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The support and fundraising that has happened on my behalf has touched my heart and has made alternative cancer treatment a possibility for me. Donations continue to be my primary funding for healthy food, supplements, living expenses and medical bills. If you feel moved to give to my Health and Wellness Fund, please follow the Paypal "Donate" button below. To avoid Paypal's 3% fee, checks or cash can be sent to Zachariah Walker, 1003 Chipeta Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Blessings!


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Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Improbable Return

“I knew that this suffering…this desperate uncertainty were the unmistakable signs of the blessing of being alive.  The ‘other world’ had shown me that there was a spiritual payment for the privilege to suffer.  Suffering was not the price of living, but a part of the gift of being alive.  Not a big deal, but a part of the deal.  I could see how the breath of life did not come from people, but came into people from another place far away from human knowledge, thus bestowing life as a gift, not as an inalienable prerogative.  This deliciousness, this pain, the befuddlement, the mystery, and wonder, are generously handed to us by a hungry Deity force who wants our full, uninsulated participation in life as a down payment, beginning a lifelong series of ritual feeding into its starved belly.  Instinctively I knew I’d been recruited to serve what had served me, and they would hold it over my head until I came through for them as a reciprocation from me for my improbable return to life.”
-from yesterday’s reading in Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martín Prechtel

Dumbfounded perhaps is the best word I can use to describe my feeling towards recent events.  How does a physical body function and survive when 95% of its blood is populated with malignant, supposedly improperly functioning cells?  Yes, for at least three days blood tests showed a 95% blast count in my periphery blood.  In addition, the overall cells in my bloodstream were 14 times higher than the maximum range for the amount of healthy circulating white blood cells.  This coagulation or roadblock of cells had doctors worried about clotting and the potential for stroke.  My CBCs showed “critical” numbers for my WBC, my absolute neutrophils, my hemoglobin and my platelet counts.  All of this was following nearly a week at Angeles Hospital dealing with a heart rate between 90 and 110, fevers and chills, and my body’s reaction to the port they placed for systemic cancer treatments.  A localized infection developed, which they quickly got under control, which depleted me of strength and again opened the doors for a leukemia outbreak.  Under the suspicion of a developing pneumonia in my lungs we opted to be transferred to San Diego for care.  Two ambulance rides later I arrived at the Scripps Chula Vista emergency room.

The scene late Saturday in the ER was both shocking and terrifying.  From the placid halls of Angeles I had arrived on the set of a Zombie terror movie, except it was real.  I shit you not!  On my elevated gurney I assessed the sights and sounds as I attempted to curl deeper and deeper into the invisible shell of my protective egg.  Folding chairs placed in the walkways awkwardly propped suffering patients.  It looked as if the adhesive holding them up was giving way on a hot day.  Every curtained off bed held a medicated vacant looking specimen.  Dreading an ongoing wait, I was miraculously wheeled through the mess into a quarantined room.  My ambulance medics had relayed the circumstances of my compromised immunity and even they were surprised at how rapidly I was moved.  Hearing now only the muffled hollering of a delusional and uncooperative man-ghost I was quickly distracted by a young doctor and two nurses.  I relayed the first of many tellings of my health history, leukemia diagnosis and current circumstances, specifically the weakness, light-headedness and shortness of breath.  Multiple labs and cultures were taken and I was left to wait attached to the most precious of resources, oxygen.  Multiple medications, two units of blood and one allergic reaction later I was transferred to the ICU.  It was 2:30 in the morning. 

For the next four days I was attached to a jumble of wires and tubes transferring my vitals to screens and monitors.  In return I received oxygen and an array of IV juices, minus the antibiotic Cefepime, the apparent culprit of my momentary ER panic resolved by Benadryl.  The oral contingency of meds included Hydroxyrea, a low dose chemotherapy pill.  My stay in the ICU managed to somewhat balance out my critical blood values (other than my neutrophil count), restore my lung capacity and oxygen intake, and calm my marathon paced heart rate.  My care there was wonderful, especially by my main day and night nurses, both of which shared tears with me and were apparently inspired by my story.  My last day at Scripps was spent on the oncology ward, a return to nightmarish hospital conditions.  An all day wait for a unit of platelets to send me home was a tedious end to the ordeal.  Throughout, my radiant mother held me up with love and support and an extra ray of light was shared by my past roomie and friend Steven.  He and his lovely girlfriend Carrie visited, sanitized my room (both of them nurses), and brought me scrumptious African food from Ocean Beach’s market and street fair.  What a blessing.

