Upward. The Thing about going beyond is we have to keep going - Cheryl Strayed.
After 5 months of day to day fighting to beat back the Multiple Myeloma cancer cells in Bruce’s blood, we arrived to Green Hospital ready to check in for his Stem Cell Transplant. We spent the weekend trying to be as “normal” as possible. Not so easy. When something this big hangs in the lurch, anxiety reaches new heights and emotions cross boundaries they shouldn’t.
As Bruce sat down at the receptionist’s desk and began rattling off his birthdate and medical data, she gave him a quizzical look and said, “I don’t have you in the system, are you sure you’re suppose to be here?” Bruce hung his head, defeated. Yep, that’s when I lost it. Keeping tucked in the back of my mind those T.V. shows that have people restrained for threatening the staff, I calmly asked Bruce to walk outside and get some air while I spoke with the receptionist. Within 10 minutes we were walking into room 380 North, Bruce’s home for the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Within the next 6 hours we spoke with doctors and nurses about the entire process and Bruce received his first heavy dose of the chemotherapy drug, Melphalan. When administered, the nurses must work in a team to keep the environment sterile but also to avoid any chance of contact with the medication. They wear robes, gloves and face masks.
Bruce will receive two doses of Melphalan. Because it’s so powerful, it kills the remaining cancers cells in his bone marrow but also kills healthy cells, it can’t and doesn’t discriminate, rather it wipes out good and bad. The IV infusion only takes about 30 minutes, but it’s time sensitive from when the pharmacist mixes the drug and when it’s given to the patient. Bruce doesn’t feel anything and won’t have side effects for about 4-5 days. He receives his second dose today, Wednesday, June 28.
His immune system will be zero, his blood and platelet counts will drop dangerously low and he will need blood transfusions. Here’s where the stem cells come into play - they’re not necessarily transplanting stem cells but using them as a rescue therapy. All those cells they collected have been frozen and will slowly be given back to him on June 29 and 30. They contain platelets and immature cells that haven’t been told what to do, so when re-introduced to Bruce’s system they will begin working on his behalf. It’s like a blood transfusion done at his bedside.
After 6 days, his counts will start to come back and his immune system will begin working slowly. That’s why it’s so important to avoid contact with people who may have been, or are getting, sick. Even a slight cold can be disastrous.
There is a lot of good news. This therapy can help keep his cancer stay in remission for months and hopefully years. He will need to be on a maintenance program of oral chemotherapy for the rest of his life. The reason is, the cancer isn’t completely eradicated. The stem cells re-introduced still contain some Multiple Myeloma, going forward his doctor will keep it monitored and try to keep it controlled.
More good news…thankfully Bruce isn’t in any pain. His feet hurt a bit and he has some lower back pain but nothing like the nerve pain he’s experienced over the last few months. He walks several times a day and is committed to getting out of the hospital as soon as he is well enough.
We’re grateful for every single one of you. As much as I've tried to express our appreciation, I’ve been slow to send a thank you note or give a phone call and I apologize if it seems you haven’t heard from me (us). There is not a chance in h#&* that we could have made it this far on our own. It's absolutely staggering the generosity, love, care and friendship you’ve given Bruce, Mare, Charli and me. Please know that at the end of the day, I see your faces in my mind and hold you in my heart - you’ve lifted, carried and helped us get to the championship race. I’m humbled.
I won't pester your inbox any further - I will continue to post updates and you can always link to the site to read them, I'll do my best to post daily.
Thank you seems trite, there just aren't enough words...