Monday, October 26, 2009

Candy Banter

My favorite childhood candy tastes just as sweet today.

Get your sweet-tooth fix at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hometown Hospitality

Turns out my hometown B&B has an open door policy.

The owners were out of town, so they left the door of the cottage unlocked for us.

Read more about it at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

What are the Odds?

I am one lucky gal, and I have the winning raffle tickets to prove it.

At A3M's benefit dinner and concert last Saturday, my raffle ticket was pulled out of a hopper with thousands of other ticket stubs. Just as I was thinking about how I would spend my $500 windfall, I heard the emcee gasp in amazement.

"I can't believe this, but the same person has won twice." She once again called my name and announced that I had just won an NBA basketball signed by the entire Laker team and two tickets on the floor for a Laker game. I was too busy mentally calculating the odds of being a two-time winner to scream in excitement. Besides, I have this minor character flaw - I don't bleed purple and gold.

On Monday morning I was contemplating how I would spend my lucky money. Should I donate it back to A3M or another favorite charity? Should I treat four friends to a lavish dinner? Should I continue my pursuit for the perfect purse?

These thoughts were swirling as I pulled out of the parking lot after the YWCA' s Women for Racial Justice Breakfast. Then I heard the unmistakable crunch of mangled metal. My Prius had a close encounter with a parking lot pillar.

Now at least I know how I'll spend my windfall. Oh, lucky me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello, Goodbye

2009 has been a year of losses. As my circle of friends affected by cancer widens, the death toll seems to be rising proportionately.

I won't list each friend by name, but they all had at least a half dozen things in common: access to the best cancer centers, doctors and treatments; a strong support network of family and friends; the proverbial positive attitude and a feisty determination to lead full, vibrant lives.

But sometimes that's not enough.

Take two recent deaths: Nick, whose aggressive cancer roared back right after a bone marrow transplant and Gahlit, a fellow blood cancer patient at the City of Hope.

My initial bond with Gahlit was based on a mutual admiration of our head coverings. The conversation soon turned from hats to healing, and before we knew it, we were exchanging email addresses and phone numbers. The emails flew back fast and furiously as we shared our life stories and discussed our hopes and fears.

I'll never forget when I visited this type-A dynamo right after her first donor stem cell transplant. She was simultaneously investigating health insurance options for her nanny, while buzzing the nurses about medication while she had a video conversation with her two-year-old daughter.

She relapsed three months later and underwent a second stem cell transplant with the same donor.

She rebounded and continued to live her life as she always did both BC and AC (before and after cancer) - with a vengeance.

When the cancer came back a third time, her friends all reminded her, "You're strong, you'll beat this again." But sometimes, in spite of the strength of Samson, cancer has its way. She died at home last Tuesday morning.

Gahlit's death, on the heels of Tony's and Nick's passings, and just a few months after the death of 28-year-old Michelle, has left me sad and weary. I was even beginning to develop a "Why bother?" attitude.

As luck would have it, I sat next to the West Coast director for Be the Match (formerly known as the National Bone Marrow Registry) at last night's benefit dinner for A3M. I told her about my despair from the recent deaths of a half dozen bone marrow transplantees. She reminded me that there are no guarantees, even after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, but one thing is certain. Without a transplant, most patients have a zero chance of survival.

That's all I needed to hear to snap me out of my funk and to recommit myself to the efforts to find a match for patients like Krissy Kobata, a 27-year-old Hapa with a rare blood disorder.

Queen of the Mutts Krissy Kobata and Team Krissy at the 2009 Doo Dah Parade

What can you do?

  • If you're not already registered and you're a minority (Asian, African American, Native American or Latino) or multi-racial, you can order a FREE tissue typing kit online from A3M or check the site for a marrow drive near you.
  • You can also order a kit from Be the Match (formerly known as the National Bone Marrow Program) or check the site for a marrow drive near you.
  • If you're already registered, consider making a donation to A3M or Be the Match.
  • Encourage your family and friends to sign up and Be the Match.
  • If you live in Southern California, volunteer with me at an A3M bone marrow drive.
  • Organize a drive at your church, synagogue, club, school or other organization.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beating the Odds

Doctors told 28-year-old Nick Glasgow that he had a zero chance of finding a donor match for a stem cell transplant. Nick, who is 1/4 Japanese like my niece and nephew (does that make them half Hapa?), beat the odds and found not one, but two, perfect matches.

He received the donor stem cells in early August and was declared "cancer free" in September. But Nick just learned that he has relapsed. Those same doctors say that he has a zero chance of survival. He is being moved to hospice care.

The odds were overwhelming once. The doctors were wrong once. Let's just hope and pray that they are wrong again.