Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Beginnings

That was quite a November! I had the hardest three weeks of my life, and then received the gift of life in the middle of it. I'm told I withstood everything right on schedule and that 3 weeks was a short stay. I'd say I withstood the first 5 or 6 days as I usually do when receiving chemo: maintaining pretty well till the side effects hit. Then I started 3 days of another super strong drug, anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG), which is an infusion of rabbit antibodies to prepare my body for the stem cells and help prevent rejection. Then, two days before the transplant, I received 2 1-hour doses of full body radiation.

I was already sick from the rabbit juice I was getting, and the radiation just sent me on a journey that culminated in several days of side effects requiring three narcotics, including morphine. When I said in my last blog post that this regimen was "burn down the factory," it was no exaggeration. By the time Transplant Day came, Day 0, I was feeling pretty lousy. I had almost taken my eye off the purpose of this process, a new immune system. One of my doctors came in to deliver my stem cell infusion, which was a very small bag of light pink liquid, and said that she was very excited for me. "New beginnings!" It was all over in 20 minutes. Just like that. A new, healthy future. I've never felt such a mix of emotions.

Mary, always my wing man, drove from Pittsburgh 3 times in 3 weeks to be with me (over Thanksgiving too), and she and my caregiver, Zofia, helped me get home on December 1st. I'm on 4 1/2 hour IV infusion everyday at home to make sure I get enough fluids and electrolytes, but that will only be for a few more days. I'm teaching my legs and stomach to work again, and generally feeling pretty weak. But I notice a slow recovery taking place, and Zofia has been great. She cooks, shops, cleans, drives me to clinic appointments, does laundry, helps me with medications for each meal, and anything else I want her to do. The Transplant Team at Hackensack requires each transplant patient to have a full time live in caregiver 24/7 for the first 30-60 days minimum. I thought this was a bit much -- that I could handle myself maybe with some help from friends. I could not have been more wrong. So, as I write this, homemade chicken soup is waiting for me for dinner.

Today I am 18 days old. I can't go out except to clinic appointments for awhile, but at least I'll be home for Christmas and able to appreciate the holiday. I'm taking things slow, since that's the only speed I know right now. I keep wondering about my donor. I found out that he's European. (My friend Micheal said today, "Wouldn't it be funny if your donor was Julian Assange? Oh no, wait, he's Australian.") I decided to write to him a letter, which has to pass through the filter of the National Marrow Donor Program. We're not allowed to know any personal information about each other. I wanted to thank him for his sacrifice and ask if he would be willing to correspond with me. It was nearly impossible to know what to say. Knowing that Thanksgiving means nothing to him, I tried to express my gratitude.

This Thanksgiving was intense in so many ways. I am most grateful for my European perfect match. But I am also indescribably grateful to everyone who has been helping, supporting and praying for me. I hope you all had an amazing holiday.



1 comment:

  1. I am so happy you are doing well.. And i have to ask... What is your new blood type :-P Or is it still the same? Hope i can come visit you soon. <3 you

    <3 Krystina


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