another postponement

Another week that has not gone as planned. Another postponement of the stem cell transplant. Another week of waiting. Last week my stem cell transplant was postponed for one week because of a continuing and mysterious fever that showed up again on the Tuesday night before my scheduled chemotherapy treatment last Wednesday. Everything was moved ahead one week to today and tomorrow. Many tests were undertaken to make doubly sure that no bacterial infection had been overlooked. Along the way multiple blood samples were taken to see if bacterial cultures could be grown in those samples. While I was having fevers none of these samples tested positive. Alas, after the fevers had subsided (I have not had a fever for a week) two of the many cultures that were taken tested positive for a staff infection. This is a bit of a mystery since there are no fevers accompanying these positive results. My doctors suspect that these test results may have been false positives resulting from contamination. However, all agree that we must be absolutely sure that my immune system is not reduced to zero by chemotherapy when I am harbouring a bacterial infection that would then be free to multiply. As a result I am undergoing a full round of intravenous antibiotics that requires ten days of treatment. Today I completed my seventh day of daily trips in to Vancouver General to receive the regular dose of antibiotic. I keep reminding myself that this is now my full-time job and that the drive to VGH is now my commute. Once the ten days are complete and I have no more fevers or signs of possible infection I will be rescheduled for chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant as soon as a spot comes open.


becoming a patient

Well, this week has not gone as planned. The mysterious fevers that have recurred on and off recurred again on Tuesday night. The medical team responsible for the stem cell transplant wisely decided not to move forward with chemotherapy on Wednesday. Instead, it has been postponed for one week and is now scheduled for next Wednesday, August 31 with the stem cell transplant set for Thursday, September 1. In the meantime, we have gone on a search to see if it is possible to determine the source of the fever. The good news is that the fever hasn't returned again since Tuesday. The important work is to be absolutely sure that it is not being caused by a bacterial infection as this would leave me open to a serious infection after the chemotherapy destroys my immune system. It may be the lingering effects of a viral infection, which would be much less problematic. So, I have spent three long days at the hospital on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Most of the time has been spent waiting for tests. On Tuesday I had a Hickman line inserted into my chest. It is a nifty three way portal which means that I don't need to have an IV inserted into my arm whenever I need to have a blood test or receive an infusion of blood or antibiotic or fluid. The line is to remain in place for the next month or so. On Thursday I had a fascinating test in which some of my blood was removed, the white cells were spun out and and irradiated before being returned to me. Later in the day a gamma camera took pictures of my body to see if there may be an infection somewhere in my body that the white cells move to. I find out the results later today. In the meantime one of my multiple blood cultures came back as positive for infection. While this may be a false positive the medical team is treating me with antibiotics to be doubly sure. This means daily trips to the hospital right through to Wednesday's scheduled chemotherapy. Fortunately I am feeling quite well right now and so am able to drive myself to and from the city.


the props assist the house

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter –
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life –
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop 
Affirming it a Soul 

- Emily Dickinson



The days are counting down - two more days until the collection of my stem cells, then one week until chemo and transplant. It will be good to be on the other side of those procedures and to begin the journey of recovery. Yesterday I made my first trip into the Krall Centre - the bone marrow transplant day centre at Vancouver General Hospital. I phoned in the morning because of a fever that I was experiencing. An hour later we were off to an appointment with a nurse and doctor. All went well. I feel very fortunate to be living in such close proximity to such impressive care.

Word this week from Caroline Penhale that a car accident has left her with minor injuries that will prevent her from training for the half-marathon in October. She has been given an opportunity to transfer her registration and funds raised to the May 6, 2012 Vancouver half-marathon. Training for that run will begin anew in November. The fundraising goal for the Vancouver run is $1,900. Caroline has already raised $2,595 and so is already well over the goal for her run in May. Once there is an online site for contributions to Vancouver half-marathon in support of Caroline I will post it here.

In the meantime, this moves Janice Love and her participation in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June 2012 to the fore. Janice is currently 18% of the way to her goal of raising $3,200 for blood cancer research. Your support of her ride will be a great encouragement as she trains throughout the fall and winter months. You can make a contribution by visiting Janice's Ride to Conquer Cancer site online.


off the juice

Today marks another small turning point - I am now officially off the juice. This morning I finished the last of three months of a prescription for steroids. For the past few weeks I have been counting down the days and the pills, looking forward to being through this part of the journey. The good news about high doses of steroids is that they reduce the multiple myeloma in preparation for the upcoming stem cell transplant. The bad news is that the side effects of the steroids are multiple, bothersome and grow over time. Throughout the past three months I have had regular breaks from the steroids. Each break becomes more difficult as my body "comes down" from the super-charged energy that it has been ingesting. I expect that the next week will have its share of fatigue and ache as I go off of the steroids for one last time.

In the meantime, we are back from a wonderful and relaxing family vacation with sunny weather, surrounded by our children and grandchildren. I am now into a series of medical tests and appointments in preparation for the procedures that are scheduled next week and the week following. Next Wednesday my stem cells will be collected. In two weeks from today chemotherapy will be used to shut down my bone marrow so that on the next day my stored stem cells can be used to start me up again. While I can't say that I'm looking forward to the side effects that will come as a result of the chemotherapy I can say that I will be glad to be on the other side of that event. Then it will be a case of slowly but surely getting stronger and healthier again.

Many thanks to all who have sent messages of concern and care, along with word of continuing prayer. It means much to me. Thanks to those in Crescent Beach and in Vancouver who have joined the ranks of a volunteer driver's network to help me get to and from Vancouver General Hospital as needed after the stem cell transplant. What a wonderful support network I have. Thanks, too, to those who have committed support to Caroline Penhale's half-marathon in support of blood cancer research. I see that she is now over 80% of the way to her goal, leaving her needing pledges of $605. Your gift in any amount is a big encouragement to us both.