Monday, July 12, 2010

Survivor Season 10, Episode 1

Season 1 of Survivor aired in May 2000, the same time I was in the hospital for my transplant. One of the first major reality TV series, Aunt Lori & I, as well as so many others, were instantly hooked. Each week in my hospital room we would watch - and while I don't remember most of what happened during that first season, I do remember how exciting it was and what a nice escape from my reality it provided.

10 years later, May 16 2010, Aunt Lori carried this theme through to my 10-year transplant anniversary party. She gave me a homemade Survivor "buff" & the first season of Survivor on DVD.

This was a very special day for me as friends and family gathered together to celebrate with a pool party at my mom & Doug's house in Fallbrook. It's hard to believe it has been 10 years. 10 years since my new beginning. 10 years since that day at Children's Hospital when I received my cord blood transplant. The IV bag hung next to my bed and looked no different from a normal blood transfusion. Taking only about an hour or two to complete, I slept through it. I had spent the past week at the Ronald McDonald house with my mom as my body was wiped clean of its immune system. I underwent total body irradiation three times per day for 5 days, and one week of intensive chemotherapy.

For me, half of what makes for a good party is the food. And there was no disappointment here! The menu included my favorite-pulled pork sandwiches, accompanied by two types of coleslaw. It was potluck style and everyone did a great job...2 types of guacamole-regular and mango, olive tapenade with bread, leek & mushroom quiche, blackeyed peas, green salad, cold pasta salad, tomato/feta/cucumber salad, Nick's famous smoked fish dip. For dessert I baked 3 types of cupcakes-chocolate, vanilla & lemon, plus 3 flavors of frosting-chocolate, vanilla & cream cheese, and set up a build-it-yourself cupcake bar with toppings galore-M&Ms, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, 3 flavors of jam, lemon curd, nuts, dried fruit, crushed graham crackers & Oreos, sprinkles, gummy bears. The food was all so incredible, I was a happy girl.

Thanks to my mom and aunt Lori, there were also a handful of surprises in store.
{Surprise 1}
The first guests arrived, my grandpa and Pearl. I thought they were still on vacation in New York and had no idea they were coming!
{Surprise 2}
I was waiting down at the pool as the remaining guests arrived. Coming down the steps to the pool area was a woman I did not recognize with two young boys. My first thought was, "who is that" and my second was "did someone just invite a random friend? That's annoying...I didn't really want just random people here" and then..."wait a minute...that's...JEN!!" And let out a scream.

I had my share of nurses, some I liked more than others. But Jen...Jen was different. She didn't treat me like another sick kid patient. We bonded instantly, talking about things that had nothing to do with my being sick or the hospital...we talked about girl stuff. And her cute Navy Seal husband. And gossiped about the nurses and doctors. And laughed at stuff on TV. And when I was at my sickest, she was the only nurse who voluntarily took me as a patient. The other nurses were to scared to be responsible for me in my sick and fragile state. Years later we are still in contact and I could not have thought of a better surprise for my party. (Plus her boys Jack and Dane were adorable)

{Surprise 3} A card from my primary care doctor, Dr. Roberts. I liked him from the moment I met him-even though the first time we ever talked was when he told me I had cancer. From his warm demeanor to his crooked smile to the way he talked to me, I liked and respected everything about him. Receiving this card from him wishing me congratulations was very special.

{Surprise 4} A card from Susan Branch. I will explain in more detail later, but in a nutshell, I met her just before my transplant on a trip I took with Aunt Lori & Emily. Knowing about my upcoming transplant, she sent me a package filled with a beautiful blank scrapbook and a gigantic amount of scrapbooking supplies. I used the scrapbook to make a memory book of my time in the hospital. Hearing from her 10 years later was such a wonderful surprise! (It is a great story and I will post soon in detail)

It was a such a fun group of family - Mom & Doug, my Dad, Nick, Aunt Lori, Uncle, Hal, Emily, Grandpa, and Pearl, Aunt Laurie and Uncle Phil, and everyone else - Andrea, Brooke, Jen & her two boys, Brent, Georgia & her husband Billy and sister Deanna, and our friend Keno who was visiting from Germany for three weeks with his girlfriend Hamisha. Georgia I worked together for a few years and have been close ever since, and Keno was originally our exchange student, and when Nick and I went on our 8th grade exchanges to Germany we stayed with his family. He has been out to visit many times since then, and was actually staying with us 10 years ago while I was going through my treatment.

It was such a wonderful day and much more than I ever expected. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it special, I will never forget it!


  1. Chels! It was a wonderful time! Your family is so fun, and the addition of German whit (thanks to Keno) it was even better. Billy and Doug got along so well, we knew they would. It was a privilege to be invited as someone who is important in your life. Congratulations again for 10 years Chels, friends forever!!!


  2. What a special day to celebrate and so cool to have all the people you love and who love you there. I am glad to hear you had such an amazing day!


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