Extra Oxygen

In December 2016, my friends, a father/daughter team, organized a blood drive, and I signed up.  I’d never donated blood, but

J⁴ needed a blood transfusion.  The 12-week chemo/immunotherapy treatment had lowered her blood counts to a point where she desperately needed a life-saving boost. She needed three separate blood transfusions.

Although I knew she wouldn’t receive my blood, I went into the blood drive thinking about her need and about how having her blood type available saved her life. Someone else had given his/her blood for her to live.

I answered, in a private room, the medical history questions – some questions pretty basic, have you lived overseas for more than five years during 1980 -? And some questions downright personal, have you ever paid for sex?  have you ever had gay sex?  I got my finger pricked to draw a bead of blood to check my iron levels. I had my blood pressure and pulse taken.

Then I stretched out on a portable hospital bed and had a pint of blood drawn via IV. I squeezed a rubber ball to encourage the blood flow. When I finished giving, the nurse took an extra seven vials of blood for testing.

I didn’t coast through the whole thing – actually, I had some light headedness and nausea which I’ve now learned is normal.  After donating, I went to bed early, but in the AM, I felt fine.

I thought about the 12 weeks I accompanied J⁴ to chemo.  The needles that stuck her – blood tests, chemo IV, immunotherapy IV.  The machines she’s laid in and tables and hospital beds she’s laid on while having CT scans, radiation and doctor visits. The Penguin Cold Caps we put on her head every 20 minutes before, during and after the treatments.  How cold the caps felt on my gloved hands as I readied them, yet J⁴ had to endure the ice-cold caps wrapped around her head and also carry the worry, will I  save my hair? (which she did!)

A few weeks after donating blood, I received an email from the American Red Cross, asking if I’d give blood again, after 56 days, the required time between giving. Without hesitation, I downloaded the Red Cross’ blood donation app and scheduled my next donation.  I’ve now given 3x since December, and I receive notifications when I’m able to give again.

On my 2nd blood drive visit, I met a woman in the ‘recovery area’ where salty and sugary snacks and waters are served. The woman ate Chips Ahoy cookies while I munched on Cheez-Its.  She told me that she had worked in a trauma unit in an east coast hospital for over 30+ years.  She said she’d given blood, on schedule, for the last 15 years. She witnessed a patient who required 100 units of blood (a person can only give 1 unit/pint, so 100 people saved one life!) and who then fully recovered from his injuries. After seeing the miracle, she committed to giving.

I listened to a Canvas-SF service this week while I strung a NeckGrace. It was about minimalism; Less is More.

“Minimalism is not about having less stuff but it’s about being free to do more which matters. True life, that which is real and full, is found at the intersection of simplicity and generosity. You make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give away. Passing blame that you don’t have time is absolving yourself from responsibility – cuz you ‘B-lame” when you blame other things for owning your time. Are you making a living or making a life? Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible – hurried people can’t love. Love takes time. Will you open your hands and loosen your grip on the more that you’re pursuing, so you may have true life.” – Travis

In 2012, healthy and well, three years before lung cancer, J⁴ traveled with us to our family’s favorite beach in the world, Anguilla.  For some local flavor, we recommended she read the book, A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean, written by Melinda and Robert Blanchard, who gave up most of their worldly possessions and most of what they were familiar and moved to Anguilla and started a restaurant, Blanchards. J⁴ loved the book, so once on the island, she went to Blanchards and met the owners. She bought a hat, and they signed it –

I photographed J⁴ on the Anguilla beach wearing her treasured signed hat.

IMG_8113picWe took the photo next to these:

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“Extra Oxygen”

Five years ago, I had no idea that the beauty of these tanks in the foreground to the most beautiful water in the world foreshadowed J⁴’s necessity for extra oxygen.  The extra oxygen that will buy her time; time to read books, time to share with her beloved husband and boys, time to visit places that bring her joy and time to impact the lives of those around her by all that she gives.

Breathe life into yourself by giving blood, extra oxygen, sweat & tears and love in any way, shape or form.

‘Cuz real life doesn’t allow us to take a timeout when the going gets rough, and after we’re gone, the stuff we’ve acquired becomes someone else’s clutter, but what we give away sets us free!

Like when we take a trip to the beach – we keep it simple – some sunscreen, glasses or a good book – all the rest is extra – extra clutter – blocking us from the simplicity and a true life.

Don’t b-lame – give your extra away.

 

 

 

Special Delivery

“FedX is delivering my chemo pills, and QCJ has to be home to sign for the package.  Can you take me to my physical therapy appointment @ 8:30 AM?” – Jules

I had my juicer roaring by 6:30 AM – green apple, Bartlett pear, strawberries, banana, blueberries and spinach.

I had three Starbuck’s plastic trenta-sized cups ready on the counter. I poured the bright green liquid into each of the cups.

I fastened the lids and pushed a jumbo-sized, milkshake straw into each one. Always deliberate with my straw color choice for Jules, I chose green for today.

I admired my work.

The room smelled of fresh juice, and the green juice was ready for delivery.

I drove the convertible. Top down with the cups in the center console.

Headed to Jules’ house, I had given myself more than enough time to pick her up and to get her downtown to her appointment.  I was feeling good. She was going to love sipping on the juice while I drove through morning traffic.

I took off from the first stoplight and heard a pop –

The lid of the green juice had popped off  – thick green juice oozed into the cup holders, center console, passenger’s seat and floor. What a mess!

UGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I called Jules and asked, “will you please bring a roll of paper towel when I pick you up?”

I’m down on my knees!

I pulled up to Jules’ house, and together, Jules and I, on our hands and knees, tried to clean up the green mess.  Jules did drink about an inch of juice left in the cup’s bottom. She wasn’t going to let it all go to waste. We didn’t have time to deal with the clean-up towel aftermath, since the appointment time was quickly approaching. Jules threw the debris into her front yard. We took off, leaving the green and white mess on the lawn.

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I was heartbroken – I’m such a loser! Instead of sipping on juice, Jules was now sopping up juice as we drove.

And to top it all off – the physical therapist refused to see Jules, since she was 10 minutes late.

No juice. no appointment. I can’t deliver juice, and now I can’t even deliver Jules to her appointment!

On the way back to her house, I took Jules to Juic’d for a vegetable juice and to Starbuck’s for a green tea.

By the time we got back to Jule’s house, we were both laughing about what we’d been through that morning. Since the physical therapy appointment had been cancelled, we were now in Jules’ driveway when the FedX truck delivered her chemo pills.

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Jules got out of the car and went to pick up the delivery from the FedX driver.

She came back to my car, opening the mailing package and then the bottle of pills – she shook the pill bottle and then held it so I could see into the bottle.

There they were – 40 white pills for $6400.  The pills that are to stop cancer cell growth, and yet at the same time, cause diarrhea and cystic acne. The pills that, regardless of the side effects, are supposed to prolong Jules’ life.

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And like earlier in the day, when I admired the juice I’d made and yet was unable to deliver, I realized we are all just minutes away from being brought to our knees at any moment.

Humility and compassion ooze into our lives when we are broken or defeated, and these can be nutrients, too.  They fill us up and make us realize we cannot stand on our own.  We are always just a step away from our knees, and it’s best to be brought to our knees with a friend who has our best interest at heart.

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“Juicy Jones,” a special delivery service