Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘leukemia

March 11th

with 4 comments

I had forgotten the significance of March 11, until one of my sisters emailed a note that our sister, Linda, would have turned 64 this year if she were still alive.

JohnHSGraduationLindaI have a precious picture of Linda standing with me at my high school graduation. The event was not a significant achievement in my family, and as such, treated as more of a formality. I was the 5th of 6 kids. By the time I reached the milestone which marks the completion of high school, it had already been done enough times in my family that it was old hat.
It surprised and thrilled me that Linda chose to attend. I think I recall my mom being there, but have no memory of anyone else from my family. Or, if they were there, they apparently didn’t hang around long enough to pose for a picture at the brief social mixing after the ceremony, and prior to us graduates being whisked off to a YMCA for an all-night party.
I had no idea back then that global climate would begin to change significantly in my life time, or that the processed food industry would discover a “bliss point” of added sweetener which they could use to alter virtually EVERYTHING they sell in order to increase consumption of their products.
I knew I didn’t want to go to college, because I had no idea what I wanted to study and was far too frugal to find a way to spend so much money on something so many others were doing “just because.”
I got a job in a record store, working full-time while living at home with my parents, saving my money for what might come next. Eventually, I chose a technical education, focusing on the electronics of the recording industry, because I didn’t have confidence in my ability to make a starving artist’s living off my songwriting or performing.
The focused education of the electronics tech school aligned surprising well with my way of thinking and opened up a new avenue for living wage earning potential in the manufacturing industry.
Many years down that road, I saw some similarities in the experiences of my sister, Linda, and her work at that time in the paper industry. We developed some common language of industrial production operations.
Then she developed leukemia. As a direct blood-type match, I became a stem cell donor for a brand new exploration into stem cells instead of bone marrow transplant. Days before the procedure, I got shots of a bone growth hormone to boost my production of cells to be harvested. That was weird.
Doctors told me it might make me feel achy, like having the flu. It was unlike any achiness I had experienced before. Instead of pain in my joints, it was the center mass of my largest bones that gnawed at me. I had never in my life felt sensations from my sternum, but that happens to be a significant bone mass, and mine hurt very noticeably.
Linda lived almost a year after the transplant, growing hair back that was more wavy than before. Everyone decided it came from me. When her white-cell count skyrocketed again, she chose to let nature take its course and we all supported her journey to an end.
I would love to have had her presence on Cyndie’s and my journey to the rural country with our horses, dog, and cat. I know how much she would have reveled in it, and that would have thrilled me like the day she came to my graduation ceremony.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2016 at 7:00 am

Precious Memorial

leave a comment »

The Christmas holiday brought a bundle of family events which required that we do a lot of driving. For three days in a row, we drove the over two-hour-long round trip distance, twice a day on two of those. It was all worth it, but when yesterday arrived with no agenda requiring we leave our home, the exhaustion hit and we luxuriated in the gift of staying put.

IMG_4211eIn the afterglow of the Christmas eve and Christmas day events, Friday the 26th became an additional day of precious activities with Cyndie’s family. We started in the morning by gathering at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, where we visited the graves of some of their relatives, including Cyndie’s sister, Michelle, who died at the age of 4 in 1967 as a result of leukemia.

It took some hunting to locate the grave sites, but with the benefit of the lack of snow cover, it didn’t take long to find the markers. Some flowers were laid and then a few members of the family read portions of a memorial prayer that second brother, Barry, had composed.

IMG_4209eThis is the first time the entire family has visited the graves together, which made this a particularly special occasion. Michelle’s death occurred on December 14th, so the Christmas season for Cyndie and her parents and siblings has a way of bringing with it memories of that time in 1967.

As the middle of the day approached, we headed across the city to take a tour of the new auditorium under construction at the Masonic Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota. The family connection to the U of M is strong, but the connection to the Children’s Hospital is especially poignant.

IMG_4217eThe Friswold family has adopted a room in memory of Michelle. We were able to visit a similar adjacent room which was vacant, to see the special features available to children and their families as a result the financial contributions.

A significant effort is made to give the kids being treated as much control over their environment as possible. A touch-screen monitor is suspended on an arm that, among other things, allows the child to remotely control the window shades and alter the color of the room lighting. Of course, I only remember those features because they are the ones our group played with while exploring the room.

To top the day off, we finished with a special private dinner event at the U of M McNamara Alumni Center UofMAlumniCenteralong with the family of Fred Friswold’s frat brother from the class of ’58, Larry Laukka. The Friswold and Laukka families have been getting together regularly at Christmastime the last few years, and this year the two patriarchs took it up a notch, bringing us on campus to share the full story of their incredible persistence as the volunteers who dreamed up and pulled off the incredible accomplishment of this world-class building.

It was a spectacular way to conclude the flurry of holiday family gatherings. Cyndie’s family is very precious, indeed, and I am a lucky man to be included as one of their own.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.