Mom and I had booked plane tickets for the following day.  However, a consult with Dr. Perez that afternoon swayed our decision.  I had $10,000 worth of cell therapy waiting in the freezer at Angeles and circumstances were right to deliver them.  After a night’s retreat with relatives Conrad and Judy (who so graciously took care of mom while I was at Scripps) a shuttle carried us back across the border.  I was reluctant to leave the most glorious morning I’d experienced in months and disappointed not to be returning to the comforts of home.  It was crystal clear though the options in front of me…  I now sit, three Dendritic cell treatment later, awaiting the fourth, feeling as good as I have in some time.  Miraculously, my blood work from Friday looks amazing.  Especially the crucial cells in my immune system, those little neutrophils I’ve been studying for the past year.  They measured in at 32% of my WBC, a percentage I haven’t seen since before I needed all these damn blood tests.  My head spins at this turn around.  I have learned not to put too much stock in the values from one CBC, but I’ll take it.  And I will gratefully take in the fact that mom and I will be home tomorrow.  This return, so long awaited and uncertain at times this past few weeks.

I certainly can’t say I’m coming home in better shape than I left.  My bowels are irritated and inflamed, likely from the Hydroxyrea I continue to take in low doses.  My right shoulder feels crippled from muscle tension and possible nerve damage, another symptom from the port fiasco.  Muscle relaxants are the only thing allowing me to sleep, put on and take off shirts, and eat with my right hand.  The evident bones and veins protruding from my hands and feet illustrate the need for 30 or so pounds of weight gain, as do my sunken eyes.  And I still can’t help but being perplexed.  With so many opportunities to depart this body and drift to the Great Beyond how do I continue to manage to return?  As my dad said, I am one tough (something-er-other).  I know the Walker genetics are a force to be reckoned with.  My grandpa is 98 and sharp as a tack and my dad is strong as an ox after plenty of adversity of his own.  But in my mystical ways I wonder, I can’t help but wonder.  Am I here for a fully “uninsulated participation in life…recruited to serve what has served me…a reciprocation from me for my improbable return to life.”


Dr. G said...

Z-Man, you are amazing, inspiring and just plain zealous for life! Love you and will keep sending you warm, healing thoughts!

Anthony said...

Hi Z, Here's a poem for my brother.

Onaa day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble,may the clay dance to balance you.

When your eyes freeze behind the gray window and the ghost of loss gets into you,may a flock of colors, indigo,red, greenand azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the clutch of thought and a stain blackens the ocean beneath you,may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,an invisiblecloak to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Anam Cara

Max said...

reading your story almost brings me to tears brother. I'm sending love enjoy your way. your ability to see the miracle of life even in it's hardest times is an inspiration to all of us.

love, max

Joshua said...

Z-man! I am so glad you are navigating this crazy ordeal with such grace! I cannot imagine what this must be like for you. Know that you are in my thoughts and the thoughts of your Missoula community. Love to you brother!
-Joshua, Heather, and co.

Lindaa said...

Z! A true hero's journey you have shared with beautiful, lucid, poetic, and spiritful writing. Thanks for sharing the miracles of being you. I feel uplifted in a contagious way. I feel awe at the Walker gene thing. I feel joy in your bloody blood making you feel full of life. I feel hope entwined in the twists and turns of this journey. I feel Divine Love coursing through the veins of life, thanks to your revelations! Linda

Beth said...

You are a beacon of light, far too bright to be extinguished. I am so glad to hear things have taken a 180 for the better. You have so much love being sent to you! Big hugs!

Anonymous said...

Zachariah, Thank you for bringing your amazing energy to this world. it is a better place because you were here. Love, peace,happiness wherever you are.