Friday, June 29, 2012

Day +3 of recovery

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Good news - bad news...or...maybe I should have skipped that piece of pizza.

Yesterday, Thursday, I awoke and felt the best I have in a long while.  I even felt energetic enough to iron my Chemo Quilt.  Colleen and the girls arrived safely in the late afternoon.  However, their luggage did not.  They had flown Air Canada and the airline didn't really know where all their suitcases were at the moment, but their world-wide lost luggage system would find the missing pieces and restore them posthaste.  (interpretation:  hopefully the luggage is somewhere on the planet and you'll get it before everything inside becomes antiquated.)

Last night Colleen ordered Jets Pizza over the internet for delivery.  That sounded good to me so when it arrived I decided to try a piece.  This morning when I awoke my stomach and bowels were in rebellion.  I have not had the best of days.  When I saw the doctor this afternoon for my scheduled appointment, he explained that the chemo has probably made my stomach temporarily lactose intolerant which means that the pizza was a poor food choice for me.  So I got the bad news.  I have to stay around for the weekend to see if my stomach and bowels will behave.  I'm taking Imodium AD every six hours and Ativan for nausea every six hours for the next two and 1/2 days.  On Monday I am scheduled to meet with Dr. V at 1:00 to see how I am doing.  If well, then I can probably go home.  If not, then maybe reentry into the hospital to find out what is going on.

There is good news, however.  My numbers are really good.  WBC:  6.6 (right in the middle of the normal range);  Hemoglobin:  10.6 (still going up);  and Platelets:  78 (also still going up).  Praise the LORD!!

I'm going to have to remain patient and slowly acclimate my stomach to normal food again.  In the meantime, I'll eat cheerios, bananas, crackers,  anything bland that my tummy will tolerate.  One nurse told me the time frame for my stomach to accept my former dietary choices could be 3 months or more. I must be patient which is so-o-o-o-o not my personality.  God is leading and teaching me throughout this journey.  I must learn to follow and obey.  He has reasons for all He does even if I don't always understand.

I will close on a positive note.  Air Canada found all the luggage and is delivering it tonight.  (In fact, the 3 duffels have arrived as I "speak".)    Indeed, God has everything under control.

Next:  Days +4 & +5 of recovery

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day +1 out of hospital

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

What a joy to sleep late this morning.  No 4:30 a.m. vitals reading and blood draw.  Still woke up a few times at night though.  Am drinking quite a bit of liquid during the day per doctor's orders and what goes in must come out - day and night.   Felt great being able to shower without my IV bag/pump pole tethered to me.  Still am feeling a bit fatigued and did rest/sleep quite a bit during the morning hours.  My appetite still is not what it used to be.  The doctors said that food won't be on the top of my things- to-do list for quite a while yet.  The chemo does quite a number on the taste buds so the flavor of foods could take up to 3 months to return.  Rough way to go on a diet, but the outcome might be worth it.

My sister, Lois, and good friend, Mary, drove over from Grand Haven/North Muskegon for a visit.  We spent most of the afternoon talking and playing cards.  Fun to see them.  After they left I stretched out on the couch and fell asleep for awhile as Greg drove to a Meijer a few miles away to pick up the last of my prescriptions.  Have a few pills to take over the next several days and weeks.  I don't like pills, but I dislike being attached to an IV pole even more, so I will put up with gulping a few pills/day.

Tomorrow Colleen and her two daughters arrive here from Cairo, Egypt.  Will be fun to see them.  The pool is filled and warmed for them so they can go swimming.  The temp is forecast to be in the triple digits tomorrow, so I am sure a dip in the pool will be enjoyable.   I am not supposed to swim in pools for awhile, but, fortunately, the house is air conditioned.

Even though I've slept quite a bit today, I'm getting ready to hit the hay for tonight.  I'll write more tomorrow concerning my stem cell recovery journey.  I praise God and continue to follow in His steps.

Next:  Day +2 of recovery

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day +12

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

And the winner is---Dr. Ayash & colleagues!!  The radiologist had insisted that the 2 sets of X-rays indicated a nodule;  pneumonia.  Dr. Ayash had just as affirmatively insisted that what was showing was a rib.  To break the stalemate, a CAT scan was ordered yesterday.  The results were known today.  Yep, you guessed it...a rib.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a rib than pneumonia.  Besides, a rib is much more functional.  (Didn't God do something special with a rib?)

