Well, it’s taken me a few days longer to come up with the second part of catching up with transplant boy, but the Olympics were on! Man, that final hockey game was so amazing, I may just start following the sport.
Right, so in the last part’s thrilling cliffhanger, I was about to be admitted to the hospital for the transplant procedure. The first part of my stay was pretty boring; they hooked me up to my IV pole (which I stayed connected to at all times) and I hung out for a few days. My room was nice for a hospital, but small. The ward, 8th floor Pavilion East, contained around twenty rooms – all transplant patients – surrounding a large nurses station. The entire ward’s air was filtered and pressurized, and they kept the humidity at 17% to prevent against any sort of bacteria, but it was brutally dry. Even though I drank lots of fluids, and was constantly on a hydration drip, my lips and hands still cracked up. A&D ointment was used liberally.
Throughout my time there, lots of friends and family came to visit, which was very nice; otherwise the days just sort of blended together. After a few days of hanging out, they started me on high-dose chemo through IV. I thought I’d start puking immediately, or have some other violent reaction, but nothing happened. For four days they loaded me up with chemo, and I felt no adverse side effects. They encouraged me to exorcise, so I would walk three miles around the nurses station a day to keep my muscles moving. A few days after the chemo, I started to feel tired, but not debilitatingly so, and kept up my exorcise.
Having been chemoed enough, I was given two days rest, then on January 19 I the transplant, and let me tell you it was one giant anti-climax. Like the ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail but less hilarious. They just took a bag of stem cells, hooked it up to my IV, and let it drip in. That was it. My sister had actually donated the cells that same day in the same wing of the hospital three floors down, and while I actually never got to see her, I felt the connection. For her to donate, she actually had to get a catheter as well (in her hip) because her veins were too small. Then they yanked her blood, spun it around the room in lots of different tubes, extracted the stem cells, the funneled the rest of her blood back into her. At least, this is what I hear. She did great, made friends with all the nurses, and after two days took a train back to Vermont and was working the next day. Ah, to be 18 again….or 23 without cancer, which is what this transplant aspires to achieve, so I’ll just go ahead and make plans to do something physically challenging in a year.
After the transplant, things remained the same until about a week and a half later. Then, the side effects hit. I got sores in my mouth and throat, and my mouth was constantly overflowing with watery phlegm. Revolting, I know. I entered a solid week where I did not eat, and was fairly dead to the world. I only got out of bed to go to the bathroom. It was one of the more miserable times in my life. Also, I could not sleep due to the pain, and the doctors wanted me to rest, so they hit me up with pain meds. First they had me on Oxycontin, the drug that Rush Limbaugh was famously addicted to, and when I asked for something stronger, they gave me morphine, straight into the IV. Now, I appreciate them taking out the big guns, but I would have thought there was some sort of gradation between pain pill and morphine. Finally the side effects subsided, and I got better and better until I was only marginally phlegmmy and had got rid of most of the throat sores.
On February 2nd I left the hospital, and came home, and after a week or so my mouth sores were gone completely, as was the snot. At first I was so tired I could hardly do anything, and my mom, who had brought me home cooked food almost every day in the hospital, continued to take care of me at home. After another week or so, I was strong enough to start doing some things by myself, but it’s still nice to have someone else cook for you all the time 🙂
So now it’s been about a month since the transplant. I’ve been going to the doctor’s twice a week to get my blood checked (so far so good), but otherwise I can’t really leave the house. My immune system is that of an infant’s, apparently, so I can only eat well cooked food, and I can’t be around sick people or people who have children in school. However, after 100 days, April 29th, I will be re-evaluated, and if everything looks good (which I’m confident it will at this rate) Restrictions will be lifted. I’ll have have to be careful and pace myself, but I will be able to re-enter society. We’ll see when I’ll be able to work again, which could be up to a year or more. Until then, luckily I got Social Security Disability (And at 23! Getting my payout young). That’s about it so far; I’ll update more frequently now!