Wednesday, September 30, 2009

She's no lightweight...

Stem cell collection goal was 10 million. In one day of collection (3 hours to be exact) we far exceeded the goal and collected 76.8 million.

It's amazing how God reveals his will.

I won't bore you with all of today's details because that's the only one that matters.

Hopefully heading home tomorrow for a few days of rest and relaxation after a quick visit to the cancer center. We'll get at least a week off before returning for high dose chemo and reinfusion.

Little Belle Mitchell needs your prayers. She's the 2 year old daughter of the youth pastor of our church. An orange sized tumor was removed from her brain yesterday and she is in ICU. I pray that God heals her little body.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's collection time!

WBCs were through the roof today-- up to 26,000 from 3,100 yesterday. It's time for stem cell collection!
CD 34 Results: Needed at least 10 and had 864! Nurse Carolyn said she holds the record!!
We had a rough morning -- momma woke up with a migraine and nausea/vomiting. After some meds from the cancer center she pretty much slept all day. Seems to be feeling much better now.
We have to be at St. Francis bright and early tomorrow -- it's going to be a long day but we're glad it's time for collection!! Collection typically takes 2-5 days. Momma is shooting for three and I'm shooting for two. Who knows, maybe we'll get 10 million in one day -- it's possible.
More tomorrow.

Fighting Like A Girl

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ten minutes after I wrapped up last nights post momma took her temperature and it was 101. Per our instructions we paged the on call nurse to find out what we should do. We also told her about the intense back pain. She said the fever was probably what they call an engraftment fever and a result of a big surge in WBCs. She also said to take Tylenol and increase fluids. We made it through the night just fine and headed straight to the cancer center first thing this morning. Nurse Carolyn hooked her up to an IV antibiotic and drew her daily labwork as well as blood cultures.

The back pain and fever last night were definitely GOOD signs! Her WBCs jumped from .4 on Sunday morning to 3,000 this morning! *Insert Devin Hester end zone dance here* If WBCs are at 5,000 tomorrow morning she'll be able to have the CD 34 test to see if there are enough baby stem cells floating around for collection.

Nurse Carolyn also took her off lock down -- meaning she can go out in public! No more MJ mask! Our first stop post lock down -- TJMAXX of course (well after a yummy lunch at Strossners).

Hopefully we'll have even more good news to share tomorrow!

Fighting Like A Girl

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feeling sucker punched...

but that's not a bad thing! Major back pain tonight -- but that's a GREAT sign!! It means the neupogen shots are doing their thing and hopefully we'll have TONS of stem cells when it's time for collection. There was a little spike in WBCs this morning so that's a GREAT sign as well! We're thinking she'll be ready for collection on Tuesday or Wednesday!!

Jess & EJ came to visit us today. I got to sneak out for lunch with EJ and Jess stayed at the hotel and cooked lunch for momma. Lib also came over and brought us a yummy dinner.

Hopefully we'll get through collection this week fairly quickly before a major case of cabin fever sets in.....

Thanks for all of your prayers and words of encouragement!

Fighting Like A Girl

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yesterdays trip to the cancer center was a quick one. Labwork will continue to taken daily to monitor the recovery of her WBCs. Once the count gets to 5.0 (hopefully Monday or Tuesday) a peripheral blood sample will be tested to see if there are enough baby stem cells ready for collection. They are also monitoring her hemoglobin and platelets -- transplant patients typically need to be given blood and/or platelets. Nurse Carolyn didn't see a need for blood, platelets, or fluids yesterday after she saw the labwork results. Momma has been put on 2 antibiotics to help fight any potential infections since she's so vulnerable right now.

Since the cancer center is closed on the weekends we have to go over to St. Francis for weekend labwork. We made our way there this morning, wondering if they'd be as confused as they were last time we were there. When we walked in the nurse said "so it's been 12 days since your transplant?" I immediately thought, "here we go again". We set her straight (no we're only in the mobilization stage) and she seemed to be okay after that. A quick blood draw and review of lab results and we were on our way. We'll return tomorrow for labwork -- hopefully we'll see those WBCs starting to recover.

It's a rainy chilly morning here. Momma is writing thank you notes to tons of people who've been so kind to her during all of this. I'm going to finish up my new Nicholas Sparks book -- none of his books will ever compare to The Notebook.

Also, we found out yesterday that my dad's sister was admitted to the hospital. She's on our minds today.

Fighting Like A Girl

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last Friday was pretty uneventful. We went in for the last round of cytoxin then Momma decided she felt like making the drive to my house to spend the night before I took her home Saturday. Got her to my house Friday afternoon and she went straight to bed. That ativan really knocks her out not to mention the wacky dreams she has when she takes it.

On Saturday, we loaded her in the car and took her to Scattertown for the weekend. I know my dad was glad to have her home for a few days. While I was there I taught Daddy how to use Skype. For those of you that know my dad, you'll understand how foreign that was for him. However, he got the hang of it and managed to Skype with momma for 30 minutes this afternoon. That was definitely a first -- for both of them actually. It was pretty funny listening to momma try to talk to Abby (the dog) via webcam.....

