Days +185, +186, +187 & +188, otherwise known as a very long weekend.

Photo of the Day Friday: Walking with Andy – it was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed a stroll around the neighborhood with him, silly hat and all. Half way through our walk, he asked if this meant I was going to close my Exercise Ring (on my Apple Watch). I laughed and said yes.
Photo of the Day Saturday: Kurt!! I was so INCREDIBLY impressed with my friend. During the instructions, when I found out that we had an option of holding a plank for 1 minute, or doing a handstand hold for 1 minute, I turned to Kurt and whispered, “I can’t even get up on the wall.” And having never seen Kurt whip out his handstand, I figured we would be in misery together, holding our planks. My jaw dropped when I saw him execute this perfect hold. I have to say – I was really impressed. And he inspires me to contemplate something like this in the future.
Photo of the Day Sunday: Andy showing me his latest tool – an oven mitt. Sunday was a day to catch up around the house – we had a few projects to complete, namely downstairs powder room painting, and prepping our upstairs hallways for a new cable railing/banister installation. At some point, I popped out for the weekly grocery shopping and prepped 5-days worth of meals. We rocked the afternoon out, listening to 90s music on Alexa. It was a beautifully boring and uneventful afternoon and I was grateful to spend it at home with the person I love.
Photo of the Day Monday: First task of the day – signing up for my 1st COVID Vaccine! I’m confirmed for later in the week!!!!!

It’s been a hot minute between posts, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think that’s entirely bad. It shows that I’ve been living and doing, and also respecting my sleep time. Yes, I love love writing late at night, my fingers dancing across the keyboard – but at some point, I really need to make sure my body is getting enough recovery for all of the work it’s doing. And I have to say – I’m both happy about how I feel, and it’s really nice going to bed at the same time as Andy. Yay!

Friday involved a fun workout with two other powerhouse ladies. Yes, they kicked my tush, and yes the 19-minute main set was tough. And as the alarm chimed, signaling the end of the session, I still had 8 Over-the-box burpees to complete. For those of you that don’t know me – I hate burpees. But stronger that my hate of burpees was my resolve to finish my 8th round – so I did. I appreciated the cheers from the coaches and my workout partners, but it wasn’t about that. It was purely about finishing my set – and I FELT that, deeply. Again, I wasn’t the fastest and I didn’t need to be. I just wanted to put forth a solid effort. And I’m proud to say that I did!

Stretching! And perhaps a slight post as well. From L-R, Cynthia, me, Erica. Bravo!

After I left the gym, I spent 30 minutes in my car texting back and forth with Daniele at the NIH. It had been officially a week since my immune suppressing medication, Tacrolimus, was stopped, and my NIH Team was curious about how I was doing, namely my skin and GI system. The biggie was a few spots on my hands – so I took a photo (below) and tried to do something helpful like add dark circles. Thankfully, Daniele & co. didn’t seem too worried and told me to keep monitoring for quirky things – rash, GI upset, dermatitis, etc.

My helpful drawing to Daniele, showing a few red bumps on the back of my hand. I noted that these bumps only appear on sun-exposed skin, despite my best effort at using sunscreen.

The rest of the day was very low key. We made HelloFresh for dinner and enjoyed a few episodes of House on the couch. Two of the cats – Ali on Andy and Monster on myself – kept us from snuggling up together, but what can you do? Cats. Eventually I made my way towards Andy and fell asleep with my head in his lap. It was a very nice way to end the week!

Monster and her rear paw.

Saturday began early with my 8 am HEW class, and was followed by a Panera Coffee date with Andy and Kurt. It was fun to eat bagels, drink my Hazelnut coffee and just laugh. Moments like these I cherish; moments like these I don’t think about just having had a Stem Cell Transplant. Afterwards, I hopped in Andy’s truck and we made our way to a Scrounger’s Paradise, a eclectic second-hand/extra parts home/furniture/tile/wood store in Asheville. Andy and I are always looking for neat and creative ways of improving our home; practice, I suppose for the house we eventually want to build together. We left without purchasing anything, but had fun picking our way through the warehouse. Afterwards, I gave Andy a haircut and he went to play golf, while I set out for a long-ish hike.

It’s been 7+ months since I’ve hiked any section of the Shut-In” Trail, a historical footpath from the French Broad River up to the parking area of Mt. Pisgah, 17 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain away. It was constructed in 1890 by George Vanderbilt, and allowed him direct access to his hunting lodge below Buck Springs from his Asheville estate, The Biltmore. I have yet to complete the famous route – rest assured it’s on my “bucket list” – instead, I picked my way up to the first overlook at Walnut Cove. I absolutely felt the gain, but it was also really really lovely to be on this trail again, reuniting with an old friend.

My turn-around point!

Afterwards, it was a quick drive home, shower, and drive to Highland Brewing to meet Andy after his golf game. We both love Highland, and were excited to see that “The Meadow” – an awesome staging area and outdoor venue/field – was open. We sat in our “hula hoop”, 6 feet away from other hula hoops, and enjoyed the early evening. We brought our own chairs – most excellent camp chairs ever from Harbor Freight – and just enjoyed the experience. Yes, I wore my floppy hat and no, I didn’t feel like a dork, mostly because everyone else was far behind me and I just couldn’t see them. Plus, at that point, I just didn’t care. Andy took one for the team, and got eaten alive by mosquitoes – perhaps something about “transplant blood” was a deterrent? Who knows? He brushed it off and laughed – better him than me. A true gentleman, I replied.

Highland Brewing Meadow – happy on our chairs, in our hula hoop ring!

The remainder of the evening entailed dinner from Chipotle – my FIRST Chipotle in 7+ months (yum!!), and sheet cake from Ingles. Life felt good. Life felt almost normal.

