I will be admitted into the hospital to start high dose chemo on June 8th. And it couldn't come sooner. My neck is constantly a bother. It doesn't hurt so much as remind me every waking second that I have cancer. I also know the rest of me is on borrowed time. Even though I am in partial to near complete remission, it's just a break in the action. The cancer will come back. And next time, it'll be pissed off.
I look forward to sleep now because that's the time when I don't have cancer. You can probably understand it like this. When you're away from home and you dream about home there's a startling few seconds when you wake up. You have to make adjustments and get your bearings. I do that every morning. Only instead of dreaming about being home, I dream that I don't have cancer. When I wake up, I'll get that pain in my neck and a sharp jolt from the chest and within seconds I realize I'm back again, stuck with the Monster. Mornings are tough.
The call from Fonzi does mean that we start the countdown. With every stem cell transplant there is a "countdown" and then a "count up". I think they do that for some medical reason or to help patients. For your understanding, I'll try to relate what I know what will happen with my own days. Since I've never been through this before, I'm not entirely sure. But I believe it goes something like this:
Day -15: Get a call form the black Fonz, even though he doesn't want to be called the black Fonz. Afterwards, go into procedure room to replace the line that goes from the right side of my chest and into a vein above my heart with a smaller line that goes in the same place.
Day -14: Get root canal. Piece of cake. No, really. After nearly twenty doses of chemo, two bone marrow aspirations, countless procedures to put lines in and out of my body and the pain of trying to make small talk with Texans in elevators, this is nothing.
Day -13 to Day -8: Fly home to see the kids once more. During this time, pick the last remaining hairs out of my head. The last two times I lost my hair because of chemo, I never admitted to myself that it mattered. I look like crap with or without hair. And besides, the ladies never really care about looks anyway. But I've realized that it does affect me. When clumps of hair fall out it's disconcerting. It reminds me that something else on my body isn't working any more. It reminds me of the pickle I'm in.
Day -7: Come back to Houston for "pre-tests".
Day -5: Begin high dose chemo. I'll be hooked up to an IV drip. They'll start the anti-nausea drugs first and then the steroids. A couple of hours later, the toxins begin. My brain will become numb around the steroid stage. I will feel nauseous before even starting.
Day -4: Puke.
Day -3: Begin fighting off the inevitable, which is the slow death of my body. The biggest change will be the loss of a digestive tract. My mouth will have sores all over. Then the rest of the digestive tract will have sores. At some point, it will be too painful to even eat a crumb. Then I'll have to go on an IV. Morphine will probably start. I won't be able to poop normally. Breathing will become difficult as the lungs are affected by the chemo, too. I'll have to watch my kidney. It will be hard to walk around, anywhere, as fatigue becomes a big issue. Even though I'll be tired, I won't sleep without the aid of some good drugs.
Day -2: Puke. Ask for more morphine.
Day -1: The chemo drip ends.
Day 0: Get my stem cells. You know that harvest I talked about in the last blog? The lame Keanu Reeves reference? Well, those stem cells are frozen and here's where I get them back. This is a big day. To many patients, it signifies a new life. People even give themselves a new birthday.
Day 5-7: The chemo only now starts to "settle". If I hadn't already come down with all those side effects listed earlier, I'll get them around this day. If I already have them, they'll get worse.
Day 14+: Get busy living.
Once again, I could have this wrong but that's what I know so far. I'll be trying to figure this out in the coming week.