It's been one of Bruce's best weeks since his February diagnosis. Radiation has slowly relieved the pressure of nerve pain with the shrinking of his spinal cord tumor, for the first time in quite awhile, he has feeling back in parts of his left arm. His foley is gone, and finally the man can urinate on his own, I'm sure his male friends can appreciate the personal victory he felt. He seems to be healing well from hernia surgery and it's "game on" for stem cell collection.
Stem cell collection will allow him to receive large doses of chemotherapy to further increase the chance of eliminating the cancer in his marrow and then restore normal blood cell production.
The process works by removing those stem cells from his marrow that “haven’t been told what to do.” Then, when they are re-introduced to his system, they will become healthy blood cells (red cells, white cells and platelets) and immune cells (lymphocytes). Here’s the catch, and why there isn’t actually a cure for Multiple Myeloma; there will always be a small amount of MM cells that are collected and re-introduced. It’s those remaining cancer cells that he will try to keep in remission.
Stem cell collection is a one time opportunity. Because prior therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation damage bone marrow it’s difficult to produce stem cells. Bruce had significant amounts of both. Age is also a factor and as we age we produce less marrow, so we consider ourselves lucky that Bruce was able to undergo the procedure and was able to produce enough stem cells for a transfer.
He underwent 4 days of stem cell collection, which included daily shots to help him hyper produce cells. Bruce compared his bones to an over inflated bike tire. It didn’t so much hurt, as it just felt uncomfortable with muscle cramps and exhaustion. His Oncologist, Dr. Mahindra, had big goals for the overall collection amount. Bruce collected for 4 days versus 3 days. I always knew he was stubborn, but I didn’t think it was bone deep. Apparently I was wrong. His marrow didn’t want to give up his stem cells. Even as they were encouraged further by mega shots - he fell short of his goals. Thankfully enough stem cells were collected for at least one transplant. Depending on how much he uses during his first transplant, he may possibly have enough for a second transplant in the future.
Bruce is feeling pretty good this week. Other than some leg cramping and a slight headache he continues his journey in good spirits. I caught him wrestling the table saw out of the garage last weekend, which sent my rage through the roof. It’s not uncommon for our neighbors (Saints) to hear and see us arguing in the driveway about what household and yard task he is allowed, and not allowed to tackle. Again, I revisit the stubbornness that is bone deep. He must stay off ladders, away from garden soil and definitely power tools. We are so close to the finish line.
After a follow up appointment today, the schedule has been revised. He needs rest. Bruce will be hospitalized on June 27. He will receive mega doses of chemotherapy on the 27 and 28. Stem Cells will be re-introduced on June 29. There are predicted complications and the stem cell team has re-assured us that he is in good hands and is entering this process in a positive place. He is optimistic, strong and anxious to get through the next couple of weeks.
When Bruce returns home at the end of what his doctor predicts will be a two week hospital stay, he will need daily care to monitor his immune system and to keep him out of trouble. I’ve tried to take the car keys from him and he said, "That's just plain rude", so now I leave his car on empty. He still makes a break for it, and his friends will report back that they’ve had Bruce sightings on the docks of SDYC, hence the need for care after the transplant. Eventually, he will be able to find a new normal and return to work and his daily activities - until then, eye on that darn prize.
Happy Father's Day and thanks for all of the show and movie suggestions.