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Voices of Hope & Healing
for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant

Remembering My Dad's Transplant
by Alysia Zucker

"You have leukemia." The doctor's words rang through my ears over and over again. I couldn't believe that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. At the age of 10, I wasn't even exactly sure what cancer really meant. I was speechless. My whole body felt numb. I couldn't cry or even speak. I just stood there like a ghost, with no connection to the world. I looked over at my mom as a tear rolled down her cheek. How was I supposed to react?

My dad had just gotten a new job as manager at CVS/ Pharmacy so the insurance covered the bone marrow transplant that is necessary to cure leukemia. Before the bone marrow transplant, a compatible donor needed to be found in the unrelated donor volunteer registry. My dad's donor was a woman from Germany. The day before he went into the hospital was beautiful. We spent the day outside shaving my dad's hair into a Mohawk. I even bought red hair gel to dye it. Most of my family came to visit him the day before we left. He had a smile on his face the whole day as if nothing was wrong. I'm not sure if it was because he didn't want me to get scared and upset, or because he never really let the cancer affect him. His attitude was admirable throughout the entire time in the hospital and even when he came home. As for me, my attitude wasn't as positive. I was frightened about the outcome. It was difficult visiting my dad because he was in Boston, almost 2 hours away from my house. When I did get the chance to visit him, I dreaded going to the hospital. He literally lived in a bubble. He was never allowed to leave the room. I couldn't enter the room without thoroughly washing my hands and wearing a hospital mask. Not being able to hug, kiss or even touch my dad was difficult. In addition, my mom worked night shifts, so I had to live with close family friends. As time went on I watched as my father grew weaker. He had barely any appetite so he weighed only 102 pounds and he is 5'8". Even if I wanted to give him a hug, all that was there were skin and bones.

To prepare for my dad's homecoming, my mom and I cleaned and bleached down the entire house everyday to make sure there were as few germs as possible. We even had to find a new home for our two ferrets. We got all brand new furniture that was able to be wiped down to eliminate mold and mildew. We also got all brand new carpets to help eliminate dust particles.

When my dad first came home after being in the hospital for four months, he wore a mask and gloves until his body got oriented to the environment. With all the medications and his catheters and masks, it made my house feel more like a hospital than a home.

When I got sick during the school year, I had to move out because we couldn't take the chance of my dad getting sick. Many times it didn't even feel like I had a home where I belonged because I was always moving around so much.

Now that my dad is 5 years cancer free, I am so thankful that he is alive and well, and that I have more time to spend with him. As painful as it was to see my dad go through such a difficult time, he is now an inspiration to me and to others.

First appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cancer Stories and used with permission by the publisher.

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