My first stem cell infusion is fast approaching. This will be a stab in the back, an intrathecal pathway up the spinal column. Preparation has been long and laborious, with tests and procedures and nurses filling forty-two vials with my blood every time I have been spotted in the neighborhood. Deep in the lab, my bone marrow is magically morphing into neural stem cells. I am told the cells are ready.
So am I, though for what I am not certain. Outcomes are undefined. This is a journey with no map. Are we looking at the new penicillin or a jelly donut? A friend suggested I must feel strung out from great expectations . No, I thought. I do not feel much of anything. I feel numb, actually, my feelings seeming to run the gamut of emotions, as Dorothy Parker once quipped, from A. to B.
The word, hope, has frequently been uttered by well-wishers and casual observers, in the form of questions or knowing affirmative statements. They generally drew a smile and nod and well-crafted non-answer from me. Fellow patients I ran into in the neurologist’s office or readers following the story on this blog have been warm and generous, expressing genuine best wishes. I know I am clearing a path many want to travel. I am lucky.
I am having trouble processing the word, hope, probably because I find the idea undefined and downright dangerous. I have written about hope before, and I still do not understand. To hope is to play the expectation game. I know better than to go there. Disappointment just might be spelled, h-o-p-e. How does one hope without the inevitable fantasy, the visual image of a life restored?
I would be a happy man if I could put the cane away or make out something, anything, in my path. Not once has the fantasy filled the silver screen in my head. My mind’s eye is a blank page. Do I hope for those happy endings? I do not think about them Hope can be a subconscious longing, I suppose. As I have said numerous times, I just do not go there.
Where is the intersection of hope and faith, and can one exist without the other? I am not a believer, atheism I neither flout nor camouflage. Simply put, it is what it is. Faith cannot be manufactured, yet many believe faith is a necessary ingredient of hope. I will not be denied the right to hope, whatever my belief system or lack thereof. I believe in the human spirit. Isn’t that enough?
Why am I arguing this? This is not a trial.
I think probably I am afraid to hope. I have survived a long series of disappointments in my adult life. And I know the trs of family and career, which have offered satisfaction in the fullness of time. As with any contortionist, I am tied up in knots.
I know I am on the right road, wherever it leads.