Having a Baby and Digging for Gold

(Week 4 of treatment)

“It’s Like Having a Baby!”

The nurse hovered by my reclining chair and tucked a pillow behind my head.  Each corner of the room hosted a cancer patient wrapped in a warm blanket as their chemo made its way from bag-on-a-pole to vein.  At any given moment there were dozens of us in various four-corner pods.

Two weeks into my daily outpatient treatment and I’d worked my way through most of the nurses.  But today there was a new smiling face, ready to start the drip, drip of my infusion.  She’d seen me coming and going and asked about my treatment protocol.  I explained the nine month process of arsenic infusions and ATRA pills.

“It’s like having a baby!” she exclaimed.

I instantly loved the analogy.  It was perfect.  Nine months to a new, cancer free me and a rebirth of my life and body.


(Week 6 of treatment)

Digging for Gold

I watched the Keurig sputter and spit my coffee into a flowered cup.  As I poured the hazelnut creamer, I could hear the alarm going off in the bedroom, but I’d been up for hours.  Today was an important day.

Six weeks into treatment and it was time to have another bone marrow biopsy.  Unlike the past two that had brought the crushing diagnosis of leukemia, this biopsy held the possibility of good news.

Later, while sitting in the exam room, I tried not to think mean thoughts about the pleasant nurse as she described the procedure.  I knew from experience the biopsy wouldn’t go the way it was being cheerfully described in the pre-consultation.  You’d think it was like baking a cake; easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Everyone in the room smiled… except me.

Forty minutes later, the doctor’s face strained as she pushed and turned the screw, drilling into my hip bone.  She stood on her toes so she could lean over and put more of her weight into it.  No one in the room looked happy anymore.  Her heavy breathing and sweaty forehead told the story of how hard she was working to dig her way to the marrow.  Through clenched teeth she mumbled something about hard bones.  Shooting pain radiated down my leg and across my lower back as I reverted to the Lamaze breathing I’d learned for childbirth decades earlier.  The doctor paused just long enough to give me another shot of local anesthetic.

“It’s like digging for gold,” I thought to myself.  “It’ll be worth it.”


Three days later, the call came.

“You’re in remission!”

It was a short, wonderfully-to-the-point, call that included too many thank you’s on my part.  But, I couldn’t help it.  I was so grateful.  I knew that this was only an initial remission, as the cancer would come back without further chemo, but it was still a glorious moment.  My body was responding to the treatments.

My hands shook as I phoned my daughter.  I wanted her to be the first to know.

“Hi honey!  Guess what?!”…


17 thoughts on “Having a Baby and Digging for Gold

  1. Harvey Stanbrough

    Sara, you have us hanging on every word. Aside from the wonderful, terrifying story you’re sharing here with all of us, your writing style is SO POWERFUL. You know longer and emotion-laden. You know short and powerful. You know almost to tears, and you most definltely know laugh out loud. Thank you again for sharing so much of yourself and this very personal journey with us.


  2. So powerful, painful and uplifting all in one. You have a gift, Sara, that is most certainly meant to be shared, relived and learned from. There is light at the end of the marrow biopsy! Horrifying in what you had to go through but glorious that you got the “R” word in the end. Keep the journey going toward that final diagnosis when you and Sarandipity can travel together toward peace and happiness.


    1. Thank you for what you’ve said, Linda. I always hesitate before pushing that “post” button, never knowing how my writing will be received. 🙂 Your comments always make me feel good. Even if I wasn’t publishing a blog, writing about the experiences has been healing so I’m thankful my daughter pushed me to document my journey. I hope you and Denny have an amazing holiday! Sending my love. x x x


  3. Cindy

    Bone Marrow biopsies, I’m totally ignorant on this subject. I never had one that hurt,and that was 20 + years ago. I’m sorry I dont know the specifics but it was like a twilight sleep,able to talk thru the whole thing. You guys have enough to deal with,this is nuts! Sara you are taking me back down memory lane,one day a while back I forgot how to spell leukemia,can you believe that?
    Hang in ther everyone.It doesnt last forever,some days just feels like it😍


    1. Thanks for the comment, Cindy. I’ve heard that some get to have their biopsies done with sedation. I’m not sure why mine haven’t been done that way. They always make it sound so easy when they do the pre-consult, yet none of them have gone well and they’ve been excruciating. 😦 Oh well… the payoff this last time was great! Worth every bit of pain.
      I love that your leukemia is so far behind you that you forgot how to spell the word! That made me laugh in such a great way. Congratulations! Someday, I want this to be a distant memory too.


  4. Your writing is as inspirational, and talented as your photography 😉 I am inspired by you, along with feeling grateful, and humble that I have yet to be tested in that way. I just started watching a series on Netflix called “Chasing Life”. In it a young woman discovers she has leukemia. I’m not far enough along to give a personal opinion. There are way too many other things going on in her life for my suspension of disbelief. Thank you again for sharing with all of us!


    1. Oh, Dawn, that’s so nice of you to say! I’ve missed my photography, so the writing has been a good outlet. I’m thinking about what sort of creative goals I want to set for 2016. 🙂
      I’ll check out “Chasing Life”! Mahalo!


  5. Sarah Dufault

    BMB doesn’t have to be brutal! My 2nd and 3rd were done with mild sedation & were CT guided. I literally felt the pinch of “novocaine” and a second of pressure and it was over. Ask about it! Glad to hear that you are in remission.


  6. Devon

    Sara. I absolutely LOVE your blog. I tell all my leukemia patients (and other cancer patients) that they MUST keep a notebook/blog. Some agree and start right away. Some just nod and do what they must to make it through. Your blog posts bring tears to my eyes. On Christmas Eve, i stood and held the hand of a patient with multiple myleoma getting a bone marrow biopsy (post chemo)…..and the pulling and tugging I so understand. Keep Smiling Sara. 🙂


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