Stem cell here we come

Hello all.

The reason I haven’t written in awhile is not because things have been so bad…in a way, it is because I have been feeling surprisingly good. My 3rd chemo was a bitch – as always. But with the proper medicines and treatment, it cleared up in the normal amount of time. The fatigue lingers for awhile. And when one part of my body feels better (sore throat) another part feels worse (Neupogen pain). But I roll with it pretty well.

The best thing going on is grad school. Besides the fact that I am very much interested in what I am studying, I also get to be involved with the undergrad students right away. I find the whole experience very uplifting and it has helped me put my whole cancer treatment into perspective. Right now, I’ve got two things to concentrate on: getting better and getting an education. Its a powerful set of motivators.

Although I am back in the hospital this weekend for an unexpected 4th chemo, I am approved to begin the stem cell treatment around October 11th. This 4th chemo is preventative to make sure I stay in remission during the time it took to get insurance approval and scheduling set for my stem cell. This sucks that I have to be knocked down one more time…but means to an end, I guess.

I also took a long, long walk around the hospital today. It is amazing the places you can go with an IV and not get stopped:

Picking up some extra hours working in receiving

The tentative schedule for my stem cell treatment is:

  1. Start taking high dose Neupogen right away – this will lead to a lot of bone pain and discomfort but also get my bones pumping away fresh stem cells
  2. Meet with doctors and nurses to sign consent and get my veins checked on October 11th. If I need a catheter, my old friend Dr. Loh is going to help decide whether I can get one in my neck or if they have to go into through my groin (much more uncomfortable)
  3. Stem cell harvesting will begin as soon as my counts are up – hopefully around the 13th.
  4. I could be admitted to the hospital as soon as the 21st.
  5. I spend a week getting high-dose BEAM chemo, then a day of rest.
  6. I get my stem cells put back into me, which is anti-climatic. They refer to this as Day 0 (some people look at it as their new birthday).
  7. I get 2 weeks of semi-isolation and monitoring at the hospital. This is going to be the toughest time – I’ll get all my favorite chemo side effects plus I’ll be exhausted from having my immune system wiped out. I’ll be very susceptible to infections, fevers and viruses.
  8. They let me out when my counts go back up and I’m under 24 hour care for the next couple of weeks (that means someone has to be with me 24 hours).

(Edit: At my brother-in-law’s urging, I think it is a good idea to try to explain what this process will do for me….thank, J Charles Berry.)

Right now, I am in remission. But based on what happened to me last year (I was in remission but the Hodgkin’s came back), this stem cell treatment actually has more to do with the BEAM chemo than with the stem cells. The BEAM chemo should wipe out every last damned cancer cell in my body – it is more intense chemo than I’ve ever had before. But doing such damage, it also destroys my bone marrow and my body’s ability to make new cells. So, in order for my cancer to be destroyed by the high dose chemo, the doctor’s need to harvest my stem cells and then put them back into body where they will find their way back into my bone marrow and start generating new cells within 8-14 days after they are infused. The stem cells actually do nothing to fight the cancer. The stem cell transfusion process is in place because, without it, I would not be able to generate new blood cells.

Here’s a bit more information about it:

This also means that my body will be severely immuno-compromised while my stem cells get back to work. All of my natural anti-bodies will be wiped out. It will take months for my immune system to recover, and during that time I have to be incredibly careful about germs and bacteria – food, kids, doorknobs, hugging. All in all, I should get through it fine, I’ve held up well before.

Sure, I’m scared. Will the worst part be that I get really sick? Or is it that I’ll be really sick and stuck in the hospital? Being sick at home is a lot more comforting – and that’s my goal. To make it home as quickly as possible.

I’ll let you know more as I know more. But for now, things are moving along nicely. Glad to be in remission and taking these next steps.


17 responses to “Stem cell here we come

  1. Hey Steve. Just wanted to wish you all the best and say that although you’ve got a hell of a battle lined up through November it’s very comforting to see how specific and thought out the plan is.

    Also, if you make it down to Laundry, there’s usually a Craps game going. Bring cash.

  2. So should I cancel the visit with the kids? The Halloween costumes are ready. Henry is dressing up as a doorknob, and Lily is dressing up as an overflowing chafing dish. They need hugs.
    Sending love and good thoughts,

  3. You are a brave man!! It is amazing that the process can even be done. Wow. It makes sense to make your immune system new again. New beginnings are in sight. Remember in Shawshank Redemption when he escaped and had to go through 3 football fields of muck… but he made it through. Well my friend you are almost there.
    Sending healing thoughts and strength!!

  4. You and Jen are always in my thoughts. “Getting Better and Getting and Education”! Right the fuck on. You are such an inspiration to me.
    Always sending you, strength, good healing vibes, peace and lots o love.
    Jessi J.

  5. p.s I want to know, where did you and your IV go and not get stopped? LOL!!

  6. Still my hero, still in awe….humble strength like I’ve never seen…..ever

  7. Virtual hugs to you and Jen! I’ll keep my germs to myself for the time being. 🙂

  8. Hey S. Thinking of you, lil m misses her tio and hopes to see you soon (if even through a plateglass window). Hugs, squeezes and germ free sloppy kisses, J, C & lil m

  9. Hey, I just had my stem cells harvested and it was no biggie. Having said this, just make sure your doctor is onto your CD34 count because if they get you at the right time it might only take a few hours, which is what happened to me. I have a very switched on doctor to thank for not having to sleep with the vas cath in my groin. The vas cath was unpleasant but once it was in, it was fine. Also as a guy, you can wee into a bottle if you need to go during the harvesting.
    I’ve met two people who have been through the process and one of them was able to go only 10 days after the “infusion”. Another, a slightly older woman, just texted me and told me it wasn’t as bad as she expected. This is the cure! I wish you all the best from down under.

  10. oh and if you go the vas cath, just ask them to inject lots of local when they’re putting it in.

  11. Steve, we are all thinking of you. I am subscribing so I will not miss any more posts. Love you guys!

  12. (link up top was broken)

  13. Thinking about you and Jen everyday. Thanks for the Blog. Very informative.
    Glad you are home for now. At least you didn’t go walking the hospital with your gown open in the back…………….or did you.

  14. Thinking about you and the Jen all the time. Hang in there, you guys rule ! Much love, Benson

  15. Lots of good thoughts and hugs to you and Jen as you take this next step. I will be thinking about you both!

  16. hi stephen not sure if you are home or hospital thought i’d get in touch thru here – hope things are still on track and moving along – know you are facing alot and wanted you to know you are in my thoughts all day long – grandmom sends her love and so do “the girls” (gia and ally). Love you and Jen!!!!

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