Thoughts Five Years After Donating Marrow Stem Cells

Four years ago I wrote a post on my thoughts one year after donating bone marrow stem cells. For medical information about the procedure and my experience with it, I refer you to that post. At the time of the post, I had not yet met my recipient. I knew that he was still alive but that his health wasn’t yet in a state where they’d introduce us. I signed a form, I don’t remember know if it was right after or a full year after, letting them know I’d be willing to have my info given to the recipient and receive theirs.

About 18 months after donation, one random day I answered an unknown number to hear a shaky older Southern man on the line. Through tears, he introduced himself and told me that he was my recipient and that I’d saved his life. I sat down and cried too. It was about a year after I’d lost my mother, my brain was in a difficult place, but I was so happy that this stranger was still alive.

We exchanged email and phone numbers (I got his info in the mail shortly after, from the Marrow Foundation) and then he told me that he was well enough to travel and he and his wife wanted to come up to DC to meet me. They had some friends in the area, too, ones they hadn’t seen for a while because of his illness. We worked it out over email and then he and his wife met me at a metro station and took us out to dinner.

It was a bit surreal. Here was this man, this person I knew absolutely nothing about, and yet my stem cells had produced every bit of blood that flowed through his veins. I can’t describe that kind of relationship.

He was still frail, still recovering. The post-transplant experience had been rough on him. He was in his late 60s, his cancer had been serious enough to warrant the nuke-his-marrow-and-transplant method which recipients get, and transplants are rough on the body. But, with tears in his eyes, he told me about his grandkids. He brought copies of their photos for me, and of his two adult children as well. He would be alive to see the grandkids grow up now.

Years Following

We friended each other on Facebook and have kept in touch periodically ever since. They send birthday and Christmas cards. We like each other’s Facebook statuses. I see his grandkids getting older, see pictures of him taking his granddaughter to a school event or of their Christmases and birthdays.

It is still strange, this relationship between us. I know from talking to him that I will never be able to understand the depth to which my transfusion mattered to him. His wife told me how, while I was undergoing ER treatment for side-effects of a painkiller I’d taken during donation prep (see my other post, it was a personal problem, not one necessarily related to the transplant), she was getting news that he wouldn’t live long enough to receive my donation a few days later.

Sometimes, though, I look at my body and marvel that it could have produced things not just to keep me alive but to save the life of another human as well. On my worst mental health days, I sometimes recall the family to mind and remind myself how his grandchildren—pre-schoolers and lower-graders when he was first dying, are now old enough to really know their grandfather as a person.

We passed the 5-year mark in November, and just a few days ago he posted an update on Facebook that he had been pronounced 5-years cancer-free. It has not been an easy 5 years for either of us, I think. But I am so very glad that all those years ago in college I visited a marrow donation drive, got my blood taken (I think it’s just a cheek swab now), and filled out the paperwork for the marrow registry

Joining the Marrow Registry

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or contact me and I’ll do my best to answer.

The process for joining the marrow registry has been an ever-changing one since I signed up. If you are between 18 and 44, joining is free. You can join at an event or have a swab kit sent to you. When you "check out" after completing the health screening and other basic info, they’ll ask for a donation to cover labs & processing.

Aside: Adding a new member costs about $100. As I noted in my previous post on the subject, the Marrow Foundation covered everything related to the donation, including my surprise ER trip. Some of that was through the recipient’s insurance and some was the Marrow Foundation paying for my parking, my food the day of, etc. They’d have flown me and a companion in and put us up if I didn’t live within easy driving distance of the hospital. However if you cannot donate $ and are between 18 and 44, joining is a million times better than not joining, so don’t let that scare you. There is, at time of writing, no charge to join. I believe they briefly did.

If you’re 45 to 60, you can still join but they do require the $100 donation. Your marrow/marrow stem cells may still be used. But because of the decreased likelihood of your being the best choice, they charge. You can read more about that and other FAQs on their site

If you’re over 60, well, the risk of your stem cells working well and the risks to you are so greatly increased that their age restrictions keep you out. You can still donate money or, if you don’t have money, look for ways to help in sign-up drives, fundraisers, etc. for the organization.

