I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and told the only way I would live more than 5 years was to have a Stem Cell Transplant. Witch I was eager to do because I knew I was going to be living much longer then 5 years.
So, I had been put on different chemo drugs and steroid pills, all in preparation for this Stem Cell Transplant. I was molecularly ready and mentally ready, but looking in the mirror, I looked weak and defeated. I did not look like I was healthy and ready for a fight with cancer. But the day came and I was called to the Transplant facility to begin this process of fighting off this damn parasite everyone calls cancer.
I drove myself up knowing full well I was going to be going through one of the toughest periods of my life. I recall the drive and I must say writing it now, it was an ominous feeling. I knew all the parts were in place for this procedure, and I trusted the doctors and staff with my life. You see the reality is, this self-induced process would take me to the edge of the envelope. Right to the brink of death, and then my body would rebuild itself again with the help of my own stem cells. The way I saw it was, I was getting a second chance at life. I would have to do a bit of suffering but, at the other side there was a new life just waiting for me.
After checking into the hospital, it was determined that due to the lack of kidney function, I was a high-risk patient and I would be spending the next 30 days in the hospital. This way they could insure that I did my dialysis treatments and that I would get all my drugs in a timely manner. I would be moments from a doctor if the need ever came up. Constant monitoring and blood work would soon be a part of my normal routine.
As the process started, I was given 400cc’s of Melphalan, a high strength chemo drug. This dosage is 400 time stronger then the suggested amount. This would actually take my blood counts to Zero. I felt this chemical dripping in through the IV and into my body. It felt cold and not natural. It was a bit of an emotional moment for me, as I was scared and not sure of the outcome. After the drip ended, I was filled with a feeling of nausea, like something that I had never felt before. I began to uncontrollably shivering and my temperature starting to go up. I was instructed to eat ice for about 4 hours. This was a treatment for my throat. This chemo would render my throat raw, and I was told it would be hard to swallow and it would hurt to breath if I didn’t eat the ice. Guess what… I ate some ice, for about 4 hours as a matter of fact. Thank goodness I never got a bad case of sores in my throat.
The next day, the time came to receive my stem cells. I was pretty much out of it at this point. I was sick, my whole body was aching, I had no appetite, I was shivering and my temperature was going up. I received 2 or 3 bags of stem cells and at one point they were not sure if they could continue. My temp was going up and I was shivering so much, I must have looked kind of bad. But, they were told that once they started this process, it could not be stopped.
It was 2 days later and my body was getting weaker and weaker, my blood counts were dropping as expected. I at some point I contracted a C-DIF infection and its pretty disgusting. I easily got this as my blood levels were dropping to a critical point. My immune system was also a part of the process. Finally, all my counts hit 0. It was nerve racking sitting in a bed, so sick and waiting for your body to start the fight back to where it knew it needed to be. I had the mentality for this fight but, I had to trust and wait for my body to do what I knew it needed to do.
Going through all this and not having the strength to even get out of bed was to say the least humbling. It was at this point I realized that I was trapped in my own head. All of the things leading up to this point was like watching television. I felt like I was looking at my life as though it was a reality show and I was the main character. I was watching myself go through everything and it was on a loop and it never turned off. When I slept, I would dream about it, when I was lying in bed sick and with no strength it was running through all my thoughts.
As if I wasn’t dealing with enough things at this point, I was taken 3 times a week to a dialysis unit. It was during one of my treatments that I fell asleep only to woken up with a closed fist rubbing my sternum violently. My heart had gone into a defibration and a code blue was called. I opened my eyes to see a group of highly trained professionals around me and a couple of defib paddles being readied. One person said his eyes are open and they began to ask me if I knew where I was, what was going on and who the president was. After answering all the questions correctly, they started to explain to me that they were called because I was in a distressing situation, but everything looked ok now. After I was finished with my treatment and back in my room, I was then assigned a cardiologist, and put on heart medications that made me feel even worse.
After the heart issue in the dialysis unit I was taken to ICU where I stayed for 5 days. I was basically monitored around the clock to ensure that my heart stayed beating as it was designed to do. Then my hair started to fall out. Every time I got up to use the bathroom I would return to find my bead covered in hair. I asked the nurse if someone could come and shave my head. I wanted to be in control of my hair loss not the chemical. A short time later a gentle man showed up with a razor and asked how much did I want off. I told him take it all because it was just falling out anyway. He obliged me and before I knew it was done. My new look for the next 6 to 8 months, and it was one less thing to have to think about.
I was working with an oncology team, a transplant team, a dialysis team and now a cardiology team, and all I could do is just lay in the bed and suffer. I felt myself getting weaker and weaker by the day. I was released from the hospital at day 27 and spent the next 30 days recovering in the Hope Lodge. Most of this time was spent in bed, sleeping on and off, going to the doctor’s office on a daily basis, dialysis treatments 3 days a week. And the whole time I was trying to make myself eat, as the weight was quickly dropping. I would look at myself in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at me. My skin was loose and my arms and legs were shrinking by the day.
Finally, all the counts started to increase. That was the best feeling. Knowing that my body was catching up with my desire to live. I was not feeling better physically, but my immune system was coming back and blood counts were within recognizable ranges once again. On the 30th day at the hope lodge, it was decided by all the doctors and teams working on my case, it was time to finish the healing process back at my home, and the real recovery would begin.