So it begins.
I went to bed last night at about 11 PM. I stared at the ceiling until 12:30 AM. Then I got up and went downstairs to roam the DIRECTV guide. Stumbled onto "Columbo" on Sundance. Ahh, comfort food TV. Five minutes of “One other question…” Five minutes of commercials. But I’m just trying to get tired. Now it’s 2:30 AM.
I head back to bed, hoping I can make myself tired and stop thinking about “chemo” and “stem cells”.
Stare at the ceiling again until 3:45 AM, wandering the interwebs. Then I headed downstairs to do some dishes, eat some food, and wait for my alarm to go off at 4:30 AM.
Took a Lyft to the hospital, get there by 6 AM and we arrive right on time. I checked right in and the nurse says “Let’s get you hooked up.” Things don’t usually work that quickly in hospitals and clinics. Nice.
This area of the hospital is made up of 30 or so bone marrow transplant rooms. They have their own air system. If we open our door air flows into the hallway, not the other way around. They can get my cooties. I don’t get theirs. That's good I guess.
Nancy and I order some breakfast as I get the first of a bunch of saline drip bags. Passable scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon for me; omelet with cheese, plus hash browns for Nancy. Chemo is scheduled for around 10:30 AM, and they want to load me up with fluids until then.
At 10:00 AM they start me with “Cold Therapy”. I chew on dice-sized ice cubes for half an hour before the chemo. This is hopefully helping me avoid mouth sores. The ice chewing will make blood vessels in my mouth shrink, keeping the chemo from invading. There’s a sheet that explains this “Cold Therapy”. It actually says, "cold therapy can make you feel cold.’ Really? Go figure.
I’ll be getting Melphalan. A big dose. Big enough to go half a century into the past, eliminating not just all white blood cells, but all past childhood immunizations as well.
The chemo gets loaded into my handy chest tube. It goes quickly. I continue chewing the ice. And I chew for another two hours afterwards. I had a vanilla flavored ice cream cup in the middle just for a change of pace.
Nancy was going to head home, to get some stuff done. At this time, I’m thinking, ok at 1:30 PM I'll be done with ice chewing and I can get a nap. Nope. My handler here at the hospital will talk to the two of us about "after care". That's what’s going to happen the first thirty days, the next thirty, and the next thirty.
The First 30
- Stay away from people and their assorted ills.
- Use a soft manual toothbrush (I think all manuals are soft, but that’s just me)
- No floss, no dental work
- Avoid crowded places
The Next 30
- No touching dirt. Dirt has mold.
- No touching Chloe’s feet. She walks in dirt. Dirt has mold.
- No mowing, raking, vacuuming, potting plants, watering plants, dusting, cleaning toilets, swimming, smoking, or home remodeling.
- Avoid sandboxes, beaches, swimming pools, hot tubs, bonfires, moldy places, cruise ships, construction sites, and crowded places.
- Don’t go near birds, reptiles or farm animals.
Follow that with some Occupational Therapy. But remember that the fractured vertebrae in my back makes me susceptible to fracturing.
About 3 PM I start to get hungry and order some chicken pasta with marinara, a side of salad, and cottage cheese.
I’m writing this at 8:45 PM and I’m still not hungry. But they have sandwiches and snacks in a fridge just outside my door in case I do get hungry again.
That will be it for the chemo and tomorrow at 11:30 AM I get my stem cells back.
Apparently once back inside me, they start wandering around in the blood stream. They’ll notice there are no white blood cells. And then they’ll slowly, magically, turn themselves into white blood cells, and begin to protect me from the world.