That problem having been solved, the decision was made to DISCHARGE! me today.  I am now resting comfortably at Colleen's sans Picc line.  For the first time since June 14 I'll be able to sleep all night without disruption.  No vitals;  no medications;  no blood draws.  Just glorious, restful, uninterrupted sleep.  Early on in my hospital stay a nurse said,  "You want sleep?  Go home!"  Hospitals are not places of rest.  That being said, I did receive fantastic care from dedicated, loving people who made me feel as comfortable as possible.  The entire staff from house keeping to doctors were as friendly as could be.  When I left, more than one staffer invited us to come back as visitors to say "Hi" and let everyone know how I was doing.  I'm scheduled for a clinic appointment on Friday.  I think we'll stop upstairs to say "Hello".

My numbers for today were great.  WBC:  6.6 (normal range is 3.5 - 10.6);  Hemoglobin:  8.8;  and Platelets:  15.  Friday more blood will be drawn and we'll see how the numbers are then.

God has been so faithful and good throughout my cancer journey.  I have grown closer to Him and He to me.  I know as I continue my recovery and make plans for the future that He will be directing my steps.  I have complete confidence and trust in His guidance.  I give Him all the glory for what He has done in my life thus far.  I am His child and feel completely "In His grip".

Next:  First full day out of the hospital.

Pumping me full of energy to finish my quilt

The completed Chemo Quilt

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day +11

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Greg left early this morning for Colleen's because the pool man was scheduled to come open the pool between 9:30 and 10:00.  Good thing he left shortly after 8:00.  The pool guys were there at 9:35.  Greg called and said the pool is open; is being filled; and the heater is on so it will be warm when Colleen arrives later this week.

In the meantime, two visitors arrived unannounced.  Surprise!  Surprise!  My brother, Howie, and his wife, Audrey, drove up from Tennessee to say "Hi!"  Greg knew they were coming but said nothing because they wanted to surprise me.  Had a fun time talking with them for most of the day.  They left mid-afternoon.  Howie has to be to work tomorrow night.  They picked a good day because I am feeling much better.

My numbers help explain why I am feeling good.  My WBC:  2.2 (normal range starts at 3.5);  Hemoglobin:  8.4 (a tick up);  and Platelets:  12.  Woo!  Hoo!  Come on stem cells!!  Praise God for His grand design and wonderful creation!!!

A nurse practitioner came into my room this morning and said I would probably be discharged this afternoon.  So soon?!  Wow!  Relax, this joy and jubilation was short-lived.  Dr. Ayash arrived and said there was a disagreement between she & her colleagues, and the radiologist regarding what my 2 sets of X-rays showed.  The radiologist insists the X-rays indicate the presence of pneumonia.  Dr. Ayash and team don't see these indications reading the same X-rays.  So, how to solve this professional dispute?  I was scheduled for a CAT scan, the results of which will be available tomorrow.  In any event, Dr. Ayash believes I'll be able to go home (to Colleen's) tomorrow.  If pneumonia is present, I'll be released with an antibiotic to take.  I have to return 3 days later anyway and another look can be taken if necessary.  Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to this medical debate:  Dr. "A" vs. The Radiologist.  Who do you think is right?

Tomorrow:  Exciting Day  +12

Doing today what I love doing

Feeling good working on my "Chemo" quilt

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day +10

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Today we celebrated two events.  Number 1:  my WBC continued going up.  Praise the LORD!  And Greg celebrated his 66th birthday.  We even had a small party with ice cream and cake.  Last week Sunday when good friends, Kathy and Bob visited, they brought with them a pound cake for the purpose of celebrating today.  Then this morning my cousin Barb called and said she and her husband Keith were in Livonia visiting their daughter and son-in-law, Betsy and Guillermo and they wanted to come visit.  We said certainly;   we've love to have them.  Upon arrival we broke out the cake and some ice cream cups which Louise had ordered with a few of her meals.  A fun time was had by all.

My numbers for today:  WBC:  0.5 (still going up!);  Hemoglobin:  8.3 ( still above 8);  and Platelets:  15 (after the infusion of yesterday).  I did feel better today and walked 16 laps (1 mile).  My biking was interrupted by our visitors so I only rode 2 kilometers instead of my planned 10.  Sure felt good to be out and about for awhile.  Only experienced one bout of nausea today.  This should continually improve as my WBC climbs.  I'm ascending out of the low, wet zone of the high wire to use Nik Wallenda and his Niagara Falls tight rope walk as an example.  My strength and health should improve on a daily basis.

A second chest X-ray was ordered today as the first one taken earlier this week suggested something suspicious.  The new X-ray showed a small amount of fluid in each lung, but not enough to have any affect on my heart or lungs.  I have no temperature suggesting no infection and my lungs sound clear when the nurses listen with their stethoscopes.  We'll wait and see what Dr. Ayash has to say when she visits tomorrow.  I'm not worried;  God is in control.

