This week between Christmas and the New Year always passes with a feeling of suspended animation. Nothing much ever happens, between holidays. Newspapers publish their end-of-year lists and projections for the year ahead. The old is winding down but still hanging on; the new has not yet started, so we think about it and wonder. That feels especially true for us this year. There’s now less than a week until Brad is admitted on January 3, to start the preparative regimen for his transplant. As I write this, though, we are at an outpatient unit of the hospital, which also has that suspended-animation feel on this Monday after Christmas. The receptionist at the Vascular Access Unit is subbing in for someone and there are forlorn holiday decorations hanging on outside.

We’re spending the morning at the hospital because Brad is having a new catheter placed in his chest (called a Hickman line, it’s external, unlike the ports many people have for cancer treatment). The catheter will be used during the transplant to deliver both the preparatory chemotherapy regimen and then the stem cells. Since May, he has had a PICC line (a catheter placed in his right arm), and it has served him well.

Many friends may know that Brad has always been squeamish. He doesn’t like needles or the sight or thought of blood or the idea of these catheters. In other words he is a truly terrible candidate for having blood cancer, but we don’t get to choose our illnesses. Placing the PICC, which was done in the hospital on an urgently needed basis so he could have chemotherapy, was an ordeal, and truth be told he has been apprehensive about the placement of this chest catheter. But this morning he has been impressively calm and stoic and matter-of-fact about it all.

Likewise, he has mostly been in very good and optimistic spirits as we edge ever closer to his admission. He’s been building the Lego Millennium Falcon that Santa brought Lucy, and shooting some pool on the new table he got us as a surprise family present, and meticulously obeying his oncologist’s suggestion that he enjoy a couple of beers before he goes in.

We have a little less than a week left with him at home, a countdown week that’s considerably less festive than the midnight 10, 9, 8… of the New Year, and I’m not sure I want to make too many top 10 lists from the year that has passed or make a lot of predictions about the one ahead. I’m trying, instead, to take a cue from Brad, and just soldier matter-of-factly through the fears and unknowns, maybe while shooting a little pool.

PS: If you came here looking for a recap, check out either my initial post, “The story so far,” or (for the briefer version) our About page.

3 thoughts on “Countdown

  1. I was a grad student of Brad’s and really admired him as a professor. I’m on vacation until 1/5 and teach in adult ed ESL Tuesdays and Thursdays after that. My husband breathes on a ventilator at home, but we have caregivers and I can be gone for a few hours at a time with or without a caregiver, but of course I’m not always available. I’d be glad to help you with occasional errands. MIllie Bortin


    1. Millie, how kind of you–many thanks! (FYI, I edited your comment so your contact details won’t appear publicly, but I have saved them.) I so appreciate your kindness. Best wishes to you and your husband in his own health challenges, and all the best for the new year.


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