Hope (and the Inspire Me Mondays Link Up)

#Hope smells like rotting grapefruit. #stemcelltransplant http://wp.me/s2UZoK-hope via @blestbutstrest #cancerHope smells like rotting grapefruits.

I’d smelled it before, as Pedro and I shuffled around Elven Long on our daily exercise laps.

The first time I smelled it, I joked with him, “It stinks just like the gymnasium did when you guys sold fruit last year!”

He looked at me quizzically, with his one eyebrow raised and the other one frozen in place.

“Some of the grapefruit were rotten, remember?”

He nodded and breathed deeply, to see if he could smell it too.

“I wonder why some rooms smell like that?”

A passing nurse heard my comment and laughed. “That’s the nicest way I’ve heard it described,” she said. “Most people think it smells and tastes like garlic.”

“But what is it?”

“DMSO. They use it to preserve the stem cells when they’re frozen. That’s the smell of a transplant!”

The year 2002 passed out with a harsh round of chemo in preparation for Pedro’s stem cell transplant. In the doctor’s words, the goal was to ‘all but kill’ Pedro and then infuse him with his own stem cells (harvested three weeks earlier)—which would act like little magic bombs that would rush in and repair everything that was broken.

For the first time, Pedro seemed to bounce back after chemo. His doctors marveled at how many laps he walked each day, and the fact that he gained weight instead of losing it. And miracle of miracles, the muscles in Pedro’s face started to slowly come back to life.

Pedro present a picture of glowing health (ok, see the photo above and draw your own conclusion ;) ) on the day of his stem-cell transplant.  It took 10 days of shots to the stomach and harvesting to produce enough stem cells.

Pedro’s hospital room bubbled with hope. I’m pretty sure both doctors and nurses that had worked with him over the past four months dropped by just to take a peak at the miracle. On the eve of the transplant, the hospital chaplain dropped in for the first time (if you’d like to know how NOT to conduct a hospital visit, you can read about it here)

On January 3, 2003, the nurses wheeled in the transplant tank and floated the rubber ducky in warm water that would unfreeze the bags of life-giving stem cells. While they hooked up the lines, I pulled out a package of mints for Pedro to suck on. The DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide) can cause halitosis and an icky garlicky aftertaste—a small price to pay for a huge infusion of hope.

As the nurse started the drip of stem cells into Pedro’s IV, we all let out a cheer. Almost instantly, Pedro asked for a mint. Within hours, Pedro’s room smelled like rotting grapefruits. The smell of hope.

For more comfort for caregivers (and to read more of our story), click here.

What does hope smell like to you?

#inspirememondaysWhat’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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