The third weekend is coming.  And Dr. Ayash said this is the weekend when she becomes crabby.  So we are looking forward to my being discharged this week,  the LORD willing.

Next:  Day +11

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day +9

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Same-o-same-o in the nausea department.  But I'm still able to take nourishment (cheerios & frozen Orange juice).  My throat is still a bit sore, nothing that I can't handle.  Dr. Ayash says at this point in time my throat shouldn't get any more sore.  The new development today involves my hair.  Yesterday,  deposits were made in the shower.  And my pillow case was getting furrier and furrier.  So I decided to be proactive and shave off my hair.  The nurse brought clippers with various attachments and, for the first time, I applied the cutting tools to my own head.  Greg assisted, especially in the final stage.  Now I really look like I've had chemo treatments.  The good news:  my hair will grow back.  God even provided for this development in His grand design.  In the meantime, I have a choice of how I want to appear depending upon the event I'm attending.  For around the house, I can choose the "sans" hair look.  For stepping out casually, I can wear a cut cap I have.  And for more formal activities, I have my cranial prosthesis which looks almost like my normal hair.  Fun to have choices!

My numbers for Day +9 are as follows:  WBC:  0.2 (starting to go up!);  Hemoglobin:  8.8 (no infusion needed yet);  and Platelets:  8 (received an infusion today because the number fell below 10).  I slept quite a bit today, but that is mostly a reaction to the low hemoglobin numbers according to my nurse friend, Mary.  Dr. Ayash said that so far everything happening is expected and according to the "text book".  Around Monday, my WBC should start kicking upward and I will begin to feel better as stem cells begin repairing the damage in my stomach alleviating the nausea.  Better times are coming, thank you, God!

Last evening while Greg and I were walking our laps, a Code Blue was called for the room kiddy corner across from the nurses's station from us.  We had to modify our route as there were people crowded into that room in addition to running into and out of it.  The patient had trouble breathing most of the day and the difficulty manifested into an emergency shortly after dinner time.  He was transferred to ICU where he remains today.  We did find out he is doing better today, praise the LORD.  Underlying health problems led to this difficulty and was not the result of his transplant procedure.

Tomorrow:  Day  +10

Being proactive with my hair

Around the house look

The casual look

For those more formal occasions

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day +8

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs  16:9

Early this morning I began a fever of 38.8 C.  This is the equivalent of 101.8 F.  Blood was drawn to be cultures in the lab.  Later in the morning I was given a chest X-ray to check on the possibility of pneumonia.  X-ray results were negative.  Early culture readings proved negative, but they will be allowed to grow an additional 5 days to make sure no bacterial infections are present.   In the meantime, I have been put on antibiotics as a precaution.  My latest temp. reading was 38.1 C. which is 100.5 F.  This development is not unexpected.  The grafting of new cells in my body causes such a fever to develop.

The next couple of days will probably mark the ending of my valley walk to which I referred yesterday.  My nausea persists;  my sore throat remains about the same as to level of discomfort;  I expect the antibiotics to keep the fever under control;  and I expect further developments to be under God's control for "...He is with me;  His rod and staff they comfort me."  Psalm 23:4.

Today's numbers are:  WBC:  0.1 (for a 3rd day);  Hemoglobin:  8.8;  and Platelets:  22.  Within the next couple of days, the WBC should start to go up.  For the Hemoglobin a reading of 8 or lower will trigger an infusion.  A 10 or lower reading for Platelets will also trigger an infusion.  Infusions are not unexpected and are part of the process.  Just depends upon the person.

Today was a day of rest for me.  Dr. Ayash said that I have been doing wonderful as far as exercising is concerned and if I wanted to take a day off from walking and biking I could do so.  I decided to take the doctor's advice.  I look forward to the days ahead without fear because God has made me;  I am one of His, a sheep of his pasture.  I am thankful to Him and bless His name.  He is good;  His mercy is everlasting;  and His truth endures to all generations.  (Psalm 100: 3-5).

Next:  Day  +9

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day +7

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Nausea and I are still not getting along.  This is actually a mind game.  A recent article in USA TODAY documented a medical study which revealed that a particular drug used in the treatment of mental illness had a positive affect on chemo patients in reducing nausea.  The reason for this is that the queasiness resulting from chemo does not originate in the stomach, but in a portion of the brain which sends signals to the stomach instructing it to forcefully expel its contents.  The psychotic drug under investigation was designed to go to that portion of the brain to counteract some other psychological malfunctions and was discovered to also have a calming affect on nausea.  Unfortunately, this is America and, therefore, more years of investigation and trial studies will be necessary before this drug is released to the market at an exorbitant cost to insurance companies.  (The high cost being the result of  years of investigation and trial studies.)  In the meantime, I and my brain battle my stomach with the stomach winning many battles.  But I am determined, with God's help, to win the war!