There is some of the same BS that keeps gay men from donating blood, although you can donate if you’ve been celibate 5 years…which is asking a LOT but may also be true for some gay dudes with less-than-ideal love lives or bi dudes who’ve been w/a woman 5+ years which is why I’m including the specifics (as of today).

Introducing the Arkham Archivist

If you came to the site expecting to be at either or, I’ve merged the two into one, The Arkham Archivist. I’ve been pondering this change for a while, but had to sort out how exactly I wanted to do it. All my redirects should be working.

(It’s possible there may be a few hiccups. If you’re reading this after 12/7/2014 and having an issue, please let me know!

Review: Dracula, Pages from a Virgin’s Diary

When I pitched a scenario for the Dracula Dossier involving vampires and ballet, I had no idea that a ballet interpretation of Dracula existed. Well, that’s not entirely true, I was aware of the Atlanta Ballet’s ongoing but un-filmed version (someday!), but not of this one based on the Royal Winnipeg’s company. I found Dracula — Pages from a Virgin’s Diary when I was compiling a list of ballets to watch to go along with my planned (re)watch of Dracula films and spy thrillers. Obviously, I had to buy it, and last night my husband and I put aside a couple hours and watched it.

Here’s the trailer, which excited me with its gorgeous black-and-white and trippy feel:

I have…thoughts. I’m organizing them into thoughts on it as a ballet, as a film, and as an adaptation of Dracula, because I have wildly different levels of preference on them. It’d be impossible for me to give it stars, as I want to go from one (for cinematography) to five (for set design).

As a Ballet

The dancers were all excellent. The choreography was quite good. In particular, I enjoyed Lucy’s scenes in the graveyard, both with Dracula and with the other men. What there was was good. I really wish there was more. I feel like I don’t have a lot to say on this front because there wasn’t as much as I’d hoped. What I’ll talk about in the next section also affects how I perceived what was there.

As a Film

What in the bloody blazes of hell was the director doing? I appreciated the changes of focus and aperture to a degree, but this was like when your cousin becomes addicted to using every single filter on Instagram. Or, in a film parallel, it was like in South Pacific where Joshua Logan had clearly discovered the joy of colored filters and used them with abandon (I understand someone in editing on that film may also be to blame for the level of contrast). It became a bit dizzying, as one scene might use 5 fast enough to give one whiplash. If you look at the trailer, it’s unfortunately not a bad picture of what watching the film is actually like, which is a bit much. Hell, it’s understated in terms of colored filters.

It could have been good. I think if they’d stuck to just the black-and-white options (selective focus, increased graininess, and zooming in to a circular shot only at the close of scenes), the variety of techniques might have enhanced the film.

For the dramatic scenes where dancers appeared to be talking, we had classic intertitles as in a silent film. This was a better choice than the language of ballet mime, which doesn’t have a lot of the words they’d have needed. At times the descriptive text was over-wrought, but the dialogue itself came directly from the book.

As an Adaptation

Again, I would be at a loss to give it stars on the adaptation front. The Lucy scenes in Whitby are closer to the book than any other adaptation I’ve seen. The staging choices of having her mother in a glass coffin (up to the point where she joins Lucy and they both die) and of an organ with green smoke were a bit surreal. But three engaging suitors, a back-and-forth, all of them giving her transfusions yet hiding it from Arthur—all of these were very much the book, though interpreted into the language of ballet (which is my second language).

While some artistic choices in the graveyard, such as Dracula and Lucy biting each other during their pas de deux, aren’t quite in synch with the story, it still gave the same atmosphere. The only change was her seductive dance with the four men who had come to kill her before they each stake her, then drive her into her coffin. We even saw Lucy beheaded, albeit with a shovel…and how rare is that in Dracula adaptations? I applauded!

