This graphic is dedicated to my fellow cancer-survivors who have battled or are still battling cancer: Lauren Maxton, Sue Hasse, Barbara Eubanks, Shelly Liles McBurney, Jeremy Hinton, Jerry Schneider, Jennifer Bratton, Lizzie Metcalf and Libby Boren to name a few. Feel free to share this to encourage others you know who are battling cancer.

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numbering the days

August 25, 2012

The past two weeks I endured the 5 days of chemo followed by the Stem Cell Transplant referred to as “Day 0. As expected, this chemo has definitely been the roughest. Due to the harsh side effects from the toxicities of the chemo, they decided to keep me in the hospital last Saturday until Wednesday to better monitor my condition and control my nausea intravenously. Miraculously, out of all the chemo I’ve had in the past year and a half, I’ve battled nausea and managed to hold my stomach. But this chemo finally did me in.

I also experienced my first blood transfusion. It was weird being on the other side of the bag of blood, as in, receiving rather than giving. Back in the day when I was healthy and not terrified of needles, I gave blood a few times. Little did I know that one day I would be needing one of those bags of O positive. So now I’m an even bigger fan of the American Red Cross; therefore, I encourage everyone to volunteer or donate sometime because that one person who decided to give a bag of blood helped me.

Since Wednesday, I have been able to stay at the apartment while visiting the SCT clinic daily to check my blood work, see doctors, receive fluids, track progress, etc. I am now 5 days out from the SCT, or at Day 5. My nausea is under control and I’m feeling pretty good for what I’ve been through. The chemo also causes my mouth and throat to be raw and sore until my immune system becomes strong enough to heal it, so I have been sticking to bland, soft/liquid foods. Though my body has been weak and fatigued, it is coming around and my energy level is increasing. Yesterday I received a bag of platelets, and it is possible I could need blood again in a few days. As rocky as things sound, everything has gone pretty smoothly as far a stem cell transplants go and all the stuff I am going through has been anticipated.

So now that I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt literally (the nurses give all the patients who undergo a SCT a t-shirt that says “LIFE BEGINS AT DAY 0”), I’m waiting for Day 10 to Day 14 because that is when my immune system should really start responding. With a white blood cell count of 0.1 and on the decrease, I’m treading lightly with the hope that I will be one of the lucky ones that makes it to Day 10 without getting a fever. The doctors didn’t say it was likely, but they told me because of my age it is definitely possible.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

 -Psalm 34:19

IN A NUTSHELL

  • I’m on the other side of the SCT and my body has tolerated everything well
  • We are waiting to see my immune system start picking back up by the end of next week
  • If you want some specifics to pray for, pray that don’t get a fever over the next week so that I don’t have to go back into the hospital and also that my immune system responds when and as it should

Am I surprised that I didn’t start the stem cell transplant two weeks ago as planned? Maybe I would be if it were the first time things didn’t happen like we thought they would. For those of you who don’t know, I unexpectedly got a fever and infection two weeks ago and had to stay in the hospital for a few days, thus delaying my stem cell transplant until this weekend.

I have been hesitant to write on my blog the past couple of weeks and decided to wait a bit longer to avoid posting another potentially inaccurate update; although, the SCT schedule from the last entry is still accurate since I didn’t provide exact dates. There was talk last week among the group of doctors that are working on my case of the possibility of getting radiation before or after the stem cell transplant. The doctors had a meeting to discuss whether or not I should have radiation and they decided it was best to just go on with the SCT for now and leave the decision to do radiation after the SCT for further discussion in the future. Due to the risks associated particularly with being a young female getting radiation to the chest, I’m not really comfortable with the idea of having it and hope that it won’t be necessary.

As I’ve mentioned before, I will be going to the hospital pretty much everyday for the next month and half, so I had to move into an apartment designated for Vanderbilt patients in downtown Nashville that is close to the hospital. I moved into my new place a couple of days ago. I was fortunate to get a two bedroom so that my Mom (caretaker) can have her own room too. It’s pretty spacious, and it’s nice to have a change of scenery. I have gotten to enjoy the past few days of feeling good, hanging out with friends, and having my own place in the city.

As weird as it is to have a doctor’s appointment on a Sunday, I had my first of the shots that grow my stem cells this morning which I will be continuing daily throughout this week. Getting a needle in the stomach sounds terrible, but I have to admit that it’s not as awful as it sounds. The side effects haven’t kicked in yet, but I can expect bone pain and flu-like aches this week, which actually means the shots are working like they are supposed to.

Tomorrow morning after my shot, I am getting surgery to put a catheter in my chest that acts similar to an I.V. that will stay there until I am finished with the SCT. This will give the nurses quicker and easier access to drawing blood, giving me medicines, etc. (And I won’t have to get stuck every time anymore!)

It’s nice be in a new place to start working on a new health. As much as I’ve been dreading the SCT since I found out more about it, it’s lifted my spirits a little bit to be able to move in and move forward.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
-Revelation 21:5

For those of you who were asking or wondering, here are the restrictions during my stem cell transplant:

    • No raw fruits or vegetables
    • No leftovers (You are allowed to bring me meals that can be frozen and cooked, we just aren’t supposed to reheat it over and over again.)
    • No live flowers/plants
    • I can have (100% healthy) visitors at certain times with limited direct contact

IN A NUTSHELL

  • I moved into a my new apartment in Nashville a few days ago to be closer to the hospital
  • I started the SCT transplant process today by getting a shot that helps harvest the stem cells for collection
  • Tomorrow morning I am having a line/catheter surgically placed in my chest
  • Over the next several days I will continue to receive shots daily to build up my stem cells for collection at the end of the week