Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Round 1 - OVER!

What a wonderfully strange feeling to put my head on my own pillow this afternoon. So, the bed doesn’t contort into different configurations and I don’t get those warm blankets…I can live with that. It’s my bed and it’s twice as big and it has linens on it that I chose and that I get to change…and no one is interrupting me to check my blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature periodically. The changes in the space of an hour or so are myriad. Oh, yeah.

We’re not done by any stretch. Today’s discharge from the VA Hospital marked the formal end of what is simply round 1 – Induction. I had a short appointment at the dental clinic this afternoon to ensure there were no dental issues that needed to be resolved. It was the first time I went to the dentist with a bona fide excuse for not flossing: the doctors wouldn’t let me do it.  Along with other restrictions induced by chemotherapy, flossing always causes bleeding and since I had no white blood cells to fight bacteria in my mouth (and we all know what a bacterial playground our mouths are), that part of my daily grooming regimen was put on hold along with the others. With that appointment today, my bone marrow transplant application can be forwarded to the VA in Washington, DC and I can officially be put on the marrow transplant list and the donor match process can officially begin.

While that is all happening, I’m at home for a few days and then back on Monday for another round of intrathecal chemotherapy. It sounds awful, but it really didn’t hurt thanks to the happy juice and because fluid was added back to the spinal column as well as being drawn out, I didn’t get the nasty headache I got from my spinal tap. Somewhere during this process, I’ll need to go back in as an inpatient for a few days for another round of maintenance or consolidation chemotherapy to keep the leukemia in check before going to Seattle for the transplant. It shouldn’t be as severe as the first week of chemo I had and apparently, I’ve really rebounded well, due, in no small part, to the good physical condition I was in prior to this whole thing.

So, how am I today?

Well, to be frank, I’m really tired.  It takes very little to make me feel like taking a nap. My sleep schedule is pretty much off and I am just sleeping as I feel the need. I’ve had two naps today and I suspect that I’ll go to bed at my normal 11:00 and be awake in the middle of the night. I’ll be needing to keep on top of my temperature and watching very carefully signals from my body that would signal a need for a hasty return to the VA, which is about 10 minutes away. Fevers can’t simply be a matter of popping a Tylenol and calling it good. For me, it’s a flashing red light that requires a ride to the ER.

The food in the hospital was really pretty good, especially when you consider the institutional requirements and us picky eaters. By the time I left they figured out that a packet of ketchup wouldn’t kill me and that I just needed small portions, so I was getting little baggies of snacks like applesauce or yogurt mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and about 7:30 pm, so I could have a reasonable amount of the main meal without needing to have a huge amount of food and then I could get these little pick-me-ups in between, basically the way I normally eat. And my weight was starting to return. So, I only ended up losing a total of 5 pounds.  Tonight though, it was so nice to order out from my very most favorite Thai place and have a nice meal with my daughter. The down side was the DVD I had been waiting to share with her had a big crack in it. Ah well, I am home.

So, all is well and there were a lot of smiles from doctors this morning as they commented on how well my body has been responding and I’m smiling as I’m leaving the hospital a good week earlier than scheduled. Round 1 is done. I know the road ahead of me isn’t an easy one and that in some respects, the Induction round was but a warm-up. There are some dark nights of the soul ahead, but on the other side of this, is a cure and the return to life as I knew it before February 21. Anyone who has been through a life challenge of this magnitude knows as well that these things change you into a better person if you step outside of yourself and open yourself up to life’s lessons and being a bit introspective. Not fun while walking through it all, but on the other side…you have the potential to be a completely different person.

Tonight, my attitude is still one of gratitude for making it through and for the many, many, many people who have upheld me through their visits, prayers, well wishes, gifties, videos, cards, and so much more. I could spend a long time just listing them out. Tomorrow, I want to highlight just how amazing the power of social media and friendship is. It still has me scratching my head (lightly, though, because everything is causing my remaining hair to fall out.  It’s starting to look like I’m a cancer patient!)

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all.