Archive for February, 2009

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.


Geraldine has checked out of the hospital after recovering from her second transplant. She is still in Richmond, but as of today, is no longer sleeping in a hospital bed! The apartment where she will be recovering over the next couple of weeks is about 5 minutes away from the hospital, which she had been staying in for about the last three weeks.  The good people at the MCV Massey Cancer Clinic are great, but she’s really glad to have returned to a somewhat normal environment. She’ll be visiting the hospital just about every day for blood work.

Over the past 4 or 5 days some circumstances were taking a heavy emotional toll. Due to a lack of sleep and being cut off from the rest of the world, especially her daughter, Geraldine was a wreck. It’s hard to imagine how it must feel being trapped in a hospital room while things are happening in the outside world that are beyond your control. The feeling of helplessness and futility are emotionally taxing. Even though she has visitors, it’s easy to forget that she was alone for this process.

I’m happy to report that she’s in a MUCH better mood, and although she is tired and weak, she is doing everything that she can to ensure a lightning quick recovery so that she can face the challenges that await her in the world back home. That includes removing and avoiding any and all sources of stress from her life over the next couple of weeks.

The Pendant

Pendant Fundraiser Auction

Pendant Fundraiser Auction

A while back, we had an auction of a pendant that was handcrafted by Drew Weiser of Ann McKay Studio and donated to As if the act of charity on behalf of Mr. Weiser wasn’t enough, the pendant was purchased by someone, who in turn had it shipped to Geraldine. This person is a regular visitor and support of, but wishes to remain anonymous. So not only did the proceeds to go Geraldine’s medical bills, but she also ended up owning this one of a kind piece of jewlery.

To Drew, and to our anonymous benefactor: all of us here at FoG thank you.