Numbers for today are as expected according to my attending medical personnel:  WBC:  0.1;  Hemoglobin:  9.2;  and Platelets 52.  Tonight will be day #2 for the Neupogen.  Unfortunately, this shot cannot be given through my Picc line.  However, there are three sights which can be alternated for the injections:  stomach, arm, and thigh.  Last night was my arm.  Tonight I think I will choose my thigh.

A new, expected side effect has reared its head today and that is a sore throat.  The severity of this irritant varies with individuals.  Right now, my throat feels like a mild soreness.  Cool items such as water and ice cream sooth the irritation.

I am at a point in the stem cell process that can best be described as walking through a valley.  If any of you saw last week on ABC TV the stuntman, Nik Wallenda, walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, then you saw a manifestation of my journey.  As Mr. Wallenda walked the 1800 feet, he proceeded down the wire as it sagged due to the extreme length of the cable.  At the mid-point of his walk, he was moving along the "wet zone", that relatively, short section of the wire at its lowest point and soaked by the mist of the falls.  Past that he began ascending the cable to his destination and safety.  Well, I'm in that "wet zone", the valley of my journey.  For the next few days, I may experience additional side effects.  However, once through the valley, I will begin to climb up and out to health and restoration.   Just as Nik Wallenda kept his focus on the cable in front of him as well as his destination, I, too, am focusing on my end point of this current journey.  And just as Nik Wallenda did, I am praying every step of the way.  Nik said as he walked he had a peace about him which he attributed to his faith in Jesus.  I, also, am experiencing that peace as I continue my "walk".  Jesus said to his disciples as He left earth:  "Peace I leave with you;  my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

Tomorrow:  Day  +8

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day +6

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Nausea remains a problem yet.  Today my stomach rebelled twice, but I still managed to get some food down there just to show it who is boss.  Dr. Ayash says this is an expected side effect and ordered a steroid for me tonight.  She said the majority of people who receive this steroid experience relief from the nausea.  I pray that I'm a part of that majority.

My numbers for today are:  WBC:  0.1 (can't get much lower);  Hemoglobin:  9.2;  and Platelets:  76 (trombones).  Neupogen begins tonight.  This drug will coax the dormant stem cells out of my bone marrow into my bloodstream when they will become the various cells which are low in number.  By Day +10 my WBC should start rebounding and I'll begin to feel better.  God's design of our bodies certainly is amazing and wonderful is it not?

Sleeping alone tonight.  Greg left this afternoon for Colleen's.  He'll be getting gas for the car and doing our laundry so we have enough clothes for another week.  He plans to return early so he can get a good  space in the parking garage.

Hopefully, I'll get a good night's sleep because the steroid I'm receiving has sleeplessness as a side effect.  If I'm not dealing with one side effect, I'm experiencing another.  But I'm not complaining.  God   has a plan for my life; this is part of it; and, most importantly, He is in control.  He's directing my steps and I am glad for that.

Next...Day  +7

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day +5

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

Today has been a lazy day.  I awoke after a good night's sleep and immediately felt queasy.  However, this time I requested anti-nausea medicine which kept my stomach tamed.  I did not eat anything big such as pancakes, sausage, or bacon and eggs.  But I was able to keep down Honey Nut Cheerios, some fresh fruit, a frozen lemon ice, half a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, and the rest of my cinnamon crunch bagel.  Not a dietician's delight diet, but at least some sustenance.  Any supplements on which I'm short such as Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium can be given to me via my Picc line.  I've walked 1/2 of my 16 laps thus far and soon Greg and I will walk the remaining 1/2 mile.

Dr. Ayash visited today and said I looked good and my numbers were good also.  For those keeping track, here are my numbers for today:  WBC:  0.2;  Hemoglobin:  9.4 (holding at this point for a second day which is good news) and Platelets:  107.  My WBC are at probably their lowest point which explains the nausea and fatigue.  Tomorrrow, Wednesday, Day  +6, I start receiving Neupogen injections which will stimulate the now dormant stem cells to come out of the bone marrow, look around and determine to become WBC's, Hemoglobin, and Platelets.  On or about Day +10, my WBC should start to noticeably increase which will result in me starting to feel better.

