A bloody good cause

The blessing of good health can never be overestimated.  How fortunate those of us are who can wake up each morning, lift our own bodies out of bed and go about our daily endeavors unaided by multiple medications or other humans!  It’s more than easy to take mobility and a general sense of well-being for granted, but of course we should try to regularly appreciate that these are in fact gifts not enjoyed by all.

Today I think particularly of my sister-in-law, Lynn, a 43-year-old professional who, late last February, was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma–Mantle cell lymphoma.  Since the beginning of March, each day has been a battle to save her life, with her stalwart husband–my spouse’s younger brother, Steve–by her side.  With a 10-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son to think about, Lynn and Steve have followed doctors’ orders at every turn, pursuing aggressive rounds of chemotherapy treatments and endless disruptions of work and family life that nevertheless seem insignificant in comparison to their current #1 priority: a return to sound health for Lynn.

Lynn’s regimen of treatment has largely paid off–though she might say the pain, numerous blood infusions and weeks spent in the hospital have demanded a high price–in that tests done in late September showed the cancer had retreated.

But just last week, she underwent a necessary stem cell transplant at the University of Minnesota hospital, and is now enduring daily trips to the U (at least an hour round-trip from their home in the northwestern Twin Cities area, depending on traffic) for blood work. Steve must stay with her constantly for 30 days to assist.

We pray that Lynn and Steve will have the strength to carry on through this difficult process, while being soberly mindful that positive outcomes are not guaranteed.  Just last week we lost a dear family friend to a different form of cancer.  He left behind a young family, and we pray, too, for strength, courage and peace for all of them.  In addition, my dear Uncle Ward lost his life in the past few weeks to complications from cancer; despite having lived a full and long life, he is also greatly missed.

Lynn has been at the forefront of my thoughts each time I’ve had the opportunity to donate blood this year.  My blood bank of choice has been the Community Blood Bank, though others may prefer to donate through the Red Cross.  Earlier this week, the Red Cross held a blood drive in Worthington; I gave through the Community Blood Bank on Nov. 1.  It seemed like such a small gesture, giving a little time and a bag of blood in an effort to help others in physical crisis, but I know now more than ever how much blood donations from healthy people are needed.

Lynn has received numerous units of blood this past year, following complications occurring after rounds of chemotherapy, and she is not alone. It is of her, as well as of other friends and relatives suffering from various diseases, ailments or accidents, that I think during the blood donation process.

Increasingly, I realize I am one of the lucky ones–someone who can withstand the stick of a needle without hyperventilating, whose weight (finally, a reason to be happy for heft!), general state of health and sometimes ho-hum habits of healthy living can result in a benefit for someone else.  Though the recent opportunities for blood donation here have just passed, they will come again soon.  If you, too, are able to donate, I urge you to make the time in your day to do so.  We are not the heroes here–that would be Lynn, or Jeff, or Dwayne, or Ward, or….fill in the name of the friend or loved one you know who fought or is fighting for the chance to continue living and loving on this earth.

A temporarily sore arm is a minor inconvenience in the long run.

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