I went back to pick her up on Tuesday and we returned to Greenville Wednesday morning to start neupogen. Neupogen basically helps release stem cells into the blood for collection. We were told that collection numbers are better when neupogen is given at night so that means one of us had to step up and become the official shot giver -- that would be me. I watched nurse Carolyn give the shot yesterday, then I was able to practice on fake skin.

We went back in to the cancer center today for labwork and another neupogen shot administered by yours truly. Nurse Christy supervised and said I did a great job and can now begin giving her the shots on my own at the hotel.

There was a glitch with her port and they couldn't pull the blood they needed for labwork so they took it from her arm. Hopefully whatever was wrong with it today will have worked itself out by tomorrow. Labwork is doing what it is supposed to be doing at this time -- she's officially neutropenic. So she's channeling Michael Jackson with her mask and is on the hunt for some big sunglasses and a Fedora-- let's hope she doesn't start calling me Blanket. I'll leave you with our Week 2 photo.

Fighting Like A Girl

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I promise I haven't abandoned this! So much for this being a "daily account".
Full update coming tomorrow -- I've been busy learning how to inject momma with $500 a pop Neupogen shots....

PS: She's doing GREAT!!

Fighting Like A Girl

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 2: Blow by Blow

Momma woke up with hiccups again this morning and a little nausea (which we think was a result of the hiccups). Ativan seems to be the cure for both so far.

Lab work this morning showed low Calcium and Potassium levels. Two TUMS and potassium pills have now been added to the daily pill regimen.

Got hooked up for her chemo cocktail and snoozed on and off most of the morning. The ativan seems to cause a little drowsiness.

We also met another multiple myeloma patient. He had tandem SCTs and has been enlightening us about his experience. Some of it good -- some of it not so good. It's been good to hear his story though.

I was able to spend most of the day in the treatment room instead of the lobby. They didn't seem to be quite as busy as they were yesterday.

We wrapped up around midday and went to find some lunch. We toured Target -- Momma realized that after Wednesday of next week she won't be able to go out in public for awhile so she needed to get her Target fix. Made our way back to the hotel -- I spent the afternoon working while Momma enjoyed a 4 hour nap.

She seems to be feeling okay this evening -- wasn't too interested in her soup at dinner. I think she was still groggy from her nap.

We're hoping to head home after chemo tomorrow. We'll have to be back next week to start Neupogen shots.

Also, if anyone needs our temporary address while we're here let me know and I'll send it to you via email.

HUGE thanks to our prayer warriors out there.

Fighting Like A Girl

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 1: Blow by Blow

Arrived at the cancer center and got checked in.

Met our transplant nurse -- Carolyn -- she's awesome.

Vital Signs.

Got hooked up to the IV to start chemo.

Enjoyed a 6 hour cocktail of cytoxin and V16.

I was banished to the lobby at one point because the transplant area was so busy. No worries though -- I set up my mobile office and got tons of work done.

Moved to a private room just in time for lunch.

Spent the afternoon making several potty trips (had to have lasix due to low output) and watching Food Network/avoiding the Soaps.

Tammy came to visit us (not sure of her title but she's been super helpful with all of the paperwork, insurance, questions, etc) and she's pretty awesome too. She and momma spoke insurance language for a few minutes since they're both insurance gurus -- me not so much.

Momma got a very stylish tote bag to take home with her -- 2 liters of fluid that she'll have to stay attached to all night.

Carolyn told us all of the side effects she might experience -- tiredness, nausea, all the typical side effects of chemo. Of course the weirdest side effect she listed is the only one we've experienced tonight --- hiccups. They're gone now but it was touch and go for awhile there -- kidding of course.

All in all today was a pretty good day. Carolyn was even kind enough to snap a quick photo for us to document the "special occasion". I'm probably going to be in trouble for putting this on here....

Fighting Like A Girl

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Slap Happy

A quick post before bed --- today was probably the best day we've had since diagnosis in April of 2008.

We saw the oncologist today at the cancer center. She used the word "gorgeous" 10+ times when referring to momma's lab work results.

Bone marrow biopsy results show NO RESIDUAL EVIDENCE OF MYELOMA!! We couldn't be going in to Day 1 of transplant tomorrow without a better outlook.

Long day ahead of us tomorrow at the cancer center -- 6 hours of chemo.


Fighting Like A Girl

Monday, September 14, 2009

Punch Drunk

We made our way to St. Francis today for our "orientation" appointment. The transplant team at the cancer center told us it would be alot of "hoopla" and they were right.

We arrived to the transplant floor only to be greeted by a few dazed and confused nurses (hence today's blog title). Momma's paperwork wasn't there nor was she in the hospital system -- not the nurses fault but there was quite a bit of confusion to start. I was a little put off by it all but they were super sweet so I forgave them pretty quickly.