After that, the adaptation went a bit off the rails, but in a way I could understand. Renfield gave Mina up as the next target, but she was still nursing Jonathan to the East and we have a few flashbacks to Jonathan’s trip to Castle Dracula. So the four-man team leaves for Dracula’s castle while Dracula visits Mina in Europe. Mina, who has a lovely dance with black veil-carrying nuns, discovers Jonathan’s diary and the apparent intercourse he had with Dracula’s wives. We get a flashback of him with each of them along with melodramatic title cards. I must admit I laughed when the phrase “FLESH POTS” flashed on the screen. Mina then attempts to assert her own sexuality and keeps trying to give Jonathan a blow-job, which is a bit disconcerting in the middle of a Dracula ballet.

The final confrontation occurs in Dracula’s vault, where the men (Jonathan now inexplicably among their number) stake Dracula’s waves, place crosses in his coffins, and wait for him to return. There’s a great deal of balletic fighting, Van Helsing appearing beaten, Mina and Jonathan finally getting him staked, and the group leaving. Rather than staking Dracula in a coffin, they leave him impaled as in the classic woodcut:

A woodcut in which Vlad Dracula eats in front of impaled corpses

Eastern Menace

An entire subplot of the adaptation was dedicated to a perceived Eastern Menace. Early title cards showed blood flowing from Transylvania to England as Lucy slept. They dramatically flashed bold words like: “IMMIGRANTS.” I got the impression this was being done to mock the panic of earlier eras.

Besides the red selective coloring, which I liked some of the time, they used green selective coloring to highlight money Dracula has brought back to Castle Dracula. At one point in the final fight, someone stabs Dracula and he spills out gold coins instead of blood. (Ken reminds me of the passage “As it was, the point just cut the cloth of his coat, making a wide gap whence a bundle of bank-notes and a stream of gold fell out” in the fight before Dracula flees for the continent. Though I still note that this was money he brought to spend, not the implication of money being taken out of England.) When Dracula is finally skewered, the floor around him is covered in (black and white) bills.

A part of me gets it but most of me just cringed over that bit. The title credits were a good, if faux-dramatic, allusion to some people’s fears. However the “they’re stealing our money” really doesn’t come up in Dracula. And the way it was done with selective coloring as a minor element just made it cringe-worthy.

Graveyard Pas de Deux

If you want one good thing, have Dracula & Lucy’s graveyard dance:

My husband’s assessment: “That was insanity en pointe.”

Metatopia 2014 Schedule

Reviving this old site a bit to post my Metatopia 2014 schedule. I’ll be there in particular to assist Elsa S. Henry, a.k.a. @snarkbat, who’s going to be playtesting the alpha version of her game “Dead Scare” (Kickstarter likely in 2015, from Exploding Rogue games). I’ll also be helping out at her panels and attending the “Our Town” event along with her (although I’m not going to be playtesting).

I’m looking forward to playing in three games and attending one of Ken Hite’s panels. I’d hoped to go to a few other things, but the overlap didn’t make it work this year. I’m hoping to get involved in a pickup game or two or just hang out or drink with some awesome people.

Date Time Event
Friday 11am–1pm R113:“Five Fires” by Thoughtcrime Games; presented by Quinn Murphy
4pm-5pm D023: Addressing Harassment in Gaming Communities
6pm-7pm D028: “Bisociation, Mashups, the Uncanny, and the Weird: Toward an Aesthetic of Setting Bricolage” with Ken Hite
8pm-10pm R220: “Dead Scare” by Blind Lady Versus; presented by Elsa Henry
Saturday 9am-10am D035: “Designing for Disability Access” presented by Elsa Henry
12pm-2:30pm L307: “Our Town” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions; presented by Shoshana Kessock.
5pm-6pm D059: “Disability in Gaming” presented by Russell Collins, Elsa Henry, and Shoshana Kessock.
8pm-midnight R417: “TimeWatch Parallel Realities” by Pelgrane Press; presented by Kevin W. Kulp.
Sunday 10am-noon R457: “Project: Dark” by Gameplaywright Press; presented by Will Hindmarch.
noon-2pm R482: “Dead Scare” by Blind Lady Versus; presented by Elsa Henry.

If you’re going to be there, I hope I’ll see you around.