Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvest Day

I gave my t-cells today. It took only 3 1/2 hours. For that, Clyde gets a shot at a cancer free existence. It seems like a small price to pay, as though we should have tried it years ago.

The opportunity is not without it's risks. "Graft vs. Host Disease" will be a factor. Not in a "maybe" sense but in a "how severe" sense. Clyde's immune system is so compromised that her body will not reject my cells. The problem comes from my cells attacking her body. That's how the cancer is defeated. My immune system which will be in her body ad will attack and kill the cancer. The medical team will use anti-rejection medications to control the combat between cells. Slowly, over time, Clyde will be weaned off the meds as my immune cells become hers.

Today was an easy process for me. We got to the hospital around 9a. Jan the coordinator met us at the Infusion Center and I had needles in my arm by 9:30a. It was a pleaseant surprise to have 3 of my 4 siblings sitting there with me for the morning. Bee came by to pick me up and Rooch and Clyde arrived at the hospital as the needles were being placed by Noreen, my blood harvest expert for the day. Needless to say, despite the tension intrinsic to procedures like this, we had a lot of laughs. Noreen was the wife of someone my older siblings new. There were stories to tell, social networks to compare and tongue-in-cheek insults to share with our new friend. It was a very supportive atmosphere.

The days leading up to today were exactly as they were described. I started with the Neupogen shots on Friday morning. We were staying at Margaret's (Lindsay's sister) house in Boulder. Before heading to the airport I gave myself a shot. It was no big deal. As predicted, bone pain was not far behind. It started in my sacrum. Within a few hours, my lower back had become very stiff and sore. The discomfort was well controlled with Advil. Friday evening, after a second shot, the pain extended to my sternum and ribs. Jan had warned me about this possibility. If she hadn't, I have been very concerned that I was having a heart attack. It surprised me that the bone pain I had been warned about would throb in concert with my pulse. Pain of that sort in your chest can be very unnerving. Jan's warning was of great comfort. By the time the shots were all administered, I had aches in my back, spine, ribs, sternum and head. Pain in the bones is caused by the bone marrow producing white blood cells at an accelerated rate in preparation for harvest. Now that the procedure is behind me, I'm asured that the bone pain will be gone in a day or two.

We had a get-together last night at Rooch's house. It was a casual party around dinner time for the purpose gathering the family and showing support for Clyde. She was so tired from three days of chemo that she was a non-player at the party. This morning at the hospital, Clyde was so weak that her medical team whisked her away for lab work. As it turned out, her red blood count and hemoglobin were very low. Shortly after I was finished, she received a transfusion. Rooch reported that afterwords, she looked and felt much better. Low blood counts are expected after several days of chemo but for things to go well, Clyde needs to be strong. She's fortunate to have a medical team that is so attentive to her well-being.

When we were done this afternoon, the medical team was very pleased with how things had gone. My white blood cell count was very high and the density of t-cells was also very good. We were also able to harvest an exceptional volume so some of the collected cells will be frozen for future use. All signs point to a successful transplant.

That transplant takes place tomorrow. Clyde will arrive at the hospital at 8a. We'll all be there to watch and support as the t-cells are transfused into her. After all the planning and preparation, the transplant will take about 30 minutes. From there, we're all counting on the chemistry and biology to go Clyde's way. I'll keep you posted. Keep a good thought.

I'm very tired after today so I'm not going to bother proofing tonight.

Be well.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine myself doing the same for my sister...thanks for continuing to share the journey...I hope it is a peaceful and healthy one going forward...