Got Marrow?

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September 3rd, 2011

When you can’t get a job because your profession has dried up and shriveled worse than Mel Gibson and besides, you’re still slowly recovering from a stupid disease, one of the best ways to keep your photo form fit is by volunteering. There’s a wonderful bone marrow symposium happening in Atlanta on September 10-11, and […]

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https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcgotmarrow.jpgWhen you can’t get a job because your profession has dried up and shriveled worse than Mel Gibson and besides, you’re still slowly recovering from a stupid disease, one of the best ways to keep your photo form fit is by volunteering.

There’s a wonderful bone marrow symposium happening in Atlanta on September 10-11, and the organizers are flying me down to document it. I think there’s a particular elegance to this assignment. Being a patient, I am intimately aware of what the attendees and presenters are dealing with. But more viscerally, working the event casts me in the role as a helper — something I’m much more comfortable being — as opposed to a receiver.

The organizer of the event, Susan Stewart, is herself a transplant survivor from way back. Not only does her existence make me happy, the fact that she went through all of this a long time ago adds hope and sustainability to my prognosis. We have been corresponding a lot about this event. In one of our earliest chats, she asked if I wanted to take a swing at designing the seminar T-shirt.

Since I had no experience with clothing design and wasn’t a graphic artist by training, of course I said yes. Unbelievably, everyone liked it. Wearing the shirt over the past few months has made me smile. I can’t wait to see a whole crowd of people with it on. It will be my own private flash mob, except no one will know it.

This event is also simply the best place for me to be over the weekend. Apart from being in the midst of doctors and nurses specifically trained in my malady, I have a caring benefactor in Stewart who wrote to me saying, “I looked at your blog and was reminded of how I felt at your stage of recovery. I did a lot of dumb stuff around then, (like swimming in a county lake where rain run-off from cow pastures made a lovely muck for pathogens), and basically pushing the envelope to prove to myself that I had beat the leukemia. Those stellar choices put me back in the hospital more than once, and could have been avoided if I had accepted the fact that I still had limitations and had to wait a while longer until I was ready to engage life without worrying about infections, etc.”

She continued with the sage advice by saying, “I got the sense that you now are at the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I want to caution you to be careful, particularly with respect to your efforts for this symposium.”

Her note was very important and it impacted me greatly. It added such a compassionate caveat to my activities. I think, as we used to say in grade school, it takes one to know one. I want to fly free and unfettered through this recovery and prove to myself and the world that Rodney is beyond all that mucky business. But if my exuberance sends me swimming in pathogen-filled lakes, (metaphorically speaking), who am I really helping? Over the long run I have taken to looking at my recovery not as something I do for myself, but for my daughters and wife. It’s the way I’ve focused my inner strength. However, recently I’ve grabbed the attention for myself by saying. “I need this for me.”

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