Hope Is My New Address

22 May

 By SULEIKA JAOUAD 

Suleika Jaouad at a halfway house following her bone marrow transplant.

Photo Credit: Anne Francey

I opened my eyes to find doctors peering over my hospital bed. They had some welcome news.

I had for a month been living in isolation in the bone marrow transplant unit of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, my only option after my diagnosis with acute myeloid leukemia last year. Now, the doctors cautioned me that while my immune system was still very weak, my brother Adam’s healthy cells were beginning to engraft in my bone marrow. I was showing signs of progress: I had transitioned from my feeding tube to solid food, I was able to walk around — slowly — without assistance, my blood counts were going in the right direction, and I no longer needed to be connected continuously to an IV machine.

It was “graduation” day. The doctors were sending me to the Hope Lodge, a halfway house sponsored by the American Cancer Society, in Midtown Manhattan. I would live there for the next three months, cared for by my boyfriend, Seamus McKiernan, who is again helping me write this column as I regain my strength.

Rolling out of the hospital onto York Avenue in a wheelchair, I took my first breath of fresh air in weeks. It was a muggy spring afternoon, but I was huddled in my father’s wool hat and a ski jacket, and my teeth were chattering. My belongings from the four-week stay were piled precariously in a second wheelchair, which a nurse pushed behind me. The two wheelchairs clogged the busy street outside the hospital’s main entrance. People stepped aside, inadvertent spectators to our little procession.

But before I could relish this moment, my mother was lunging at me with a face mask. I shot her an annoyed look, but I knew she was right. For the immediate future, anywhere I wanted to go in public I would need to wear gloves and a mask. No subways, no crowds. My feet touched the sidewalk briefly as I got into the waiting taxicab.

Continue reading, here.

Follow @suleikajaouad on Twitter and on her Facebook Page.

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3 Responses to “Hope Is My New Address”

  1. The Bone Marrow Foundation May 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Bone Marrow Foundation and commented:
    In her ongoing series about her bone marrow transplant, Suleika Jaouad shares her experience as she enters the post-transplant phase.
    The transplant may be done, but her battle is not.

  2. Lindsey Petersen May 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Love your writing and am rooting for you!

  3. Connie Blumenthal May 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Suleika,

    A friend just recently directed me to your NYT columns and your blog. I am an AML survivor, just hit the 2 yr mark in remission. Though I’m a bit older (44 now, almost 42 at diagnosis) and was lucky not to need a SCT (knock on wood), I can still relate and have enjoyed reading about your journey, your beauty and your strength! I have a friend (from living on the hospital floor off and on for 6 months) who was diagnosed w/AML at 22 and had a SCT a year ago. He just celebrated his new “birthday” a few weeks ago and is doing great, and I know you will too. I just told him about your blog, so maybe you to can virtually meet at some point. Good luck to you! –Connie

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