from harvest to health

July 14, 2012

If I were to write about what exactly I will be doing for the next few months, it would take days so I’m just going to start off by giving a broad overview:

Stem Cell Transplant Schedule

Week 1: central line placed in chest, shots daily to harvest stem cells
Week 2:
shots daily continued, collection of stem cells, move in to apartment close to hospital
Week 3:
5 days of intense chemo
Week 4:
thaw/receive stem cells
Week 4-7: daily clinic visits to check bloodwork, no immune system, susceptible to getting sick, hospitalization and blood transfusion likely
(looking for increase of white blood cells 10-14 days after receiving stem cells)
Week 7-8:
recovering immune system, daily clinic visits to check bloodwork gradually become less frequent i.e. every few days

Day 30 (after receiving stem cells): CT scan

Post SCT:

    • Immune System fragile for 100 days after stem cell transplant (they told me to wear a mask in public)
    • Another CT scan on Day 100
    • 1 year after stem cell transplant I get another scan and I have to get all of my childhood vaccinations since my immune system is similar to that of a new-born baby

Basically, the idea behind all of this is to wipe out my current, cancer-corrupted immune system and use my stem cells to grow a new one. I just finished up two days of medical testing for my SCT evaluation yesterday that included bloodwork, echo cardiogram, chest x-rays, EKG, pulmonary function test, and everyone’s favorite, a bone marrow biopsy…

On top of all the testing, we had a two-hour appointment with a nurse to go over all the details of the SCT. Going through a printed checklist of all the things I’m not going to be able to do, all the side effects I’m going to experience and all the bad things that might happen was definitely overwhelming. I liked the idea of a SCT a lot better when I didn’t really know anything about it. I’ve felt a lot of emotions through out all of my cancer days—sad, surprised, upset, overwhelmed—but this time I would have to use the word ‘scared’.

It is obvious that this whole time, my goal has been to get rid of cancer, to get better. My desires have been for college, marriage, freedom, hair. But now my desire more strongly than ever: health. Life.

The SCT team is going to place me in an apartment close to Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville since I will have to be at the clinic so often. It is mandatory that I have a caretaker (a.k.a. my mom) live with me at the apartment to assist me and keep a close eye on my condition.

I start the process of getting the shots to harvest my stem cells next Sunday, July 22. So I will be taking full advantage of my ‘last week of fun’ for few months the next few days. Now is not the time to be scared. People older and in worse condition than I am go through successful stem cell transplants all the time. God has gotten me this far and come through every time. I will  “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is FAITHFUL.”-Hebrews 10:23 (Not only is my blog an update that you can read, but the self pep-talk I come back to sometimes.)