Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

3 year transplant

The life you save may be your own.

I’m not your average three-year-old.

I’m 2-1/2 feet taller than other girls my age. My vocabulary is 20 times bigger. And I don’t nap in the afternoon. Well, not every afternoon.

Today is my third birthday, transplantically speaking. And as such, is the focus of my August 5K in my year-long “5K for Awareness Quest.”

I’m 1,096 days out from the stem cell transplant I had on Aug. 12, 2015, to force me into remission from multiple myeloma. I didn’t actually reach remission until September 8, 2016, but transplant patients celebrate their “second” birthdays on the annual date of their transplant.

An average of over 20,000 stem cell transplants are performed in the United States every year to combat blood and bone marrow cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Success rates are as high as 90% or more.

Over 55% percent of stem cell transplants are autologous, meaning the donor and the patient is the same person (which was my situation). The remaining transplants are allogeneic which rely on an outside donor, either a sibling or family member of the patient or a volunteer who’s a match.

In an average year, 8,500 people are needed to donate stem cells. Small number with a big impact. Want to be one of them? Find out more at cancer.org and bethematch.org. Donors are also needed for other types of transplants, like organs, eyes, and tissue. Get the lowdown at donatelife.net.

Since you’re learning about stem cell transplants today, I’ll leave you with this quirky fact: if during your stem cell transplant, the room smells like creamed corn, that’s you. Or rather, the preservative used on your stem cells. Don’t worry, the smell goes away…eventually.

Four monthly 5Ks left. Where should I be walking and for who or what in September? Leave me a comment with your ideas and suggestions.

The difference between sounds and words. Their name. Gestures. How cause and effect works. These are things a baby learns in their first year.

baby waiting

Kid can’t wait forever for you to figure out what to do!

That their baby is unlike any other baby ever born anywhere. How to function on limited sleep. That a diaper doesn’t hold as much poop as a baby can poop when they really have to poop. These are things a parent learns in their first year.

Not everyone gets the privilege of being a mom or dad but for those lucky people who do, you should want to be the best at it that you can be. A lot of parenting is on the job training but if you could go into those first few years knowing a little something about what you’re doing, wouldn’t you want to have that knowledge?

The focus of my monthly 5K for July is where you can go to get it: Growing Up Together.

Growing Up Together is a non-profit organization in central South Dakota that provides classes for parents, families, and caretakers who have small children or are getting ready to have a baby. They cover the physical part of parenthood with prenatal, childbirth, and breastfeeding classes. But once the child is born, you have to know how to raise it. They have classes for that, too.

Their Sibling Readiness Class helps prepare the small kids you already have to be big brothers and sisters (which as someone who was pushed off a changing table as an infant by my then 2-year-old sister can tell you is very important). Courses are offered for teen parents who face their own challenges going from being kids to having kids. And the Common Sense Parenting Class emphasizes the use of positive interaction with your kids to help them grow up happy and healthy, mentally and physically.

I like that Growing Up Together realizes that today’s family unit is much different than it was 30 or 40 years ago when a family was a dad, a mom, and a couple of kids. Now it may be a single parent raising a child, a multi-generational household with grandparents added in, or a couple living together with a mixed family. Whatever your situation, you’re welcomed there.

Their class fees recognize that a new baby can mean a tighter budget. Most of their classes are $20 or less, and scholarships are available.

Although I’ve babysat countless times in my life I’ve never had the honor of being a mother myself so I’m very careful not to tell people how to raise their kids. Growing Up Together doesn’t do that either; they give you the practical knowledge you need for the job. What parents and families learn in those first years can determine what happens in the next 10 or 20 years. Nobody wants to screw that up.

Find out more about their classes and services at growinguptogether.org.

Seven months done on my 5K quest. I know exactly where I’m walking and for what in August. Want to know? Join me next month.

If you ever see me running, I’m either escaping from danger or trying to get somewhere that’s closing in 5 minutes.

I’m a walker. Which is the same as a runner except it takes me longer to get there.

We all walk a certain distance every day to get from one place to another to do whatever it is we need to do. I also walk for exercise, physical and mental, mostly alone or with the dogs, but sometimes in groups to benefit causes.

Our community plays host in the spring and summer to a variety of runs and walks to benefit local organizations and events. If it’s a cause I support, I sign up, pay my fee and walk. The longest benefit walk I’ve ever done was the Breast Cancer 3-Day in St. Paul, MN, which was 60 miles walked over the course of 3 days. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of doing in my life.