Thank you all who are praying for us.  Greg and I can feel and see your prayers working on a daily basis.  I know that having specific items for which to pray helps those who are praying, so here is a short list for your prayer checklist:  1) end to nausea  2) no sores in mouth or throat  3) no hair loss  4)  positive response to Neupogen injections with resultant increase of WBC count  5)  discharge from Karmonos sometime next week (before Dr. Ayash gets crabby)  6) continued praise and thanks to God for His guidance, protection, healing, and loving presence throughout my cancer journey.

 I pray and expect this whole experience to bring great glory to God.

Tomorrow...Day  +6

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day +4

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

My numbers continue to drop, as they should.  Today's numbers:  WBC:  0.6;  Hemoglobin:  9.4;  and Platelets:  135.  The WBC is in the expected low range.  On Wednesday, the Neupogen will be started to encourage the creation of white blood cells.  After that the WBC should start going up.  This upward trend will be carefully monitored and will determine how soon I am discharged.  The Hemoglobin is behaving well also.  If you remember, I blogged earlier that should the Hemoglobin number drop below 8, then I would receive a blood transfusion.  In addition I mentioned yesterday the numbers of Saturday were incorrect.  As a result of that, I had two blood draws yesterday, one at 6:30 a.m. and another at 1:05 p.m.  Since the a.m. numbers are the ones being recorded, I reported those.  However, the Hemoglobin number was 9.2 at 1:05 p.m., lower than the reported 6:30 a.m. number of 9.8.  Now, my Hemoglobin today was 9.4, an up-tick of .2.  This is good.  If this number holds above 8.0 - no blood transfusion.  The Platelets for today were 135.  As long as this number remains above 10.0, I won't need an infusion of those either.  My uniquely, God-designed body is responding well to the chemo.  Praise God!

My nausea still persists.  Just one incident per day, however.  A new treatment protocol was started today.  Before each meal, I will be given a dosage (1 pill) of Ativan to combat the queasy feeling.  Will let you know how this regimen works.  The medical staff again said not to worry, because this is a normal side-effect to the chemo, especially as my WBC count goes down so low.  They said I shouldn't be surprised if for the next few days I feel a bit yucky.  (Yup, that's an official medical term).

We brought our computers, iPhones, and iPad, plus books and DVD's to help pass the time.  But last night we had some unexpected entertainment.  An abandoned building a block west of us caught fire.  We had a ringside seat as we watched from our window seven Detroit Fire Department units put out the fire.  Nothing huge, but exciting to witness nevertheless.

Next post:   Day +5

Abandoned building catches fire a block west of Karmanos.

Ladder unit responds to the fire.

Detroit fire units successfully squelch the fire.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day +3

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

Exercise went well today.  Managed another 16 laps (1mile equivalent) and 10 km. on the exercise bike.  Slept well last night.  Then the food came...."Clean up on aisle 7!"  Managed to hold down most of breakfast, but dinner time was another story.  The trigger today may have been the chocolate Ensure or the iced mocha coffee from Wendy's.  Perhaps too much cold for the ole tummy.  On the positive side, we got a new visitor's chair for the room out of the incident.  The chair is blue and goes better with the room decor.

There was a SNAFU with yesterday's labs and resultant numbers.  For those unfamiliar with the acronym "SNAFU":  Situation Normal-All Fouled Up.  Those numbers recorded in yesterday's blog were apparently incorrect as today's numbers went "up" by comparison.  Of course, this shouldn't happen.  So the blood tests were repeated later today and the results posted.  Here are the correct counts for today, Day +3:  WBC:  1.4;  Hemoglobin:  9.8;  and Platelets:  142.  The nurse said these counts are what would be expected at this point in time.  Let's pray the lab techs are more accurate and careful in the future.

The attending doctor from the stem cell transplant team is Dr. Ayash.  She visited today and mentioned that she will be here three weeks.  She "warned" us (with a smile on her face) that she usually gets crabby by the 3rd weekend.  Thus, our goal is be discharged between the 2nd and 3rd weekend.  Please keep that time frame in your prayers.

Had visitors this afternoon.  Kathy Porter and her physician husband, Bob, stopped by after being in Ann Arbor to see Bob's aunt.  They drove through several downpours and construction delays, but arrived safely.  Was fun talking with them and we enjoyed their company and gift of two Panera Bread cinnamon crunch bagels.  Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT in isolation or quarantine during my stay here at Karmanos.  The only restriction on visitors is that they must be healthy.  Are there any restrictions?  Yes, no pets or flowers in the rooms.

