Off The Press
March 23, 2009
By Bob Taylor
After never giving up, it’s good to be back
I’m not sure how pitcher Jon Lester felt when he toed the mound for the Boston Red Sox in 2007 after coming back from his successful victory over non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But I can tell you that it feels great for me to be back on the job at The Issaquah Press.
For those of you who noticed my absence the past year, I did not win the lottery, retire and become a snowbird in Palm Springs.
No, I’ve just returned from the sidelines because of an ongoing battle with cancer, multiple myeloma to be exact.
I had an autologous stem cell transplant at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in August, and then I was sidelined for the next five months for recovery. For someone who has reported sports, especially at the high school level for 30 years, missing the fall and winter seasons were very difficult for me.
However, my doctors didn’t want me to attend prep events or church services, go to movie theaters or anyplace where there were big crowds, because of the possibility of catching viruses. The only plus was as an outpatient, I spent my recovery time at home and not in a hospital.
The first part of the transplant process began last May with the pre-stem cell transplant evaluation, where doctors and specialists checked me out from head to toe to make sure I was a candidate for the transplant. When I say they check out everything, I mean it. It’s a very thorough process.
During one of the examinations, it was discovered that I had a rather bad gall bladder. In fact, there were so many stones that it had to be removed at the University of Washington Medical Center. If that had not been detected until, say, after the transplant, there’s a good chance this column wouldn’t be written. Infections and other problems have often proved lethal for stem cell patients during recovery. I was lucky.
The surgery did postpone the transplant, originally scheduled for July, to August.
The stem cells, a collection of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, were harvested from my body during a painless process called aspheresis and were frozen. Then, a few days later, I received a strong dose of chemo that basically wiped out everything in and on my body. After a day’s rest, the stem cells were re-entered through an IV in the transplant.
Usually, patients become ill the week after the transplant and are sent back to the hospital. I never got sick. Once again, I was lucky.
There were many things I learned during this experience. First and foremost, this is a team game and one needs a strong corps of caregivers. I was fortunate my wife Pauline was one of them. She was my nurse at home. My sister-in-law Rosemary was my taxi driver, getting me to my daily appointments at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. My son David provided daily spiritual help.
It pays to have a strong faith as a foundation. Doctors and nurses at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance agreed with that statement. I have been fortunate to have many people, including local pastors and their congregations, praying for my recovery. I have benefited from so many people rooting for me, including the Liberty High football team, which gave me an autographed football last fall.
Attitude is important. During the past year, I keep recalling the words of former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who lost a valiant battle with cancer, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
I haven’t given up. That’s why I’m back. And, boy, does it feel good.