Planning a walk/run takes time, money and good promotion. While many organizations do it successfully, there are other groups who could benefit from the exposure but may not have the resources. In 2018, I’ll tell you about 12 of them.

Each month this year I’m doing my own 5K to highlight one program or organization that’s doing good in our world. It’ll just be me (and whoever wants to join me) walking 3.2 miles to raise awareness. No entry fee, no tee shirts, no time limit. My first walk was this morning in 8-degree South Dakota weather with barely any wind or ice (which you’ll appreciate if you live in snow country). This is who I was walking for:

Maybe we don’t all have the opportunity to do good things on a grand scale affecting millions of people but as long as you’re upright and breathing, you have the ability to do SOMETHING. Even if that something is telling a couple of people about something good that’s going on in your corner of the world. They could tell a couple friends who tell a couple friends and so on and so on and so on. It worked for selling shampoo – why couldn’t it work for raising awareness?

If you missed it in the video, the program is the Pennies for Robert Bed and Breakfast Program through Countryside Hospice in Pierre, SD.

One month done, 11 to go. If you have an organization or event you’d like me to highlight in the coming months, drop me a comment and some information. I’m always up for a GOOD, long walk.

Feeling pretty proud of yourself, are you, Cancer? So you kicked my ass today. I don’t know that I’d say you did it fair and square but it happened and I’ll give you that.

Maybe now you’re sitting around, tossing back a couple of cold ones, laughing about how you gave me the shakes, had me so lightheaded I was staggering into walls, and blurred my vision to the point where I had to take the back streets at 10 mph to make it home. Go ahead. So you beat me today. Big deal.

It’s one day. One day in a long succession of days fighting you. It’s not a winning streak. You didn’t knock me out. One day. Big whoop.

Tomorrow’s another day. And guess what, Cancer? It’s going to be MY day, not yours. Some days having cancer is about hope and prayers and positivity. Some days it’s about anger and fear and frustration. Either way, it’s about one day. The day you’re on and doing whatever it takes to make it through that day.

To my friends and co-workers who helped me today, thank you. For popping into my office to check on me. For offering to give me a ride home so I wouldn’t kill anybody. For saying “we’ll make this work” even if it meant doing something you didn’t plan on doing. Thank you for doing that today, without making me feel weak or helpless or sick or less than the person I was before I got cancer. One day I’ll be that person again, and you’ll have helped make that possible.

One day, Cancer, I’m going to kick your ass for good. Maybe you’ll see it coming, maybe you won’t. But it’s coming. One day. Soon.

As the last strains of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” (released a hundred years ago and now considered classical music) echo through the control room speakers, the paramedics draw the sheet over my faded “Your face was made for radio” t-shirt. They gently remove the headphones from my greyed head before covering my face and wheeling me out the front door I’ve held keys to longer than to any other place in my life. As they slide the gurney into the ambulance, one medic says, “I grew up listening to her.” The other replies, “So did my parents. And grandparents.”

That’s how I imagined my radio career would end. It ends this Sat., July 18, 2015 for reasons I wouldn’t have imagined. 

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Radio is all I ever wanted to do. Growing up, I recorded my own radio shows on a suitcase-sized tape recorder. At 19, I went on the air as an intern at KIMM/Hit 100 in Rapid City, SD and from there to a real announcer’s job with KJJQ/Q102 in Brookings, SD. I ended up at what’s now KCCR/KLXS in Pierre, SD where, with a few short lapses, I’ve spent nearly 25 years, moving from news director to sales rep to promotions director to PSA director and announcer.

For many years now, the radio station hasn’t felt like a job but more like a second home. A place I go to talk to my friends about anything and everything, to play good music, to inform and entertain. When I started in radio, we played the National Anthem before every sign-on, wrote copy on a typewriter, and used reel-to-reels, carts and turntables. That gave way to cassettes then CD’s then computers and satellite feeds. I feel old yet privileged to have been there for all those changes in my industry.

Deciding to leave was hard. Life made the decision for me. Many of my listeners might not know that for the last 16 years, I’ve had two jobs: a full-time job with the State of South Dakota, and my radio station gig. One feeds my family, the other feeds my soul. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I didn’t consider quitting either one, although if forced to, which one to leave was obvious. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to go. Through testing, treatment, bone marrow biopsies, crappy chemo days and finally stem cell harvesting, I went on the air as many days as I could. Some days they weren’t my best shows ever but they were the best show I could give that day. Thanks for listening, either way.

