On Tuesday night I came down with a bad cold and began hosing myself down with Howard Hughes-like rigor. Tonight I am finally feeling better.
Today Jacqui came down with the same bad cold and has been dressed in a Howard Hughes-designed space suit-like outfit that has a velcro patch over her nipples so she can nurse Sophia without infecting her with the cold.
So far Sophia is doing fine and spends her day laughing at her mama’s silly looking space suit-like outfit.
It is Tuesday afternoon and I am sitting in the pheresis center at Penn having stem cells sucked out of me by a machine that hums like a car engine via a catheter that was just placed into my neck. The procedure itself is painless, but for the next few days I’ll be walking around with some tubing hanging out of my jugular looking like 50% of Frankenstein. Does anyone have a turtleneck I can borrow? Below is a photo of the catheter that went in my neck.
To prep me for this procedure, for the last 5 days Jacqui has been giving me shots (in the arm) of a drug called Neupogen that stimulates the over-production of stem cells in my marrow to the point that they are free flowing in my blood stream. Once harvested, the stem cells will be preserved for the transplant, which is now scheduled for January 2. Happy New Year Michael!
While this all stinks, we are in the final stage of delymphomatization, and by the end of January this “speed bump of life” will be behind us. Despite the hair loss, neutropenic fevers, puke-o-meter, long hospital stays, and just generally feeling like poop, this has all been worth it. My lymphoma is gone. How cool is that? And all I can think about is holding my beautiful little Sophia, my hair curly and long, my arms strong, and my mind clear and chemo-free.
It wasn’t easy choosing Sophia’s name, but we couldn’t be happier with how it seems to suit her. The nickname Lester was fun while it lasted, but since birth we’ve moved on to more fitting nicknames like Sweet Sophia or Squirmin’ Merman (when we change her she squirms like crazy and sings like Ethel Merman). By the time of the official baby naming I’m sure we’ll have an even longer list of nicknames to share with you. In the meantime, I want to explain a little bit about where Sophia’s name came from and why it is very special.
It is common in the Jewish faith to name babies in memory of a family member that is deceased. Sophia is named after my mother who died from a brain tumor when I was only 9 years old. My mother’s name was Sandra Terry Rick (her hebrew name was Sarah Tovah) but she went by Terry. So in her memory, we’ve named our daughter Sophia Teri Rick Yudell (hebrew name is Sarah Tovah as well). Since my mother didn’t have a connection to the name Sandra, we selected a different “S” name that we thought was prettier and more fitting. Sophia means wisdom in Latin and therefore is an even greater tribute to my mother.
My mother was a woman who believed in bettering her community and herself through education, activism and compassion. She was intellectual, strong and incredibly devoted to progressive causes, feminist issues in particular. My mother’s most favorite cause, however, was her role as a mother to a little girl. She gave her all to this job and always provided me with boundless love, tenderness, strength and respect. In a short time she raised me to be the best person that I can be—someone who gives more than she takes and appreciates the value in wisdom.
Pretty much every day since September 1985, I have looked forward to one day having a daughter of my own to carry my mother’s name and live by these same values. Sometimes when I watch Sophia sleeping in my arms, I think about how 30 years ago my mother felt the same love, responsibility and wonderment when she gazed on her newborn.
Last year Michael, my parents and I established a scholarship in memory of my mother at Sharon High School (in my hometown). The scholarship is given to a graduating senior who has exhibited both academic excellence, and, most importantly, an engagement in and commitment to social and community issues. If any of you out there are thinking about a baby gift for Sophia, please consider donating to the Terry Rick Memorial Scholarship. We believe that this is a special way to honor our little girl and her extraordinary namesake.
When we were in the hospital waiting for Sophia to come, I checked online to see who she would share her birthday with. November 30th turned out to be quite a day of birthdays: the great American writer Mark Twain, the British satirist Jonathan Swift, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the artist Gordon Parks, the politician Shirley Chisholm, American Bandstand host and the guy who stores his head in a freezer in between television appearances Dick Clark, leader of the hippies Abbie Hoffman, author David Mamet, crooked lipped 80s rocker Billy Idol, and, of course, American Idol champ and the number one reason why I barely watch television… Clay Aiken.
It seemed a great day to be born. My child would share his or her birthday with my favorite author (Twain) and other great American and British artists and politicians. But as the day wore on and it seemed like Jacqui’s stubborn cervix might hold things up for a day, I went online again to check December 1. The three most interesting birthday’s on the 1st were comedians Richard Pryor and Woody Allen and smaltzy actress and singer Bette Midler. Judging on birthdays on that day alone, December 1st seemed not such a great day to be born. Though Allen and Pryor were great comedians, one had a penchant for hookers and cocaine, and the other for his daughter. And would the cosmic influence of sharing a birthday with Midler steer our child into a career as a two-bit lounge singer? I immediately called for the doctor and demanded a C-section so the baby would be born on the 30th.
I take it as a good birthday influence that Sophia has already begun to pen her first novel, a satirical examination of today’s baby industry, written in saliva and spit up on the walls of her bassinet. Anybody know a good agent?
Tonight, bundled all up, baby Sophia and I headed out for a night on the town. Wanting to give Jacq a few moments alone to sleep without distraction, Sophia and I went to a dinner at school to introduce her to the Drexel community who all welcomed her with open arms (although per doctor’s order nobody in crowds is allowed to touch her without “scrubbing in” for these first few weeks of her life).
It was so much fun taking her out–first bundling her up, then carrying her in the car seat to the car, schlepping the giant car seat from the car 4 blocks to the dinner, hanging out, and then reversing course. I imagine my biceps will get back into shape post-chemo even without going to the gym with all this wacky paraphernalia. But it just felt great having her out with me, father and child on their first of many adventures. Some day I’ll tell her about the first time I took her someplace and how incredible that made me feel, and she’ll probably just look at me like I am crazy and head out for her own version of a night on the town which most certainly won’t include me.
On our way home it started to snow lightly, which marked a beautiful end to our special night out.