A closing thought for today.  God has placed wonderful doctors, nurses, and other staff persons in our lives during this time.  They are caring, friendly, and dedicated to their work.  We see on a daily basis how God is in control.

Next...Day +4

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day +2

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

Just finished riding the exercise bike for 10 Km. (6.2 mi).  Walked 1 mile and biked the equivalent of 1.25 miles during the day.  Exercise is important for recovery during this process and praise God, I'm feeling good enough for physical activity.

Had just one nauseous moment.  Lunch was brought and as the turkey sandwich approached my mouth, my mind took umbrage and enlisted the assistance of my stomach at expressing displeasure concerning this diet choice.  But I persevered and managed to complete most of my lunch and later dinner selections.

Regarding the other unpleasant side effect, Immodium has been added to my pharmacy list.  This appears to be having its expected affect.

My numbers on Day +2 are:  WBC:  0.5;  Hemoglobin:  8.4;  and Platelets:  48.  These lower readings are expected and welcome.  The WBC will remain extremely low for the next four days.  On the 6th day Neupogen will be injected encouraging the development of WBC and bringing their count up.  If and when my Hemoglobin falls below 8.0, I'll be given a blood transfusion which is not an unexpected consequence of this procedure.  Should my Platelets fall below 10.0, I will also receive an infusion of these as well.  Since my WBC are so low, Greg and I have to be sure to wash our hands frequently with both soap and antibacterial liquid to help prevent exposure to germs and resultant infections.  Any visitors during this period must be healthy.

As I think about what is happening within my body I am reminded of Psalm 139:14.  "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  Thank you, God!

Next...Day +3

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day +1

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

Just completed my dinner.  Today has been marked by walking my suggested 16 laps which equates to 1 mile.  I've enjoyed several naps and worked on a knitting project.  In between, a little bit of TV viewing helped pass the time as well as talking on the phone with well-wishers and FaceTime with grandkids.

Side effects continue.  The thought of breakfast this A.M. caused my mind to send a message to my stomach resulting in a negative response.  However, since my brain is involved in the process, this is a "mind over matter" situation.   The remaining day's meals were eaten very slowly giving my stomach time to mull over what to do with the new contents and telling to my mind to leave the "stuff" in there.  So  far, this plan is working.

The "other end" is a different story.  Have made a few trips to the bathroom in "urgency" mode today.  The Nurse Practioner, Katherine, says this is an expected reaction to the preservative used and injected with the stem cells.  Will be a welcome relief when the preservative has completely exited my body.

My new counts were posted this morning.  I asked which are the main ones to monitor.  They are:
white blood cells (WBC), Hemoglobin, and Platelets.  Day 0 (Thursday) provided the baseline for the counts.  So the starting numbers are as follows:  WBC:  3.9; Hemoglobin:  11.0; and Platelets:  233.
Today's (Day +1) counts are:  WBC:  3.0;  Hemoglobin:  10.7; and Platelets:  206.  For the next several days, these counts ARE supposed to go down.  Along about days 6, 7, or 8 the counts should bottom out and then start to climb.  I'll be posting my numbers each day so you can track my downward trend (supposed to happen) and my upward trend (will happen, LORD willing).

Prior to Greg and me going for a few more laps before retiring for the night, I'd like to quote from an e-mail which we received from our good friend, Dr. Tim Mead, serving in Al Ain, UAE as a medical missionary.  He writes an excellent report to supporters, friends, and others weekly.  The portion I have chosen to quote applies directly to what I and others with cancer are experiencing.

"All people live life sometimes finding our expectations unmet and our plans changed.  We can easily become bitter and feel we deserve better.  Although trials are never fun at the time, I think back and realize that because of the tough times I am a different person.  Trials, big or small, will either build your character or send you into bitterness and despair.  Your attitude is critical. (emphasis is mine)  I need to constantly remind myself to start each day in thanks knowing I do not travel life alone.  I live and travel Life in His Grip..."

Next:  Day +2

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 0

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.    Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, June 14, 2012;  Stem Cell Transplant Day;  Day 0 of the countdown.  A three member transplant team oversaw the reintroduction of 1/2 the number of my stem cells which were collected on Tuesday of this week.  About two and 1/2 small bags of my preserved stem cells were injected into my Picc Line utilizing a large syringe.  The cell/preservative mix looked like a red slushy or V8 juice.  While one syringe full was being injected, a lab tech extracted another syringe full from a small IV bag which minutes earlier had been frozen.  The three stem cell bags were placed in a warming machine which was brought to my room.  The third member of the team, a RN, monitored my vitals during the procedure.  The whole process took less than 1/2 an hour.  So...a half of my harvested stem cells are now back in my body and the remaining collected stem cells will remain frozen in the unlikely event I have to undergo another transplant sometime in the future.