I have a stem cell transplant coming up next month and I know it’ll kick that cancer to the curb. But when the transplant and recovery period are over, there can be only one. Job, that is. And practicality, which is not always my strong suit, has dictated which one it has to be.

I’ll miss the people, the spontaneity, the pace, the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen during my show and how to tell you about it when it does. And I’ll miss having a place to go to just be myself. I’ve never used an on-air name that wasn’t my real name because I always wanted radio to just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Maybe my departure from radio isn’t for forever but for just right now. I’ve left and been hired back several times over the years. But if it doesn’t happen again, that’s O.K. Life really is about time – how much you have and what you do with it. I’ve spent a lot of my time working. When you catch your second wind in life, maybe you should use it to climb new mountains and conquer new peaks. Some people go their whole lives without ever getting to do what they really want to do. I got to live my dream for well over half my life and it’s been the BEST TIME EVER.

My last “Kelly Thompson Show” this Saturday will be all requests, as many as I can find the music for and fit into two hours and 52 minutes. Those last 8 minutes are all mine for the final “Three Stories Hot off the Wire” and my good-bye song which will remain a secret until it’s played. If there’s something you want to hear between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. CT July 18, please post it in the comments below or email it to kelly@todayskccr.com by noon on July 16.

If you’re within 150 miles in any direction of Pierre, SD this Saturday morning, tune me in on your radio at 1240 AM. And if you’re not, I’ll be streaming live at todayskccr.com. It’ll just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Kel on the air

Talking the talk in my control room

It's all in the attitude, baby.

It’s all in the attitude, baby.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer this spring, I was informed I wasn’t suffering enough.

What he said:

You’re not having surgery? Marjean had a double mastectomy.

You’re keeping your hair? Chuck went bald…twice.

You have insurance. Joan didn’t have any; we’re still doing benefits.

You don’t know what REAL cancer is.

What I could have said:

I get a kidney transplant if the chemo doesn’t work.

Hair grows back.

I’ve had cancer insurance since I was 19 because my mother, who died from cancer, was planning ahead.

You don’t know shit about my experience with REAL cancer. 

What I DID say:

Nothing. I walked away and quit telling people I had cancer.

I’m a third generation cancer patient; there has never been a time in my life when a family member wasn’t battling, beating or dying from cancer. I knew what chemo was before I knew where babies came from. I was so used to bald relatives I couldn’t recognize them with hair. Cancer was something people in my family GOT; this spring, it was just my turn.

Publicly I’ve helped with countless cancer benefits; logged miles in numerous cancer walks, including the 60-mile Breast Cancer 3-Day which I’ll do again next summer in memory of my mom if my doctor says I can; attended cancer awareness and memorial ceremonies; written articles and PSAs about cancer; and amassed an impressive collection of “Cancer Sucks” gear.

Privately I’ve shaved heads when the hair started to go; changed diapers on loved ones who changed mine when I was a baby; squeezed hands during chemo treatments; told doctors to go to hell when they announced there were only months left; whispered goodbye over the phone in the middle of the night because I couldn’t drive the hundreds of miles fast enough to do it in person; and been a pallbearer and a eulogist.

Don’t know what REAL cancer is? Screw you.

Many people live with cancer without ever having it. When you do get that diagnosis, no matter how well it’s delivered (and my doctor did a great job with the news), it scares the hell out of you. Because cancer kills people; everybody knows that.

Myeloma’s not killing me and it’s doubtful it will. It’s one of those cancers where the conditions it can cause – in my case, total kidney failure – is worse than the cancer itself. So I take chemo, do IV treatments, have bone marrow biopsies and wait to see what happens. Do I feel lucky that’s the kind of cancer I have? Every day. Do I feel guilty that I’m getting off easier than so many other people with cancer? Every day.

Unless you’re knocking on death’s door, there will always be someone whose burden is heavier, whose suffering is greater than yours. That can’t diminish the impact of a cancer diagnosis on you and the people who love you. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t have enough cancer to matter. It matters to you and that’s enough.

You may not have heard of myeloma, but you WILL know these people who have or had it: Tom Brokaw, Geraldine Ferraro, Peter Boyle, Roy Scheider, Ann Landers, and Sam Walton.   

To raise money for any worthy cause, you need a flexible plan, belief in what you’re doing, and comfortable shoes.

The Thompsons, resplendent in pink, at “Viva La Vonda”.

Last weekend, our family put on a fundraiser for my sister-in-law Vonda who is battling breast cancer. For the past several months, a core committee of six – my sister-in-law Bonnie; niece Savannah; friends Jeanne, Judy and Lisa; and myself – planned and prepared for the event, amassing a small army of friends and family members to help solicit donations, hang flyers, sell raffle tickets, arrange for food and entertainment, and otherwise try to cover every small detail imaginable.

