Monday, January 5, 2009

The Transplant

After a considerable amount of preparation, in the form of biopsies, tests, scans, small battles with the insurance company, salvage chemotherapy, and a whole lot of emotional ups and downs, I am finally entering what I hope will be the final phase of this experience – the stem cell transplant.

The term transplant almost seems like a misnomer for what I’ll be doing and has confused a lot of you. I guess that the term seems to imply a surgical procedure to most people (including me when I first heard it) but in my case, there is no surgery involved. I will check into the hospital this coming Thursday, January 8th, if all goes as planned, and immediately begin about a week of very high dose chemotherapy that will wipeout my bone marrow and white blood cell count. Since these cells could not rebound on their own, I am then injected with 5 million of my stem cells (already collected and waiting in the trusty Northwestern Hospital freezer) which will hopefully begin producing healthy white blood cells. The remaining time in the hospital is to ensure that I stay free from infection, and that my cells graft back to my body and start working again.

I am experiencing a lot of emotions as Thursday approaches. The past couple of months have felt like the crescendo in a piece of music that has finally reached its climax with this procedure. I am afraid - more for my lack of mental preparation in dealing with three-plus weeks of complete confinement to the 15th floor of the hospital than anything else. Will the lack of fresh air make me depressed? Will it be exacerbated by constant monitoring? Will I be frustrated to be hooked up to an IV for a month or more, or will I be too tired to want to walk around anyway? I am curious about how it will feel – whether it will be painful, where it will hurt. Will my port, the line I have had placed to make infusion easier two years ago, which I’ve only ever had accessed for three days at a time, be sore during the constant access? Will I feel the stem cells working? What kind of side-effects will present most severely for me? Do I have the tools to cope? Whatever is coming, I am eager to get to it, complete it, and put this chapter of my life behind me, taking the lessons and strength I hope I’ll gain, and leaving the stress, pain and discomfort.

Though I don’t have full details, here are some relevant hospital rules as I understand them. Visiting should be permitted throughout my weeks in the hospital, and visiting hours are 24/7 on the transplant floor. It is possible that you will be asked to wear gloves and/or a mask when you come into my room because of germ transmission, but I should know that in advance based on how my immunity is. And flowers are not allowed on the floor at all. I can’t have any fresh fruits or vegetables, but otherwise, to my mom’s great relief, outside food is permitted as long as it’s not raw or improperly cooked. They should know better than to get between a Jewish mom with chicken soup, and her sick child.

**Contact information updated**

I am on the 15th floor of the Prentice Women’s Hospital. The address is: Room 1593, 250 E. Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611. I have my cell phone with me, and can be reached directly in my room at 312 472 1593.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Celebration - I got to celebrate with many of my closest friends, who came to Chicago to visit, which was a fabulous way to start my year!

11 comments:

Emily Goodstein said...

i have personally inspected the hospital parking lot and can attest to very clever names of each floor (neil diamond...barry manilow) so you will have no problem finding your car. i have also personally sampled the chicken soup and can say it is unforgettable...

Phyllis S. said...

Am following your journey and know there will be 'great light' at its end. Thinking of you!

naomi said...

so, my alarm went off at 5:45 this morning so i could get up and go running before work, and i was really not interested in leaving my bed. and then i thought of you, and how today's a big day. and then i got up. you are such a motivation for me. i hope you know that. i'm running in my very first race on saturday & i'll be thinking of you the whole time! all my love!!!!

Carrie said...

Hey you-

I know that today is a big day and I want to let you know that I am thinking about you and wishing you well!!!

love Carrie

Jessica Braunfeld Turnof said...

Go get 'em, dahlin!!! Cheering you on from afar and wishing strength to whichever nurse stands in the way of the chicken soup deliveries. Love you lots and looking forward to frequent and fabulous updates :)

Sammie said...

Flew home with Nina today from a brief trip to TX and thought of you all day long. Sending love and who knows, maybe some well-cooked food...

Sally Fink said...

I hope you had a good day! I am going to add you to my prayers when I light the Shabbat candles tonight. You are a special person and you will be in my thoughts during these weeks!
Shabbat Shalom,
Sally Fink

Kyra said...

Just checking in! I know you are rockin' your way through. (BTW, your port should be reaccessed every 7 days and your dressing changed every 3-4 days, just saying;) ) And walk as often as physically possible, it will keep you sane and healthy. You already have everything figured out. Just draw on your experiences from past treatments and use what works for you. This is the hardest step, but give up this time, so they can give you the rest of your life. Much love!

the mol said...

Yep, I was just going to say that they'll re-access your port every week and change the dressing. David gets a little irritation around where the needle was if he's been accessed for a longer time. Also, during this visit, we had more trouble than usual. They had to re-access yesterday because of poor blood return, and of course no EMLA so he was MAD!!!

Gregory said...

And if they didn't know better, I'm sure your mom, like any Jewish mom, would back a big 'tsimmes' about how they would be going against god to not allow a mother deliver chicken soup to her child! ;) I'm glad your hanging in there, but I'm not surprised-even though its quite a challenging journey for you, I don't know too many people who have nearly as much koyach(or keiyach as the Litvaks say ;)) as you do! And whats even better,is that all of your myriad of friends, near and far, are there for you. You can do it, YES YOU CAN!

Gregory said...

btw, I meant to say, MAKE a big 'tsimmis'--oh my goodness, I have been so lucid lately with typing(you should've seen my latest craigslist posting for ESL instruction/tutoring--no wonder I got no responses!)