My Stem Cell Treatment Fantasy
Like most other people in their early 20s, I spent my Saturday night watching a documentary on stem cells. It followed three people with different health afflictions (ranging from a paraplegic spinal injury to heart disease) as they visited different universities around the world to see the progress scientists were making with stem cell research.
Before I continue, let me just say “F*CK YEAH SCIENCE” — because I was amazed. There were beating hearts made from scratch, bone replacements, and a finger being grown back. The scientists were passionate about dedicating their lives and research to help others. I didn’t detect any hint of them doing it for fame or notoriety (it just might be a nice added bonus for them). The faces of the three people in the documentary lit up when they were told that science was on the brink of amazing regenerative stem cell therapies, and I have to admit, I felt a little flutter of the heart.
This surprised me, as I usually don’t pay much attention to “Stem cell cures in 10 years!” articles or stories. I don’t cling to hope of a cure for my muscular dystrophy, as I fear I will only be bitterly disappointed. I’m not saying a cure or treatment will never be discovered, but I prefer to live my life in the here and now, not wish it away with false hopes.
After the documentary had finished, my earlier flutter of the heart exploded into hours of fantasies about a cure, my eventual treatment, and what my life would be like afterwards. I usually don’t let myself think about these possibilities because they often lead to melancholy when I come back to reality, but this time I just let it happen. The following is an insight into my mind holiday.
Even if the treatment is discovered and available in 15 years, I’ll only be in my mid 30s. I’ll have a whole life ahead of me. After all the necessary rehabilitation and settling into my new life I would start the day getting out of bed by myself, my feet touching the carpet without pain and strain. I would leisurely walk to the kitchen to make myself a coffee, lifting the kettle myself. Then I might walk over to the couch, which would be an amazingly comfortable alternative to my usual wheelchair.
After that, I’d get dressed without help, complete my bathroom routine and walk out the front door into the sunshine and go for a run along the beach. My endorphins would flow, I’d sweat and I wouldn’t have to look out for cracks or dips in the ground that my now redundant wheelchair would usually have trouble with. I’d come home, freshen up and drive (after the appropriate lessons and licenses of course!) into town to meet up with a friend. We’d walk together and I’d order a coffee, not having to worry about my weak arm shaking when I lift the cup of burning hot liquid to my lips. All of this would happen without people staring at me as they go by. I would blissfully blend into the background. No one would give me a pity smile, in fact no one will notice me at all. I would then walk into a store that I normally couldn’t access in my wheelchair before due to steps or a cramped layout. If I find something I like, I can try it on in the changing rooms instead of buying it, taking it home, then trying it on.
After a bit of shopping I’ll drive home and start to prepare dinner. I suspect it will only be a simple meal as I’ve never been able to cook due to my weak and unstable arms. After eating my home cooked meal, I’d then change into something fancy (by myself) and start to get ready for a night out. I’d order a normal non-wheelchair taxi to take me to meet my friends at a club. I’ll be able to wear heels for the first time, so I might be ambling around like a baby giraffe. Finally, I would do what I’ve missed so much in life: dance. The joy I got from dancing before I was diagnosed would come flooding back to me as I freely moved my body to the music all night long. I’d then stumble tiredly back into a taxi to take me home where I’d get into bed by myself, fall asleep, then wake up and start the whole day again.
I know it’s not a typical fantasy — there are no rockstars or mansions. It’s a normal life. But it’s one that could be made possible with stem cell therapy. I just hope it doesn’t remain a fantasy much longer.
[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by pennstatelive]