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Senior Correspondent

Robert Schrag, a regular contributor to Senior Correspondent, documents the process of undergoing a stem cell transplant in response to multiple myeloma.

Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013

Any of several major events over the past few months are enough to put the saying “foster harmony, enable beauty, oppose harm” to the test. There is the whole stem cell transplant thing itself. Informative, intellectually humbling, and scientifically awesome — yes! Fun? No. Then there is the "LMS" learning management system, called Moodle, that we use to manage our courses over at the university. Powerful, flexible, and helpful — but only when it wants to be, and NEVER when you move from X.0 to X.1 or .2 or .3 And finally, Mediasite, a software application — also moving from 5.0 to 6.0 to yadda yadda — that lets me spring to life on the screens of my student's computers, iPads and smartphones — but again only when it chooses to do so.

So I awake this morning and stare out across an apocalyptic landscape and wonder just what else can go wrong with this semester. You see, last night about 6 p.m. I got a call from the hospital telling me that my blood results indicated that I was "oopswe’resorryetic." That is a long complex medical obfuscation which, after a while I came to understand meant that the stem cell transplant might have gone all crosswise and pear-shaped and none of my white blood cells were thumping along as they should. Could I please haul my ass back to the hospital this morning so they could suck more blood?

After spending the night reminding ourselves that the hospital folks checked these numbers about five times a day before letting us out, we hopped into the car, went where we were told, got poked where necessary, and retired to the waiting room where I sat in with my computer trying to match the online assignments on the Moodle pages with the right due dates. Christine assaulted magazines that were relatively blameless in the whole fiasco. Finally a tall gangly guy in — what else — Carolina Blue scrubs sidled over and muttered, "We're even more "oopswe’resorryetic." Everything is fine, you can go home. The lab must have screwed up the first analysis."

We all stand, smile and nod to each other like Bobo dolls. Christine drags me out of the waiting room before I can reach the cane leaning over by a wheel chair and beat the crap of the Roy Williams wannabee who is still grinning meaninglessly at me.

The good news has two levels: Medically I am still doing fine — assuming they are running my blood and not that of some 7-foot center they hope will save their season; and second, while waiting for Roy Williams to arrive I tweaked Moodle so that my students and TAs should all be able to access their courses with matching assignments and due dates …  Did I mention the notion of baby steps? Little-tiny-freaking-centipede baby steps?

But most importantly I "re-realized" that the only chord I can tune is my own. I had no control over any of the events surrounding me. My best option was to avoid all that stuff hitting the fan, wait for it to dry, and then fire it up to aromatically take the chill off the evening air.


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