Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Down But Not Out

Whew...I took another extended break there, and while tomorrow marks the end of week two of my release from the hospital, this past week has been really up and down. I received the world's most "costly" injection on Thursday which threw me into more fits of nausea (the drug, not the price...well, that too).

Ian came back from the drug store saying, "It was only $24..." Then we realized he must mean $240. Then, we realized it was actually $2400. A slight oversight. All that for an injection that took 10 seconds to administer and made me barf for the next 24 hours.

Last night, feeling better, we had our first visit in two weeks with people other than doctors or parents (not that we don't appreciate each and every one of those visits). Gavin, Emily and Elias dropped by with a delicious veggie lasagna (which we ate this evening) and some yummy strawberry shortcake. Thank you so much! At this rate we're going to be as fat as Bob & Margaret. This afternoon I felt more "normal" than I have in days, so we went for a lovely fall walk and got lattes. From Starbucks. I know. I know. But it's mean to make the chick with cancer feel guilty.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More feeble replies, but replies nonetheless...

Well, since I'm still not quite my pre-transplant self just yet (but I've been out of the hospital a week, damn it), I am still relying on this blog to respond to emails. I hope ya'll don't mind. I also think I will FINALLY be up to regular visits next week. As you can imagine, I have been SO tired that unless you are particularly interested in narcolepsy, I'm not much of a hostess.

SW...I know you already know, but I am back now too! Yay! How was Czech? I heard Zenna was a superstar on the plane. Can't wait to see you.

ZH...I love your email updates. It sounds like you are having such a nice time. I regret missing out on that spa treatment though. Nice! When are you back? I will be dropping by the hospital to pick up postcard #2 and a few others I missed.

KD...Yes, my darling, always a pleasure to kick DumbDesign in the teeth, just one more time. Karma's a bitch, man. Now onto bigger things...I see you've announced Junior D on your blog! I am glad things are progressing as they should. Now what about that upstairs neighbour? Did you get her good? I mean with guilt :) P.S. We have to make those booties together!!

LR/Pee...First of all, L, your baking is exquisite. And the salmon and couscous? Totally enjoyed that meal. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. I know P slaved away to get that to us.

RM...Now, R, nice one...I mean about P bringing up the rear. Something we all knew but were just too kind to say...though, I will say, VERY impressed with TGGRE. I even downloaded it onto my iPod, right between Five for Fighting and Dido.

RT & K...Thank you and, yes, many a novel were composed sitting in that hospital room for three weeks, let me tell you. How's the planning going??

KG...Thanks for resending those emails. I definitely didn't get them and was starting to wonder! Did you get your new PC? I'm glad to hear everything is going so well. Can't wait to hear all about it!

JR (SB)...I'm still enjoying the bon bons (or one is still stuck in my teeth anyway...:)) It was so good to see you guys and made me love "fake" flowers! BTW, Frenchie was at the Outpatient Clinic...we could hear her from across the hall. Ahhhhhh!!!

JL/CT...Thank you so much for coming down. Very cathartic, indeed. I will wear my Harley shirt with pride as I do 60 in the Jetta.

RJO...Thank you. It is wonderful to be home, even if I can't do too much. Though, I expect to be at Angelina's in a couple of weeks. I will definitely let you know!

CM(H)...Hey ying, how's your yang? Wait. That doesn't sound right. Sorry to hear you are so unstable...oops, I mean unbalanced. There is a big difference! Anyway, I got out of the hospital before you could get to me...when are you off next week? I'd love to see you. Oh, and did you see Miyako? Too cute.

TS...You're a great butt cheek too.

L & FH...Can't wait to see you either. Did you know the "girl" in Flicka is 27??

CV...Thanks for the note (and glad I could help you pass some time at work too :))

SG, A, and little m! Congratulations and thank you for the pictures! She's absolutely beautiful! Can't wait to meet her in person. I presume you will be doing the Boston in April, S? ;)

BG...Yes, I think I may actually update more than the G & M. Glad to hear the little man is doing well. Make sure you are buying him gender-neutral toys. He should have as many Barbies as he has trucks.

TF...Still rockin' to the CD...awesome picks. Also still sucking up in lieu of aforementioned death threats.

EH/GC...Have I mentioned how much I love your mixed cd's too? Hint Hint. Material goods aside, thank you, for everything.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ode (or something) to my Husband on his Birthday

Warning...suckiness ahead...

Through this whole process, I have had the most incredible support...from my parents, Miles, my extended family, Finnegan (well, sort of...), friends (near and far), some phemonenal nurses, colleagues (Ian's too) and even perfect strangers. I have said since the beginning that I really can't complain about much as I have been the recipient of so much kindness and generosity.

