I realized that I probably left most of you thinking that I was already in the hospital in the middle of my stem cell treatment. Alas. This is not the case. I had a detour on my way there, but I’m back on track.
Two weeks ago I had one final PET scan to make sure everything was hunkey-dorey in my chest. But things are not hunkey-dorey. I have a small hotspot where my trachea divides, near my bronchial tubes, just to the left of the Isles of Langerhans (okay, that last one is a deep inside joke). I think this little spot is attached to, but not part of, the large mass in my chest. That large mass, by the way, is completely PET negative, which is a good thing. But what is this little, vague spot?
I consulted with a surgeon and a pulmonary doctor to see if they could reach the spot and get biopsy. For a number of reasons – involving the risk of cutting my chest open to get at this little spot, the risk of catastrophic failure if they accidentally puncture any of my major vessels, the difficult location of the little spot and the lack of tissue that a needle biopsy would provide – they can’t get it. At least not in way that would provide satisfactory results or not possibly kill me.
During this time I also got my stem cells harvested – in 1 day! For some people it can take up to a week or more, but I guess my bone marrow was highly motivated. I got a catheter put in my chest, went to harvesting and got the catheter taken out after the weekend. I’m left with my trusty PICC line in my arm…and I’m grateful that I don’t have any other tubes coming out of me.
So, after that little hiatus, the ‘committee’ decided that I should continue into my stem cell treatment after all. I’m not sure who exactly is on my ‘committee’ – my oncologist, the stem cell transplant coordinator, Jack Bauer, C. Everett Coop, the ghost of Jonas Salk and possibly my grandmom (affectionately known as Doc Julie). Whoever they are, they are unanimous in their decision. So away I go.
I’m admitted into the hospital on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
I get chemo for 6 days, followed by a day of rest.
On Nov. 10, I get my stem cells infused back into me. This is referred to as Day 0.
I spend another 1 1/2 to 2 weeks in the hospital, feeling like crap and under observation in semi-isolation. When my white counts creep above 50, I can go home.
My food will all be processed and sterilized. I can’t take a shower as any germs or chemicals in the pipes might get aerated and I might breathe them in (I can take gentle baths). I will brush my teeth with a sponge on a stick. I will work on my grad school assignments as best I can. I will play PS3 and watch movies. I will be patient. I will meditate. I will read. I will walk around the hospital floor to keep my blood flowing (I can’t leave the floor at all). I can have visitors, although they have to be not-at-all sick and not-at-all have been around anyone sick. No physical contact (except maybe feet rubs). No outside food unless approved by doctors. No plants.
Sounds like a vacation, eh?
I’ve been through some pretty bad chemo in the past few months so I think I’m pretty prepared for what’s to come. The worst part will be being trapped in the hospital for 3 weeks. I think I go crazy without fresh air, too many fluorescent lights and not being able to see farther than the opposite wall.
But breathing will help. Lots of deep breathing.
I’ll keep in touch and let you know how it goes.
Let the countdown begin.