Calmness amidst the storm

Elizabeth Swaringen, who writes our Family House Diaries stories, shares additional insights about the man who is featured in the latest installment.

Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

I first met Tim Richardson when he was chowing down on a plate of food during dinner at Family House on the June day he had received his port and on the eve of the harvesting of his stem cells.  A big guy, even when sitting, with handsome braids and beautiful straight, white teeth, I couldn’t believe he was a patient until he pulled his T-shirt aside to show me his port.

I had never heard of POEMS syndrome, but he matter-of-factly shared what symptoms he had endured, how long it took to get a diagnosis and what the next steps were up through the transplant.  Hands down, he’s my top candidate for the “stay calm and carry on” poster child.  I’m pretty sure the phrase “why me?” has never crossed his lips.

Our next meeting was mid-September, after his first trip back to UNC Hospitals for routine follow-up tests which confirmed he’s continuing to make remarkable progress.  I almost didn’t recognize him – I was looking for the braids – but his smile gave him away.  He looked healthy, heavier than I remembered because he was and taller than I was prepared for when he stood to greet me.

We sat in the lobby of the N.C. Cancer Hospital and talked about his life pre- and post-transplant.  His trademark calmness and matter-of-factness were alive and well, but it was clear he misses the things he used to do easily and enjoy, like fishing for bass, bream and crappie in a country pond.

“I’d have trouble walking to it and right now, if I got a cut from a hook or a fish scale or fin, I could get a nasty infection that could cause a lot of problems.” He talked about the last time he fished – in April 2010, with his best fishing buddy, his Mom, who died the next month from complications of a kidney transplant.

At that moment, Tim’s calmness made perfect sense to me.

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