After signing paperwork and reviewing her medical history (aka hoopla) we got a brief tour of the stem cell collection room. Lucky for us the collection room is brand new and furnished with huge leather heated recliners with built in television monitors. Transplant patients had to spend collection days in regular hospital rooms in the past - yuck. The collection process (also known as apheresis) typically takes 1-5 days and can last 3-6 hours per day. We're shooting to get those 10 million cells in less than 2 days! We also got a quick "here's how it works" of the apheresis machine. The machine separates stem cells from the red cells, white cells, and platelets. Pretty amazing technology.

We return to the cancer center tomorrow for an appointment with the oncologist and to review final details regarding the transplant.

Huge thanks to those of you who are keeping up with us. Your thoughts and prayers mean so much.

Fighting Like A Girl

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And In This Corner - Stem Cell Transplant

Momma and I head to Greenville tomorrow for orientation at St. Francis -- should be tons of fun. We'll then spend Tuesday at the Cancer Center reviewing lab results and last minute details regarding the stem cell transplant aka SCT.
The SCT begins on Wednesday so I thought I'd provide a little info on what exactly will be happening over the next 11 weeks.

Mobilization - chemo before collection of stem cells
Week 1: Mobilization Starts
Chemotherapy is given this week to treat the disease and stimulate production of stem cells.
Week 2: Neupogen Starts
Labwork, Antibiotics, and Neupogen shots. Neupogen shots help release stem cells into the blood.
Week 3: Apheresis begins based on stem cell recovery
Stem cell collection will begin most likely this week. Exact day depends on when her counts get to the target range for collection -- our collection goal is 10 million. Need 4 million to do 2 transplants.
Week 4: Obvervation
Repeat chemo if neccsary.

1-2 weeks of REST!! WOOHOO!!

High Dose
Week 1 HD: High Dose and Reinfusion
2 Days of Melphalan (very bad stuff - google it if you don't believe me) followed by reinfusion of stem cells
Week 2 HD: Lab Work & Supportive Care
Week 3 -4 HD: Lab Work & Supportive Care

Let's hope we don't need very much supportive care during the last 3 weeks --- we're going to fight like girls so we don't!!

Fighting Like A Girl

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tale Of The Tape

In the early Spring of 2008 my mom was being treated by an orthopedic doctor for what we believed to be a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder. After weeks of no improvement, an MRI was ordered and our lives changed. The MRI revealed a tumor.

A biopsy confirmed that the tumor was a plasmacytoma.

Plasmacytoma is a form of cancer that begins in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. In this type of cancer, the abnormal plasma cells collect in one location and form a single tumor, called a plasmacytoma. Plasmacytoma of the bone often becomes Multiple Myeloma (and it did in my mom's case), meaning that it affects more than one bone.

At this point my mom became a patient at the Cancer Center of the Carolinas in Greenville.

Radiation therapy for the plasmacytoma began immediately and ended mid summer of 2008. For several months we were in sort of a holding pattern -- which we didn't mind at all!! Mom's oncologist felt like her lab work results (I'll attempt to explain the different lab work markers for MM in a later post) didn't present a need to proceed with further treatment at the time.

In December of 2008 she started experiencing hip pain -- we hoped it was just arthritis and not another plasmacytoma. A full body bone scan confirmed the presence of another tumor -- not in her hip but in her left shoulder. This news resulted in a second bone marrow biopsy (first one was done around the time of diagnosis). However, her oncologist still saw no need to proceed with more evasive treatment.

In March of 2009 a 50th birthday visit to the oncologist ended with news that it was time begin an even bigger battle against multiple myeloma. The protocol was to begin with induction chemo to prepare for a stem cell transplant. She started with oral chemo -- a combination of dexamethasone and revlimid. By June we realized this course of treatment wasn't doing the trick (lab work results and constant allergic reactions). Her treatment plan was changed to 4 cycles of IV Chemo -- a cocktail of Velcade, Dex, and Doxil which lasted throughout the months of June, July, and August. In late August we returned to the oncologist to review her most recent lab results hoping the induction chemo was a success and we'd be able to move on to the stem cell transplant.

Here's a snapshot of the results:
Protein Spike: Not Observed -- GREAT NEWS!
Free Light Chains: 1700 (Before Induction Therapy) 112 (After) -- GREAT NEWS!

So now it's time to move forward with the stem cell transplant. I will assume the roll of "caregiver" during this process. My dad will take over when he's able to be away from work. My sister (a junior in college) will assist when she can as well. My mom and I will temporarily relocate to Greenville for the 11 week process.

I decided to start this blog to chronicle our journey and to keep our friends and family informed as we go through the stem cell transplant. I ask that anyone who reads this to do the following: Pray for my mom, pray for the doctors and nurses who care for her, pray for our family, and pray that I'll be able to be the rock that she needs right now.

Fighting Like A Girl