As I mentioned before in Sunday’s photo of the day, Sunday was more home-based “stuff” – projects that we want/need to complete before my folks’ visit. Part-way through the day, we took a break and had a FaceTime date with my sister KK, and her son, Eli. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE of it – and holy cow, my nephew is getting so big! At 19 months, I’m envious of his golden locks, and both Karyna and I laughed about that. I’m so proud of my sister – she’s doing such a great job of balancing being a Mom, wife and working full time. Eventually we said our farewells, and I’m looking forward to hugging them all at some point in the near future.

Then it was back to tasks at hand…Andy painting and me chopping veggies. At some point, after prepping my umpteenth dinner for the week, I sprayed bleach on the counter, an effort to clean the surface. Unfortunately, my beloved Durango sweatshirt, purchased after hiking the 500-mile Colorado Trail in 2019, got a bit of bleach on the sleeve.

I sighed. “Oh well, this means that I just need to hike it again and get a new sweatshirt.” I wasn’t disappointed at all.

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” was Andy’s response.

Bleach on my sleeve means I get to return to Durango, starting in Denver. Challenge accepted!

And finally, Monday. The day started early, drumming rain against the roof waking me from my slumber. I smiled. I love love the sound of rain and enjoyed the feeling of warmth and safety while the skies opened outside my window. Eventually, alarms sounded and we greeted the day – Andy brought coffee and left for work, while I listened to NPR and got myself ready for another week. My first priority was signing up to receive my COVID vaccine, which I’m THRILLED to say I managed. It’s been a long time coming – we have all be affected by this terrible virus. So many of us have held our breath and done our best to get by, day after day.

As someone waiting for, then getting a Stem Cell Transplant, and now living post-transplant in a COVID-world, it’s been challenging. And I know it’s been hard for ALL of us. I’m thankful that I won’t have to wait until mid-June to receive my vaccine, as we originally thought, and that the recent science/NIH has recommended anyone NOT on immune-suppressing medication, receive their vaccine. I had to wait 2 week after receiving my Pneumonia vaccine during my 6-month post-transplant work-ups at the NIH; this Thursday I’m free and clear. And grateful!

The rain continued all morning, without any sign of stopping. Oh well – I tossed on my rain gear and water-proofed myself as best as I could, and enjoyed a 2:30 hike on the Mountains To Sea Trail, the section that runs through the heart of Asheville. I’ve been steadily trying to increase the time I spend on my feet while hiking – initially it was an hour or so, and gradually increased to 1:30 or 1:45 comfortably. Lately, 2:30 has been feeling OK – I know that if I want to backpack this summer (and as long as my body is doing well), I’ll need to increase my strength and endurance. And that’s not something I can ramp up quickly or attempt at the last minute….today’s 7.5 miles was waterlogged, but counted as another good training session under my belt.

The remainder of my Monday was great – a session with my therapist, a tough but most excellent workout at HEW, a delicious salad (already pre-made…just needed to be assembled), loaded with shrimp, eggs, bleu cheese, homemade bacon bits, cherry tomatoes, avocado, different lettuces and Green Goddess Dressing (YUM), and Pool League (Billiards Not Swimming). Yes, I lost, and no, today I didn’t feel badly about it. I played a very nice opponent, and once again, the match was close – but he just made his shots and the 8-Ball, where I couldn’t. And that’s OK. Afterwards, I scored Andy’s game, and cheered my teammate and friend Cissy. They both had great matches and I was happy for their wins.

Andy, en route to a 5-1 win in 8 Ball. We were the only ones wearing masks at Midway Tavern. Once the place started filling up, I quickly made my exit.

And there you have it – phew!

Feeling…how am I doing? Honestly, well – first, I’m tired. But I also hiked and had a challenging HEW workout, so that’s to be expected. But overall, my mood has been generally really good and I’m feeling OK, not so bad, in Minnesota speak . I’m hesitant to say something like AWESOME or GREAT – I suppose there’s a part of me that’s superstitious and just doesn’t want to go there, tempting fate. On the plus side, my back feels much better and I’ve got full range of motion, though I’m currently sitting on the heating pad – I’m 40 and it feels good. Deal with it. I am still slow at the more intense workouts at HEW, but it hasn’t really bothered me. The other issue, as always – my skin and eyes. My skin has been doing alright – even Kurt said that it was looking pretty good, and that made me fell nice. The new eye drops, Cequa have been feeling great and today I wore my contact lenses for 10 hours with no issues. It was also humid and raining, but there you go – I’m not sure that I could have comfortably worn them that long a few months ago.

Back to the strength stuff – it took me a long time to build up my strength and I suppose that I’m looking at this more as a Lifestyle thing. I choose to challenge my body, while respecting its needs. I choose to hike, and focus on quality sleep and nutrition (about 80% of the time for the nutrition…. there IS a piece of sheet cake in the fridge with my name on it, and that’s so mine after I finish this post). Basically, I accept that this process is a process, and therefore takes time, all of it. And I’m OK with that – I’m here, and I’m so grateful to be here, living this live, surrounded by wonderful humans, and some pretty great cats as well (but don’t tell them that). And I’m excited about my future – there is SO MUCH out in this world to look forward to, and I can’t wait. Even better – next week, I get to see my parents and I can’t wait!

Tomorrow I’ve got two appointments, hematology at a shockingly early 8:30 am, followed by an OBGYN appointment. And then – who knows? But it’s late, my cake is calling and I’m giving Andy another few minutes to return from League before heading to bed.

Thank you, as always, for reading. I appreciate your love and support!

  1. Thanks for the account of your weekend. You sound happy and satisfied which is getting close to perfect!


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