one detail in the source code of their email that clearly identified them. I won’t be going into details, but I will share this with the authorities as they investigate this case.   Still, the attack may be unrelated and completely random.  We’ll leave that to law enforcement to figure out.

Did you backup the site? Not entirely.  Three of us worked to build this site, and each of us have different pieces in our hands.  That is just to rebuild the framework and design of the site, including features such as donation and donation tracker widgets.  As I believe I posted in an early entry for FriendsofGeraldine.org, we had plans to release the entire template as a free, open-source package for other folks to be able to create their sites for non-profit fund-raising. As Geraldine’s transplants approached, we all became more focused on helping her through that.  We had plans to work on the template later this year.  As for the posts, those were written on the server only.  There’s a database that allows you to save all of your posts and comments and links and any other pieces of information from any browser, computer, or location – with multiple contributors.  This is what makes blogs so effective for telling a story.  I’ve been told by the hosting company that I can purchase a backup copy of the database from them to restore all of this.  I’m working to get this all back online ASAP.  I will keep you posted.  We may not have lost anything! :)

Have you tracked down the person responsible? We’re working on it.  Because I have to work through another person (I don’t own the hosting account) it tends to slow things down.  Our friend that hosts the site had his entire livelihood temporarily destroyed in the process.  He is working to put the stuff that he pays his bills with back together first.  I can’t blame him.  In the end, all sites will be restored, his and ours.  We just need to be a little patient in the meantime.

Who would do something like this? As I said before, it could have been a random occurrence. It could also have been related to the harassing anonymous emails that I received that night.  Hackers tend to break into sites and just alter them slightly.  Most of the time they leave a nickname or handle as a calling card in order to show their friends that they did it.  Hackers don’t usually delete entire servers and sites.  To us, this seems personal, but we’ll leave it to the authorities to handle.   Hosting companies and law enforcement have ways to easily track down a person that does this sort of thing.  It will just take time.

Why would they do something like this? There’s a lot going on in Geraldine’s life.  This blog isn’t the place to talk about it.  This blog is only about keeping a record of her fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, bone marrow transplants, hospitals, insurance companies, etc.  We really don’t want to go anywhere else with this site.  So, we won’t go into details on why.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Nothing will keep this story from being told. Nothing will keep this site down. :)

What happens now? Now we rebuild. I hope to have the database recovered within a week.  The design of the site will come together about the same time.  We will relaunch, comments and all, very soon.  Stay tuned.

Friends of Geraldine is down

This is what we posted on FriendsofGeraldine.org after the site was destroyed

———————————————

Hello, friends.

This site, FriendsofGeraldine.org, was attacked recently. We believe that it took place some time between the evening of March 12th and the morning of March 13th. The data for this site, including all blog posts, images, and links were deleted. This is truly devastating.

We have some backups of the design and a few of the posts. It will take a while to rebuild, and there will probably be large chunks of data that may never be recovered. As this was an ongoing journal chronicling many months of Geraldine’s story, the content isn’t easily backed up. Our first priority is to recover those blog entries, and then we will try to put it all back together. The design and content was truly a collaboration, so pieces of it are in different hands. It’s sort of like building the site all over again. Even with the blog entries, we’ve lost the dates, times, links, comments, donation tracking, and other pieces of the story that made this blog unique. There’s still hope, however, that we may get a clean backup of the entire site. Stay tuned for more info as it develops.

We’re sorry for this inconvenience. We’ll be back with some form of this site as soon as possible.


Still around…

Hi guys. I know it’s been a while since I’ve personally posted.  That’s actually good news, because it means that Geraldine is healthy enough to be able to keep the updates coming on her own!  Don’t get me wrong, she’s still weak, but she is growing stronger every day.  Thanks to all of you for your support. I’m still around, and if she’s ever unable to send updates in the future, rest assured that I’ll be keeping you posted. Let’s hope that day never comes.

On a side note, there is still much more to this story. She will have plenty of challenges to blog about in the near future. One that I know of is her desire to get back to work, and as you can imagine, this is a tough time to re-enter the job market. Best of luck with that!

Congratulations on your progress, G-bug! Keep fighting…

Rotten Tomatoes and Hot Dogs

Second Transplant Day

Second Transplant Day

I got an award! Okay, so maybe it’s not the type of award that is going to boost my resume, but it’s still an award. During my Bad Day post that Malcom blogged about, I was given the award for throwing up the most in one day. I guess I broke some kind of record. What a proud moment for me. Anyways, I am happy to report that I am doing much better and recovering fast. My second transplant took place on January 26th (which is also known as day zero). I was given 5 stem cell bags, a little over 5 million stem cells. There are parts of the day that I remember clearly and one thing that sticks to mind is the smell of the stem cell bags. Because I harvested my own stem cells, they had to be preserved with a preservative called Dimethyl sulfoxide or DMSO. This is said to have an odor. Different people describe the odor differently, but there is always some sort of smell in the room while a patient is getting the actual transplant. This does not happen with patients who have an allogenic transplant (donated bone marrow), because a lot of the times the transplant is done the same day that the marrow is extracted from the donor. There is no need to preserve the donated stem cells, but again this does not apply to me. So the day came, that I got my 2nd and final bone marrow transplant. As the first bag of stem cells was hung, the odor hit me. It smelled liked rotten tomatoes and to add insult to injury it tasted like that too. I started to feel nauseous so the nurse gave me some anti-nausea medication. I had visitors in the room while I was getting my transplant and they described the smell of oysters and sulfur. I wonder if Yankee Candle makes that fragrance since it’s so appetizing.

2nd Transplant - Stem Cells

2nd Transplant - Stem Cells

Five bags later, the transplant was done and the odor lingered. Eventually I got used to it, but I reeked this perfume of rotten tomatoes for days. I really did not know what kind of effect it would have on me moving forward until I was walking the halls one day (part of my daily exercise routine) and walked past a patient’s room that was getting their transplant. That familiar smell triggered my memory and I began to feel sick again. My oncologist describes it as “the smell of life” and he is completely right. I will never forget that smell.

The hospital food at any hospital is never really good, but on the Bone Marrow transplant floor, the food is particularly bad. They have their own kitchen because there are so many food restrictions for patients getting transplant. Everything is microwaved and nothing can be prepared fresh. Patients are encouraged to bring in their own frozen meals in addition to what they have on the menu. As most of you know, I have a real passion for food. I love cooking and eating wonderful homemade meals. It’s a huge part of my culture and who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Whopper or Big Mac from time to time, but I really love eating meals that are prepared with passion. During my stay at the hospital, there was one thing that I really craved and wanted to eat, hot dogs. I wanted to eat hot dogs with mustard and onions on them. Just thinking about them got my stomach talking. Of course hot dogs are definitely NOT on the menu. Mustard and onions are out of the question. That did not stop me. As soon as this craving came on, I was determined to fulfill it. I talked to the doctors, who not only looked at me like I was crazy, but reminded me of how sick I would be if I were to consume them. What did they know?! Here I was, cooped up in this hospital eating a microwaved prepared grilled cheese sandwich with side of Jell-O. All I really wanted was some hot dogs. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

I am a firm believer of the saying that “you can have anything you want, if you really want it.” I don’t need to tell you what happened next. For those of you who know me, the answer is clear, but for those of you who don’t, let me tell you. I got my hot dogs. I ate them with mustard (no onions) and they were the most delicious tasting hot dogs EVER. I was thrilled for days that I got to eat them and am smiling now while I write this part. Did I get sick? A little, but it was totally worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. No matter what, you have to keep on living and finding joy in the smallest things.