In the meantime...the chemo in my system continues to track down and annihilate unwelcome cancer cells.  The newly injected stem cells float through my body via my blood stream and find their way into my bone marrow where they will mature for the next several days.  During this maturation process, my white blood cell count as well as my red blood cell and platelet counts will drop.  After about 5 to 7 days of falling counts, the process reverses as the matured stem cells leave the bone marrow to become new, healthy white, red and platelet cells.  This rebuilding process lasts about another 5 to 7 days.  The chemo has, meanwhile, completed its killing spree leaving dead cancer cells to be flushed out by my body.

Typically, days 6, 7, and 8 is the time I will feel the least well as my counts reach their lowest.  On day 6, Neupogen shots begin again for about the next 6 days to encourage the production of white blood cells.  As my counts of red and white blood cells and platelet cells rise, I will feel better and better.  A chart has been affixed to a white board in my room to record the down and up progress of my cell counts.  Over the next several days, I will blog daily the progress of my cell counts and the resulting bodily responses.  Thus far, I have experienced minimum side effects.  This morning, before eating anything, I drank a glass of ice water.  Unfortunately, the water returned right away via the same route it took to enter my body.  But, this has been the only negative bodily response thus far.

God has indeed been good during this journey.  Thinking about what is now happening in my body and how these stem cells will know what cells to become as they mature reveals to me the fantastic plan God had as He designed this wonderful universe of which we and our Earth are a part.

"...And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession."  James 1:18

Next:  Day +1

Louise in her "single" double-sized room.

Aaron prepares stem cells for injection.

Drawing warmed stem cells into syringe.

Melissa injects stem cells into Louise.

Laurie-Anne monitors vitals.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chemo !

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.   Proverbs 16:9

Monday, Greg and I returned to the Barbara Ann Karmonos Cancer Center in Detroit.  I was scheduled for the insertion of a Picc line at 10:00 in the morning followed by an appointment with Dr. V at 1:00 in the afternoon.  Both events occurred, but not at the times listed.  One thing I have learned throughout this whole process is to have patience.  Activities do happen, but usually not at the times listed or planned.  Thank you, God. for teaching me to slow down and wait.  Everything does not need to happen "here and now".  I should enjoy each day You provide me and count my daily blessings.

Tuesday, we returned to Karmonos for my scheduled chemo infusion.  This appointment was "at the crack of dawn" - 7:00 a.m.  I think we arrived before the sun was awake to begin its day.  Not being a morning person, as is Greg, any time before 9:00 a.m. is too early for me.  We experienced another "1st" for us as we arrived and checked in.  We were directed from the lobby of the recently opened Dresner Family Center (our first "1st") to the brand new infusion center which opened its doors yesterday.  In fact, I was very possibly the first person to receive a chemo infusion in the new center.

The process began with an infusion of anti-nausea fluids.  While I was being hydrated, the pharmacy mixed up a small batch of my chemo drug, Melphalan.  After a couple hours, the drug was delivered to my room and attached to my infusion rig.  As Melphalan is light sensitive, a black shroud was hung over the pint bottle which was filled only 1/3 full of the chemo.  This was worth about $6,000.00.  The actual chemo infusion lasted about 1/2 hour with another 3 hours of hydration.  During the whole process I was encouraged to do one of my favorite past times:  eat ice chips.  Since the Melphalan attacks fast growing cells such as those of the hair and the mouth, ice chips stimulate the mouth cells to close up and prevent the absorption of the chemo.  At the time of this posting, I have experienced no nausea or vomiting and my appetite is intact.  In fact, I ate the lunch supplied by the hospital and survived.  Actually, the food was quite tasty, especially the chicken.

I have been supplied with three anti-nausea meds:  Zofran and Compazine (to be taken daily) and Ativan (to be taken as needed).  These are designed to keep my stomach happy as the Melphalan does its job of killing cancer cells and other fast reproducing cells.  In the meantime, I'm to return Wednesday morning to receive another 3 hours of hydration and then come back on Thursday to be admitted to the hospital for observation about the next 1 and 1/2 weeks.

Thursday, I'll begin daily postings to chronicle my progress and that of any side effects.  Until then, my journey continues with God's leading.

Saline - left.  Shrouded Melphalan - right.
Receiving my Chemo.