Always by my side, of course, has been Ian. He will probably be horribly embarrassed by this public declaration of my gratitude and affection. However, today is his birthday (Sunday), and since I can't really be the retail phenom I usually am, I wanted to express my love and admiration in words. I hope I can convey a fraction of my appreciation to him. He is more than I could have ever asked for, now and always.

He has laughed with me, made me laugh and caused me to laugh under incredibly inappropriate circumstances. He has held me when I have cried, has cried with me and has wiped my tears as they fell from my cheeks. He has held my hand and held my barf tray.

He has wiped my nose, lint-rollered my noggin and told me I was beautiful even when I said my head looked like a testicle. He has kept track of my appointments, made me take my pills and returned my friends' and family's phone calls (most of the time) when I wasn't able. He has carried me when I could not put one foot in front of the other. He has given me strength when I felt I had none - he has fought with me and for me.

Sappy musical reference ahead...

As the words to one of our favorite songs by the Skydiggers goes:

I will give you everything
That you ever wanted
With this promise
I will bring you home again...

You have, and you did. Happy Birthday, sweetie.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Three-pronged VCR Seeks Attractive Outlet...No More!

OK, the above might not make much sense to you if you didn't know I had a Hickman Line in my chest while I was in the hospital. The sexy unit was installed the week before I went in and was used to draw blood and give me chemo (24/7) and fluids. It went in my neck and came out in three prongs in the middle of my chest. Yeah, neat. Yesterday, I (thankfully) had it removed which entailed an icky "yank," but it was out within a matter of seconds. Anyway, it saved me being stabbed infinite times with needles and IVs, though I never really grooved on looking like an outdated appliance.

Also, even though I titled this blog A Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant, I think I will keep writing despite the fact that the transplant part is technically over. I still have a long way to go and it has not only been very cathartic, but writing forces me to concentrate (which has been a challenge these past months). It has also been a great way to keep everyone updated. Your support, kindness and encouragement in person, via email, on the phone and through the mail (and airwaves) has been utterly overwhelming. Thank you. :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A View from the Inside

Thought I would give ya'll a peek at the place I was trying to escape from these past three weeks. OK - it wasn't all bad. Just mostly...

One perk...the beautiful view from my room (with NE building apparently on fire...)

Brian got me the egg as he said it reminded him of me. Thanks a lot. The poodle is semi-catatonic.

My motley collection of maniacal stuffies enjoying the view.

Yeah, I'm really happy to be here...

But, apparently, Ian really is. This is the lounger that folded out into a "bed" that Ian slept on. It was vinyl and made obscene noises. Or was that Ian?

The other view from my magical, green healing slippers!

"Joel the Pole"...try dragging this thing around for three weeks.

One of my card bulletin boards (sorry P & L, yours went on "another" one...further away from the bed).

Ahh, yes, my friend...the barf tray.

Paging Dr. Powell...would you trust this man? Nice product placement for the band though.

These are my coworkers last Saturday night at the Light the Night walk in Stanley Park. They raised almost $2500!

My "counts"...white blood cells on top, hemoglobin in the middle and platelets on the bottom. Yaaaay, neutrophils! Kick. Damn. I think I've pulled a muscle.

Going you can see, I was pretty happy to be out those doors, though this was before Ian ran into that pole with the wheelchair/shopping cart.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Good News and the Bad News

I am home! I was "released" yesterday afternoon after another significant rise in my counts. It was exactly three weeks to the date I was admitted. It is amazing how much stuff you accumulate in such a short time, plus I received so many goodies while I was there, it took Ian three trips to the car to clear out my room. You can imagine how wonderful it felt to inhale fresh air (although we went right to the parking lot, so it was more like exhaust.) Ian also ran into a pole with the wheelchair which was a bit traumatic.

Now for the bad news...since I have returned home, I have been unable to shake that horrible Mini Wheat commercial song (Mini Wheats Wheats Wheats...) from my head. The one that has the creepy pieces of cereal dancing around a "tropical villa." Mini Wheats don't wear sandals, and why are they wearing gloves if it's so bloody warm? Horrible piece of work that one. Anyway, Mini Wheats aside, it is wonderful to be home.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rock and Roll, Baby

So, my nurse came in this morning and said my neutrophils were back to 1. I was ready to jump off the building when we realized she meant 1, as in 1.0! My counts have been steadily climbing all week (those little leg kicks seem to be working...thanks for the extra help, Jenny!) and I was at 0.4 yesterday. Needless to say, I am pretty happy about this big increase and there is even talk of me going home ASAP!

