Thursday, September 25, 2008

Michel is 100

That would be me.

I worked for many years in the graphics arts business in TV and cinema as a designer and then as a digital effects coordinator and specialist. I directed more than a few shots. I was fun because I liked arts, artists, the many creative processes, the fantasy and anarchy that still peeks around in these circles.

Then the local production industry collapsed, and a well paid experienced specialist like me was out of a job.

I recycled in high-end call centers, and more recently, found a much more interesting job, doing deep medical interviews with all sorts of people. An enlightening anthropological experience if there was one. Not to mention the immense compassion arising in me for some of my fellow human primates.

I have had a priviledged middle-class childhood, raised by considerate and liberal light catholic parents - my other mostly, with all my primary schooling and half my high-school occuring in religious-controlled institutions. Again I've been lucky enough to have implanted in me, very early, the impulse to think for myself and not believe everything I hear, thanks Dad. I've also enjoyed good health all my life, and had lots of fun abusing some of it.

But I recently was struck with a serious illness: Myelo Displastic Syndrome, a precursor to Leukemia, Carl Sagan died of this a while back.

It was pure luck that it was discovered, but I spent a year thinking life was going to end in eighteen months - an interesting shift in perspective. Then I was lucky enough to stumble upon an hemato-oncologist who cared, and managed to have access to a compatible - and very anonymously generous - bone marrrow stem cell donor. Receiving that gift was pure hell. It involved two months of isolation, two bouts of chemotherapy, the knowledge that it could collapse anytime, annoying side effects and much much more. Pure hell.

But I think I will survive, and I can now, after one hundred days, statistically hope that there won't be too many acute or chronic GVH effects - Graft Versus Host problems. You see, in the case of ordinary organ grafts, it is your immune system that will not recognize as "you" and fight the strange organ, it must be restrained if you want to keep your precious addition.

In my case, it is the immune system that has been replaced, (bone marrow stem cells produce white blood cells and neutrophils that fight external invaders) and it is my whole being which is to be rejected, or hopefully eventually adopted. Restraining my brand new immune system becomes of paramount importance, and I'll be busy at it for quite a while.

But so far so good.

And I don't think any god or other imaginaring beings or magic coincidences or non-natural circumstances had a play in any of this. Lots of luck and the practical knowledge and compassion of some of my fellow primates are what helped me stay alive on this planet for a little while more.

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