Here I am back at Colleen's after my chemo doing what I enjoy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Harvest

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

I'm lying is a hospital bed, IV lines in both arms while a machine to my right takes blood from my body; removes stem cells; and returns the red, life sustaining fluid to me.  As the machine whirrs away, a nurse is asking questions and filling out a form.  As I reply "NO" to inquiries such as "Do you have any pain?", "Do you have any nausea or vomiting?", "Are you constipated?",  "Are you fatigued?" she looks up from the paperwork and says, "Why are you here?".

I am "here" because, living in a "Fallen" world, I''m experiencing cancer.  A journey I did not expect while planning my life; but a journey whose steps are directed by my God.  Because God is leading me through this dark valley and knows the outcome of this trip, I have chosen to put my complete faith in Him.  Even though I don't know or understand all the twists and turns of this safari, Gods knows and I trust Him...with my life.  Since the beginning of this adventure, I have witnessed God at work.  At His direction, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff have sprung into action utilizing their skills, training, and intellect to diagnose and implement treatment in an extremely timely manner.  And because of the prayers of family, friends, churches, and strangers literally around the world, I have been able to respond to my treatments in an atypical manner.

For reasons known only fully to Him,  God has blessed me with exceptional responses to treatment protocols since the beginning.  My early regimen of Velcade and Revlimid did not result in the usual physical responses of the human body to these chemo drugs.  Nausea and vomiting did not make an appearance.  In fact, these two unpleasant side effects have yet to rear their ugly heads, praise the LORD!  Neuropathy has manifested itself as a result of the Velcade, but not to the extent of being debilitating and currently is manageable using Gabapentin.  The Revlimid caused some pretty painful headaches and was replaced with Cytoxin which caused no unwelcome side effects.

My lack of side effects to treatment caused me to question the effectiveness of the preliminary protocol for the harvesting of my stem cells.  I had to inject myself with 600 mcg. of Neupogen twice a day beginnng Thursday, May 31 and ending Monday, June 4.  That's four shots per day plus two per day (morning and night) of Lovenox which replaces the Coumadin.  The Neupogen is designed to stimulate my bone marrow to produce sufficient number of stem cells prior to harvesting.  I was told to expect the Neupogen to possibly cause nausea and vomiting, extreme fatigue, and bone pain.  When I didn't experience any of these downsides to the drug, I began to question whether the Neupogen was working.  But when I remembered  that I and many others were praying that side effects would not be a problem, I knew that God was listening and responding to everyone's prayer.  Thank you, LORD!!

Harvest day was Monday.  We arrived at the Karmonos Cancer Center early, 7:15 a.m., and had blood work drawn.  We had to wait a little over two hours, for tests to be run that would determine if the Neupogen had done its work.  We finally received word that results showed I had enough stem cells floating around so I could be hooked up to the machine which would capture these little guys.  Getting two IV lines into my arms and connected to the pheresis machine took a bit of time.  But at 11:30 the procedure was underway.

The process required that I keep both arms extended at my sides, so at lunch time (the hospital supplied a sack lunch), Greg had to feed me.   When my nose itched, Greg had to help me scratch.  He said he was drawing the line at picking my nose, however.  (He said,  "You can pick your friends.  You can pick your nose.  But you can't pick your friend's nose.")  Finally, the procedure was completed at about 3:15 p.m.  I was untethered from the machine.  The nurse said that a determination would be made by the lab whether enough stem cells had been harvested.  If not enough were obtained, we would have to return on Tuesday and undergo this process again although I wouldn't have to undergo the preliminary blood test.  I could go on the machine immediately upon arrival.  The lab would call me before 5:30 p.m.

We returned to Colleen's house to await the call.  At 5:10 the lab phoned.  They threw out numbers I didn't understand, but Praise God!, these were numbers we wanted to hear.  The lab tech said that the number needed had to fall within a range between 2 and 5.  My number was 8.3!!  More than enough for two transplants!!!  Prayers had be answered.  Once again God had blessed me.  We return to Karmonos next week where my frozen stem cells will be reintroduced into my body after a treatment of chemo kills all my white blood cells.  Then the stem cells, by God's great design, will grow into new white blood cells and my immune system will be reborn and, the LORD willing, the cancer will be in remission.  I look forward to this future trusting God and His plans.

                                                   "I know who holds the future,
                                                    And I know who holds my hand;
                                                   With God things don't just happen --
                                                   Everything by Him is planned."         A. Smith

Left arm is the return line.  Right arm (covered)
is the output line.  Couldn't move from this
position from 11:30 to 3:15.
Praise the LORD enough stem cells were
harvested the first time!

Next entry:  The Transplant.     The journey continues....