On September 17th, a Wednesday, sometime at night, a 2nd cousin of mine got into a motorcycle accident and very sadly, did not make it. Her name is Lisa Martin. My uncle married her grandmother a long time ago. She was 19 years old, making this the third person under 20 years of age in only a couple of months whom I knew that is no longer physically with us. When my mother called me telling me of the news, it hit me pretty hard. It’s already been a couple of weeks and it still hasn’t fully sunken in yet. Heck, I can say the same for my good friend, Jason. I still cannot believe he is gone either. I made plans to go to her funeral the following Tuesday.
It’s so hard seeing young people go. It’s something that the more I think about, the more questions I have – and I know that I will never ever have any answers to any of them. As I sat there through the funeral, I listened to all of the people that stood up and spoke about their relationship with Lisa. It really hit me hard. And then, a young man played the rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by a now deceased musician from Hawaii named Israel Kamakawiwo Ole – I’ve thought often about how I would want my funeral to go if I were to pass on, and every single time I think about it, I always imagine that song playing. So when I heard it being played at Lisa’s funeral, you can imagine how crazy my emotions were going. If you’ve got an extra minute or two…I encourage you to check out the song.
Israel Kamakawiwo Ole (IZ) – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
To Lisa’s family, friends, and all of the peoples’ lives who Lisa touched in her life, I extend my deepest condolences.
It’s been awhile since I last wrote, so I’ve actually got quite a bit to say about what I’ve been up to. A few weekends ago, I took my bike down to Janesville to get serviced. After 1,000 miles on a new bike, you need to get all of the systems checked out to make sure everything is running okay. That took maybe 4-5 hours. After that, I headed down to Monroe, Wisconsin – also known as the swiss cheese capital of the USA. There was a festival going on all weekend known as Cheese Days. I went down with a good friend of mine from college. We basically spent all of Saturday eating fried cheese and drinking beer. Can’t get much more Wisconsinesque than that right?
The following week I had a scheduled appointment at Froedtert. This appointment marked my 6-month post transplant landmark followup. With every 6 months that pass post-transplant without a relapse, the better your chances improve for a long-term cure. So even though I am quite a ways from the covetted 5-year mark, 6-months is something to feel good about. Anyways, at the appointment, I had to get a large range of pulminary function tests performed on my lungs. I guess your lung capacities, volumes, thresholds, etc are a good way to determine how well you have recovered. In my opinion, they should test how far I can walk/run. That seems to be the biggest challenge for me.
When I went out and about these past few weeks, I seem to find myself always looking for a curb to sit on and rest for long periods of time. Of course, the friends I am with want to go to every bar or band that is playing on a stage somewhere, so I do my very best to go along for the ride. As much as I’d love to be able to get out there and do everything that I can in as short of a period as possible, it’s still out of my scope of being able to do.
My parents both came down for the appointment. I also had to get a bone marrow biopsy done that day.
For some pictures of a previous biopsy, click on the following link:
For an in-depth description description of my experiences with bone marrow biopsies, click the following link:
So, because that I now require them to give me some drugs to relax me through the process, I needed to have someone there to drive me home afterward. After my appointment was over, the three of us drove back to Two Rivers – my mom driving her vehicle, and my dad driving mine – so that I could drive it back down later. That same night there was a blood donor appreciation dinner being held at The Holiday Inn in Manitowoc for Manitowoc County and Sheboygan County. Since my dad had just hit the 10 gallon mark, of donated platelets and blood, he was invited to attend the dinner. Well, as the dinner came closer and closer, the Blood Center representatives contacted my dad and mom and asked them if we would speak about our experiences with blood donation. Being that I have leukemia, a blood cancer, it’s safe to assume that I have had more platelet and blood transfusions than most people will get in their lifetimes.
So, we went to the dinner and met with a whole bunch of people from the Blood Centers around the Manitowoc/Sheboygan areas. After the dinner, one of the women introduced the three of us and we went up to the front of the room to speak in front of a couple hundred of people. So we did just that. My dad gave a very brief introduction…he says he doesn’t have to speak since he is the one donating the blood. My mom then took the mic and took the audience on a flashback back to 2003 when I was first diagnosed. Then, I spoke for awhile about my experiences and how appreciated that I was for the audience’s efforts in donating. I then encouraged all of them to sign up on the bone marrow registry. In fact, it’s something that I encourage all of you to do as well.
On the site it says it costs money to get the kit to get typed for donation, but I am pretty sure you can get that fee waived if you go to the Blood Center in person. Don’t quote me on that! But the truth of it is, is that there are a lot of people, some who I have gotten to know personally, that are no longer with us because they could not find a viable matched donor for a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. All you have to do, is basically donate blood…it just takes a bit longer. You don’t have to donate any organs or anything like that. You can save someone’s life just by donating your stem cells which are harvested from your donated blood. In fact, now that I think about it, I think this is something that I can really have a positive influence on. There is a VERY good chance, that if I did not have two siblings that matched for donation, that you would not be reading this journal entry right now. It’s a scary thought. But each and every one of us has an opportunity to make that difference for someone else out there. I have a friend who asked me for more information about getting registered not that long ago. Within a month of her being on the registry, she had already been contacted to possibly be the donor for someone. If you need more information or help on getting registered, feel free to contact me with any questions.
Lastly, this past weekend I went to Octoberfest in Appleton, Wisconsin. My main reason for going was to visit a very good old friend of mine, Travis Will. It had been a long time since I had last seen him and we had a lot of catching up to do. I also got to see his parents, both of whom I knew very well growing up and into high school. Travis lived in Two Rivers and was one of my best friends for as long as I can remember. He moved to Appleton I think in his junior year. Needless to say, we spent a large portion of our time drinking beer – we had a great time.
To wrap things up, if everyone who prays out there could include Lisa’s family in your prayers tonight, it would greatly be appreciated. I know I’ve been coming up short with pictures for my readers to look at, but I promise that I will get some on here in the near future. My hair has come back with a fury of curls and my facial hair has come back rainbow colored (red, blonde, brown, black, white, etc).