7 Year Bone Marrow Transplant Anniversaryby Sheri Nocelli on 07/22/15
7 years. I cannot believe I have reached the 7 year anniversary since my bone marrow transplant. It’s hard to believe that all of the chemo, baldness, sickness and battle was so long ago, when it feels like it was only yesterday.
This has been a great year. Adrian is going to be 12 years old next month. He started middle school this year and made high honor roll the entire year! Luciana is 8. She’s started dancing, and even performed in the recital this year at her dance studio! She has started asking questions when she see’s pictures of me without hair, wondering when I was sick, why I was sick and if it is going to happen again. I assure her I am healthy now and will be here forever for her. Adrian is still pretty oblivious to the whole time frame, which I am thankful for.
Medically speaking, things this year have maintained steady. My chronic severe dry eye, osteoporosis and morphea scleroderma have all maintained the same status. My blood counts have been steady and normal. I do still go for a full physical and blood test every 8 weeks, which is way more often than most people 7 years out, but it makes me and my doctor more comfortable to stay on top of things because of how rare and severe my case was.
This year has been harder for me mentally dealing with everything I have gone through. I think it's finally set in of how severe my condition was. I think until this point, I've not really fully understood how bad it all was. Two separate family members this year have confided in me that they "thought I was done", "looked so helpless and fading in the hospital bed" and they both told me they thought I wasn't going to make it. In my mind, I never really knew it was that bad. I mean, I knew, but I didn't?
I’ve come to realize that my coping mechanism to get through traumatic experiences is to separate my mind and body. I tend not to mentally deal with trauma as it happens, which is how I appear so calm, cool and collected. To survive, I concentrate on physically getting through the experience only. But, because everything has to surface eventually, years later my mind tells me when it is time to deal with the locked away emotions. The conveyor belt of memories and feelings comes around again, and it’s time to face it. This year I have started experiencing vivid nightmares of my time in the hospital. I have dreams that play out like a nightly broadcast where upon falling asleep, I continue last night’s dream as though it’s the next episode in a soap opera. It’s crazy and it’s playing a major toll on my mind. A few times I’ve even had little daytime dreams interfere with my day. I find that talking to a few of my close friends about it has helped a little, but the dreams / nightmares still continue. I’m hoping they run their course and I can mentally move on, mentally recover I suppose.
This year, we’ve had a lot of fun in life and work. Lucien released two new music videos, Loneliness and No Rest which I appeared in with him. It feels so good to get out and PERFORM again! The adrenaline of performing live or on camera is so powerful; it’s one of my favorite ways of artistic expression.
Speaking of artistic expression – this year I felt I was needing a change in look. I got this killer new haircut and color, where I went dye crazy… and shaved half of my head. It’s such a freeing feeling, shaving my head because I CHOOSE to and not because I have to. I love my new look, it’s very “me”. It's also been a life long desire to have pink hair... so I figured, why not? It's now or never, what am I waiting for?! I love it, I feel so good with my new, expressive look :)
Last month, I attended an event at my hospital which was called “Celebrating Bone Marrow Transplant Patients – Past and Present”. It was really cool to see so many of the doctors and nurses who were part of my treatment and recovery 7 years ago. I was really shocked when several nurses even remembered what room I had been staying in! It was wonderful to catch up with them all, show them pictures of the kids and to thank them for all they have done. It was extra special to meet another patient of my doctors, Christina. My doctor had put Christina and I in touch a few months ago, and we have become email pen pals. It was so nice to meet her and get to know her in person for the first time!
Overall, this year has sped by at lightning speed. It feels like the “cancer era” was so long ago, yet still effecting every day of my life now. I am hoping the nightmares start going down, so I can move on and not have to relive and feel these feelings. Although, I guess that’s what got me here in the first place is not dealing with the emotions properly. Ahhhh! It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the whole “I had cancer” experience. Even writing that doesn’t click in my brain that it was ME who went through that time. It’s ME in all the pictures. It’s ME in the soap opera of the dreams and memories. But – I am here. I am here to snuggle with my husband, pet my dogs, watch my children grow every day and to live MY life.