“Viva La Vonda” (good fundraisers need catchy names) became a reality on November 17 at a local community center that holds about 400 people. We nearly filled it. It was an evening of amazing highs and lows, moments of startling generosity and emotion, inspirational, frustrating and funny. Here’s what we learned and how it can help you:

Be a Gumby. You have to be flexible. Yes, the silent auction tables you spent hours setting up look wonderfully inviting but people will bring donations with them that night. Accept them graciously, throw up another table, have extra bid sheets handy. The beer at the “Beer for Boobs” booth may run out hours earlier than expected. Go get more. And when it runs out again, someone may step up and donate $100 worth of beer to keep you selling a little while longer. Someone did that for us. The free will offering chili feed could end 15 minutes early when all the food is gone. Most unfed people will understand. They’ll go up the street to the nearest restaurant, grab a quick bite and come back. Because they’ll know that cooking for a crowd of undetermined size is a crapshoot and they’ll appreciate that you tried.

Trust others…but not everybody. A real auctioneer works the crowd, fuels bidding rivalries and entertains while he sells. Hire one. Get a band that knows the guest of honor; they’ll play her favorite song at just the right moment. Put volunteers used to dealing with money and customers in the payment booth for your auctions. They’ll get it all figured out in the end, even when bidders are picking the wrong items up off the tables and spilling beer on the bid sheets. Realize that you can’t trust everybody. If you think people won’t steal at a benefit, you’re wrong. Whether it’s beers from a cooler when the bartender is helping someone else or palming a handmade necklace off the silent auction table, it’ll happen. If you find the perpetrator, punish accordingly. If you don’t, make amends to the aggrieved as best you can. 

Keep talking. People don’t come to events they don’t know about. The time to stop putting up flyers is when you can’t walk into any place in town and not see one. We used free public service announcements on our local radio and TV stations, did live radio interviews the week of the fundraiser, maintained a Facebook event page about it, and casually dropped it into every conversation we had for weeks. People may have been tired of hearing us talk about it but they remembered to come.

Don’t try to please everybody. You never will. Some people will complain about the food, the price of the beer, the selection of auction items, the seating, the parking, that they didn’t get a winning raffle ticket, that you’re not taking credit cards. We actually had one person who made all of those complaints, repeatedly, to nearly every adult family member working the event as well as to anyone who would listen to her. It was finally suggested that since everything INSIDE the building was not up to her expectations, perhaps she should see if things OUTSIDE were more to her liking. I don’t know if they were or not and honestly, I don’t care.

Kylar makes a lasting impression on the “Thumbprint” picture.

This time, it’s personal. When you do this kind of fundraiser, it becomes personal the moment you make their illness public. Vonda shares her cancer battle on her Facebook page and will discuss it with anyone who asks her. At the benefit, we wanted to give people more than just a chance to help defray her medical expenses; we gave them an opportunity to assist in her recovery. Everyone was invited to put their thumbprint on a special picture that now hangs in Vonda’s house and sign her “Hope” book, a scrapbook of messages that she can read whenever she needs a boost. One of the highlights of the evening was when she took to the stage with her husband Todd and son Daulton and thanked everyone for their love and support. Make it personal, because it is.

Celebrate the unexpected. Like a high school classmate willing to shave his head for cash donations. Or the moment you realize the freezer that you put 12 pounds of frozen donated meat into was actually not a freezer and you are now handing over a dripping bag of thawing burger to the highest bidder. Or when you notice the crowd is not just pushing tables and chairs back to make room for a dance floor, they are actually taking them down and putting them away so you don’t have so much to clean up at the end of the night. Or that the one keeping your workers’ spirits up is an exuberant four-year-old named Kylar who is proudly wearing a tiny tie-dyed pink t-shirt that proclaims “Stop the War in my Rack.” These are the moments that make memories, people.

Keep success in perspective. “Viva La Vonda” raised somewhere in the $20,000 range. Although the cost of fighting cancer is immense (I know this from my mom’s own lost battle), the money donated through the fundraiser is a great start. At the end of the night, when you can finally sit down, kick the shoes off your aching feet, and crack the beer that was thoughtfully hid back for you, keep this in mind: good benefits raise more than just money. They raise spirits, awareness, and support. You can’t put a price on that.

Vonda (right), our guest of honor, with her sister, Bonnie.