Monday, March 21, 2011

Collection done: hey, I'm leaking: man tears at work: the big game starts today!

Well, it's been a busy few days and I wanted to update you on how things are going.

On Thursday we completed the stem cell collection process. I have 2.36 million of my stem cells frozen and waiting for me in Denver. One thing I didn't realize until Thursday was the blood volumes involved in the process. They were processing 110 ml/minute through me for five hours. That works out 60*110*5 = 33 liters of blood. Assume roughly 6 liters/blood volume for an adult male and that equals getting my entire blood volume pumped through the machine about 5 1/2 times. Crazy! Another little tidbit - they preheat the blood before they give it back to you so they're not pumping room temperature fluid back into your heart. A very nice touch - without the preheat you could imagine that this might be a pretty good mechanism for getting hypothermic pretty quickly. At the end of the day my platelets were down to 11 which is pretty close to when you need a platelet transfusion. So the infusion nurses sent me home with instructions to be careful about brushing my teeth, not cut myself, etc. as my clotting function would be pretty bad.

On Thursday evening we thought to go out to eat to celebrate the completion of the collection process. I took a nap while Susan went out for a run. As I got up from my nap, I felt like I was sweating on my chest. Lifted up my shirt and - nope - not sweating. Blood oozing out of the catheter in my chest, pooling under the bandage and then leaking down my chest. Yikes! Welcome, instant hemophilia! Although the total blood that leaked out was probably only a couple of CCs, it was kind of freaky. We called the doc on call and he suggested putting pressure - lots of pressure - on the incision site to help. So we spent a couple of hours thinking up interesting ways to apply cold and pressure to my chest. Watching TV with Susan's head lying on my chest, applying pressure with my hands, lying on the bed with some heavy books on my bandage. Nothing like a little mechanical problem to bring out the creative problem solving skills of an engineer! I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night - am I leaking? Blood flowing out of my chest? Nope, those little platelets were happily growing over night and in the morning I am Clotting Boy. I head over to my oncologist in Boulder and they change the dressing and I'm back in business. I've posted a graphic picture of the bloody mess at the end of this post if you want the whole visual effect...

A busy Friday tying up loose ends and then we have our every-once-in-awhile Friday Beer Thirty happy hour at work. On Friday, though, some inspired coworkers (thx Dave for organizing!) have gathered together a bunch of gifts to help me with my time off. Some nice beanie hats to keep my bald noggin warm, a few gag fits, a couple of puzzles and a shiny, brand new iPad2. At this point I'm getting pretty embarrassed by the whole thing and decide to give people a quick summary of what the next six weeks hold for me. Things go pretty well until I start talking about how much I care about the company and the people. And, uh-oh, here come the man tears. I go into uber-geek mode and look at my shoes for a few seconds to try to collect myself. I suspect that there were some other damp eyes in the room as well but I was too busy looking at the carpet while I tried to collect myself.

The rest of the weekend is spent getting final logistics set for the chemo/transplant process. I managed to get a nice little bike ride in on Saturday. 3 Teat Pete made an appearance on Morgul Bismarck:

It felt really good to get on the bike and enjoy the nice weather and do a tiny bit of hill work. Susan and I are planning on doing the Copper Triangle and we've both got a lot of work in front of us before we'll be ready for that day. Saturday night we had a nice time at dinner with Kyle and Emma at Zucca and then we dumped those light weights and headed over to the Waterloo for some pretty good blues. Downtown L-town on a  Saturday night - crazy times! I am also happy (?) to discover potentially the worst martini I've had to date - the Genoa. Some bad combination of gin, vermouth, and various Italian liquors. Not good. To be avoided...
Sunday we focused on final house details - laying in lots of healthy food, final cleaning tasks, getting a run in, etc. I managed to catch up with Caitlyn on a video skype session - it's amazing how the video aspect makes the emotional connection so much stronger than a phone call. Over dinner  I was remembering the night before my mother's surgery when she had breast cancer and how scared I was by that as it was the first time I was really confronted with the mortality of someone I really cared about. Susan and I had a powerful conversation about dealing with the hard times in life and I was again struck by how lucky I am to have such an awesome partner to help me through this. Every once in a while over the last year I've thanked Susan and told her I was sorry that I was doing this to her. But at some point you realize that these comments don't mean too much. When you have a soul mate in your life, this is just what you do. You can't imagine not being there for the person and going through it with them. We thought back through the years we've known each other and all the hard things - divorces, deaths of family members, cancer. But really, there have been so, so many good times. Our beautiful four children, weddings, graduations, great travel, the million soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse games, all the great musicals and plays our children have given us. So this current period is probably going to be pretty hard but we'll get through it together. As always!

I thought I would have a really hard time sleeping last night due to pre-game jitters but it wasn't too bad. Woke up a few times but managed to get a pretty good night's sleep. I think the big talk over dinner cleared my head and put me in a good mental state. I feel healthy, we've done all our due diligence to get the house ready for this next couple of weeks.

So now we're here at the CBCI  clinic getting loaded with electrolytes in preparation for the first dose of chemo that'll start in an hour or so. Because I'll be a bubble boy during the process (neutropenic) I've got my own room. We've got iPads, laptops, smart phones to keep us busy as I suspect that we'll be doing a bunch of sitting around over the next week while my body gets lots of nasty chemicals and also lots of supporting fluids and such. Here's a picture of Susan checking out a Portlandia session on the iPad:
Well, that's about it for now. More blogging as the mood strikes.

And as promised, if you're interested in the picture of my chest after the little leaking episode on Thursday evening, scroll down to see the results of that little incident.