The Transplant Begins

On Sunday, Nov. 2, Meg and I will move to our short term apartment in Menlo Park in preparation for the Stem Cell Transplant. The following day, I will be admitted to the Stanford Hospital for the first of two chemotherapy treatments. The first treatment is BCNU which is a unique application that not every transplant center uses. Stanford protocol believes that it gives the best outcome for long term remission. But like many chemotherapies, it’s rooted in an infamous past use. BCNU is, in fact, a derivative of Mustard Gas. Yes, the deadly World War I agent that killed so many.

It has a two month window in which many develop lung problems which must be addressed so watchfulness will be the order of my holiday season. Once I have received the BCNU, I will be sent back to the apartment to recover for a day. On Wednesday, I will return to the Cancer Center and receive the second chemo Melphalan. This treatment has a side effect of mouth and throat sores so that’s no picnic either. I’ll recover for the day and on Friday return to the Center for the actual transplantation of my harvested stem cells.

From what I hear, most go back and sleep for many days until the fourth, fifth or sixth day after transplant when the original blood counts plummet and many recipients are required to re-enter the hospital for transfusions or to fight the infections that can follow. I’m told by my doctor that’s about sixty percent of the patients.

During this time, I’ll be making a daily trip into the Cancer Center for blood tests and potentially treatments of various side effects. No one who goes through the transplant has told me that it is anything other than a difficult ten day period. As one guy, Eric, says, “The cure is as bad as the disease we are fighting.”

On a more positive note, we have been very blessed with the success of the Comedy event. All told, we were the recipients of more than $10,000 in proceeds. It was a great afternoon of fun and laughs and now the costs of the co-payment for the apartment is completely covered. We thank everyone who participated and supported the day. I have not been able to write all of the thank you notes that are appropriate at this point but hope that following that first two weeks of recovery, I will be strong enough to write a few each day.

A Wink of Mischief

There is no question this cancer thing stinks. But the question keeps coming back to me; “Then what’s the difference walking by faith?”

My friend Rob, messaged me the other night, asking about things and encouraging me to look for the *Wink of God’s mischief that might be afoot.

I will admit that those who don’t share my convictions about Jesus might take my comical view of things as a bit perverse or delusional. But like Rob, I’ve found that in every tragic turn, I’ve seen God’s grace in the aftermath. And, just as Pascal argued, what’s the alternative? Nothing that suits my worldview.

As it stands now, I’m going through the mobilization phase of the stem cell transplant. Last Friday, they began the process of killing off all of my white blood cells with a megadose of Cytoxan. For ten to fourteen days, I am fighting off the nausea, avoiding infections and taking daily shots of Neupegen to rebuild stem cell growth. Each day at 1 PM I sit in Meg’s office after she has laid out all the needles and receive those four shots. Then she cleans the Hickman catheter with rinsing injections of Heparin.

Beginning the eighth of October I go in each day to Kaiser to check the growth progress and sometime around the 13th I should be ready to donate my own stem cells.

I took a break from writing this to get those shots and now I’m heading to the front couch to look out on the newly installed plants at the parsonage. The last few days have really stimulated the growth and there are plumes, flowers and new shoots growing. Maybe that’s the wink I’m looking for.