George and I have just two weeks until he begins his BEAM chemo and then the stem cell transplant. The agenda for the next two weeks is:
- Get a triple lumen port put in next week for the apheresis, the chemo, and any possible antibiotics that might be needed.
- Use apheresis (separating George's blood into its components using a centrifuging technique) to collect George's stem cells and then freeze them.
- Give George the BEAM chemo for 6 days starting on March 21st to eradicate all cancer cells in his body, which will also wipe out his bone marrow and his white blood cells.
- Stem cell transplant, giving him back his own stem cells, on March 28th so that he can re-grow his new blood. This will be his "new birthday" when he gets all-new, healthy blood.
- Wait about 12 days until the cells are "engrafted" - this means they have migrated back into his bone marrow and start producing new blood cells, particularly white blood cells. During this time we will be going to the blood center every day to get his blood counts taken.
We went to a training class last week at Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital and got a thick instruction manual on how to handle this whole process. We will have to do a special cleaning of our house before he begins the BEAM chemo, because between March 21 and about April 15th he will have no immune system whatsoever, so he has to be extremely careful not to get exposed to any bacteria, viruses, molds, or fungus. He will be basically quarantined in our house and not allowed any visitors due to the risk of exposure. We have special cleaning instructions as well as special food preparation instructions and a list of foods he can and can't eat.
I will be taking 5 weeks off work starting on March 21st to be his dedicated caregiver - driving him to the blood center every day, preparing meals, keeping everything sanitary, etc. I also have to be there 24 x 7 in case George should spike a temperature or show any other signs of illness so I can rush him to the hospital. It is quite a challenge but I feel I am ready.
Many people have asked how they can help during this time, and I was told at the caregiver training to Ask For and ACCEPT help. Since I am notorious about not accepting help, I am teaching myself to say yes to people who want to help. I have posted a link on the top of this blog to our Helping Calendar. This is hosted by a site called "MyLifeLine.org" specically for cancer patients. The calendar has events posted on it, and it you can go out there and look at them and sign up for any helping event where requested. This calendar also shows what treatments George is getting on what days, so people can keep track. I don't think there is anything out there right now where we do need help, but I will be posting things if we need rides, need meals, need snow shoveling, or logistical errands run. If you want to , you can take a look at the calendar. You should not need to log in to sign up for an activity - let us know if you have difficulty viewing it.
In the next two weeks we are trying to have some fun, because George will probably be feeling pretty tired during the transplant period and will not be able to go out or be in any kinds of crowds. We have been skiing, biking, running, and going out to eat the last few days, enjoying these first few days where it feels like Spring.
But when it comes down to it, we both feel like we're in the last two weeks of training for a Triathlon or maybe an Ironman competition. I've got a laser focus on getting George better. Let's get this thing done. We are both ready to get going and to give this cancer HELL!