I am also feeling pretty special because Midlyn (my work) is participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk in Stanley Park tonight. They asked to do it in my name and, well, that's about the nicest thing you could expect from your colleagues (not exactly something my previous employer would have done).

Anyway, it is a walk around the seawall with little lantern balloons and I have other friends who are participating too. I am demanding that my mom and Brian go and take some video so I can get an idea of what it was like. Yes, I am still bossy, even from the "inside."

ZH...I got postcard #1! The Blue Mosque...I've been there! And it is so neat to recall all the places you are talking about. Sounds like you are making great use of your time. I will get some pomegranate juice ASAP.

SG...Oh my gosh, you are so close! I love both of those names - she's going to be SO cute!! I'm wishing you a speedy and uneventful labour. Oh, and I'm hoping they were able to tell you about the flowers before you paid for them! It's a pretty lame flowers or plants of any kind and lots of handwashing.

LA...Congratulations, darlin'!! Your pictures were beautiful. Any idea of a date??

L & FH...Thanks for your message; it looks like you may be visiting me at home instead of here! Thanks for picking up the "Chocolate Lab-proof" toy...who knew they were so violent?? I'm glad to hear Marcus is feeling better. Can't wait to see some new pictures of them being "agile."

JR...Is your internet still down? Damn Shaw! Demand a rebate, they'll usually give you one. And, yes, suuuurrrrre it's the outfit...if I were wearing a snowsuit!!

JL...Can't wait! But, like I said, I'm not always this hot.

KD...Hey, mama. That's one weird girl you've got there. Not so sure about the husband either! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fat Face, Fat Feet

Whew...sorry to be MIA there for a few days. I had felt a little under the weather and had a cough that threw me into fits of spontaneous barfing. But, alas, my neutrophils are 0.3 today! I have been doing cheers in my head for them...Yaaaaaaay, neutrophils...(accompanied by a little leg kick) and it seems to be working.

I'm also lookin' reeeeeeal purdy...I am apparently retaining 2.5 kilos of water and it appears to all be in my face (I look like Humpty Dumpty on a bender). Add to that some red blobs and the fact that most of my hair has fallen out again revealing a pink, baby hamster-like's pretty much Munch's Scream. Appearances aside though, I feel like Picasso's Sunflowers.

TS...Thank you for the wicked card. A girl needs a kick-ass fairy with combat boots in this situation. And nice pics, especially the one inside! Hubba hubba. Did I just say that? How's that going?

TF...Tanis, Tanis...Have I told you you're the best ex-roomie ever? Sorry about the previous death threats. The bon bons arrived Monday and what a treat to get such goodies delivered right to my hospital bed. Rosebud salve? Choice. Lush hand cream? Chawesome. Homemade Music is my Boyfriend cd? Oh. My. God. Too much. Surf's up next summer, sister, without fail.

MA...Another delivery right to my bed, and from Chicago! Thank you for the sweet card. It was really nice to receive such encouraging words.

LR/Poo...Gotta say, the baking rocks. Ian ate eight (!) of the chocolate chip cookies this morning and I had some pumpkin loaf...delicious! But, man, you folks take card giving to a whole new level...that was, like, the best homemade card ever (next to the wedding one). The only problem is, Ian won't let me hang it up with the others...he says it makes him feel ill (?)

BS...Thank you for the that really what I look like?

JL...Meow, indeed. I can just picture your mom doing that. Check your email.

ZH...Live from Turkey! So good to hear from you. I hope you're having a fabulous time and I can't wait to see your pictures. If not Sting, maybe a reunion of New Kids on the, at Epheseus. Imagine! Don't forget to bring me a concert shirt.

RM...Brother, nice to hear from you! Thanks for the sunny vibes. They must be reaching me cause I feel better everyday. Hope you're enjoying the effects of global warming too. :)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

0.0 and Holding...

Damn you, neutrophils! OK - I am getting a little tired of my white blood cells refusing to budge from zero. I know it's supposed to take anywhere between 10-14 days for them to start moving up (and it's only been four), but I pride myself on being an overachiever in this stem cell production thing. I am determined to make these counts move early because I am starting to go a little stir crazy in here. Thank you to everyone who is asking about visits...I should be able to have brief ones by the end of next week (13/14th ish).

This morning was also a rare treat...I awoke to Dr. Evil towering above my bedside. Yes - thee Dr. Evil of the miscommunication/misunderstanding/oops, you only have a 50/50 chance of surviving debacle. I guess she is the doctor "on call" this weekend, so I fained some sort of chemotherapy coma and pretended not to recognize her from "before." Anyway, when my mom and Brian came in this morning, they saw her scratch her rear end when she thought noone was looking.

Pahahal...never underestimate the power of a pink ribbon sneering, yellow bracelet balking, young woman.

RJO...That sounds like a lovely way to spend the day. I only wish Ian were so obedient! Thank you so mcuh for all the compliments and well wishes. Enjoy your long weekend (I hope you don't have to work ANY of it). And, yes, I will be enjoying all the trimmings here tomorrow night on a special plate brought from home!

JR...Would love to see you next week. Gobble, gobble.

TF...Yer dead meat.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Commander, We've Lost the Cells...

Well, here I am...+2 days since the reintroduction of my stem cells to my immune system (they seem to be getting along just fine). The procedure itself was incredibly low key, though Ian and my mom were nearly on the floor before my stem cells were actually put back into me. I had managed to compartmentalize the fact that mispalacing/dropping that bag prior to my getting them back was fairly critical to, um, my survival.

The whole think only took 43 minutes and was virtually painless. The doctor, nurse and I spent most of the time talking about our preferences for not having certain foods touch each other on our plates, including the dreaded salmon/potato/green bean predicament.

Anyway, the whole thing is considered a "birth" day here of sorts since you are, in a sense, "born" again with a completely new immune system (I'll do it without all the deities...) Cathy dropped by at just the right moment with a fabulous carrot cake decorated with tiki unbrellas, so we celebrated in true style. Oh God, I just realized something though. I. Am. Now. A. Libra. No decision shall ever be made promptly in our household again.

JR...Somehow I was not suprised to hear you LOVE wearing HEPA masks, she with the tickle trunk. And, tell Scott, we're VERY impressed with his foray into Golden Gate Park...that's an impressive place to chuck cookies. *Ed. note: I've calculated, and in addition to me, 5 of my friends have thrown up in the last week. Thank you all for the sympathy pangs (or was it perhaps something else?)

TF...Oh it's more than in me, Fowler...and tomorrow's Friday.

EH/GC...Thank you for the laughing Elias! We were wondering whose nose and braces those were?? :) Also, we would very much like to hear more about that info, definitely.

KG...You guys look great. Good luck with the ol' Thanksgiving dinner thing. The name Yoda definitely rings a addition to being a galactic guru, I think she was the sister of someone in my year. Have an awesome time at the gallery tour. Don't buy too much!

MA...very cool! As long as you didn't end up on Oprah & Gail's Roadtrip...what colour were you wearing? I'll definitely tune in.

KD...So glad to hear all is well with wee bb Degner! Does he/she have a logo yet? :) Hmmm, that lady sounds a little kookie though...perhaps shopping around is a good idea. Labourshmabour...there are drugs for everything...

Puhl...Last time I checked there, sunshine, your hair was almost as short as mine. You can save your Samsonesque quackery for, for, for, your mama. Is she still living there? On your shoulder I mean.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It Wasn't Me Trying to Jump from the Crane at VGH Yesterday...

...though, I did spend the day recovering from the most psychotic nightmare/hallucination/bad trip episode I think one could ever have. I dreamt that I had rolled off my hospital bed and was trapped between it and the chair in my room, then was covered in sandbags. Throw in some strobes and sheets doing the Macarena and you get the idea. Lisa, maybe hold off on those "home-baked" goodies for now...

Anyway, I feel much better today and thought that it's probably not often one has a blood transfusion (platelets, to be exact) and blogs, so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity. It is nice to not have chemo chugging through my veins, even if I am still technically considered a bio-hazard.

Tomorrow, then, is "the big day." My stem cells will be making their way up from somewhere in the depths of the hospital where they have been frozen for the last two weeks and reinfused. Apparently, this only takes a short time, but there will be a lot of "vital" sign checking by nurses and doctors during the process. Thank god thermometres aren't what they used to be!

CH...Yay for Marko! Guess who's applying to the EPS now? Yup.

KD...Chunks for you and me both! Do let me know how it goes tomorrow. P.S Ian brought Camille in today.

MA...Thanks for the Michigan both looked gorgeous, of course.

SG...You must be so excited! Have you settled on a name yet? I'll have you know our friend Paul is not keen on the name "Liam," but we love it (B & H) (though, it doesn't really suit a little girl, does it?)

RJO...Thanks for those vibes (not to mention thoughts of cookies. Mmmm, chocolate). I look forward to a latte at Angelina's soon!

LR How're you folks feeling now a few days post-reunion? Hope Paul managed to avoid Marley's head this time :)

TF...Homey, you've been holding those bon bons hostage for months now. I don't believe you anymore. Great blog...didn't know you were such a banshee for sunflower seeds.