Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 42: Thankful

It's a special Thanksgiving for us this year. We have quite a bit to be thankful for.

  • Hot air balloons named Rosie
  • The awesome hotel staff at the Homewood Suites
  • Ativan
  • ReRe - our housekeeeper for 8 weeks
  • Our transplant nurses Carolyn & Christy at the cancer center
  • DAB pumps - say no to nausea!
  • No mouthsores!
  • 76.8 million stem cells collected in 1 day
  • Our prayer warriors
  • The cards and letters that were sent each week during the SCT
  • No hospital stays!
  • Our Fighting Like A Girl readers

We've been trying to get back to normal around here. It seems like I have been on the road for work since we were discharged. Momma is recovering at home and doing great. She still can't be out in large crowds. She's been keeping herself busy organizing kitchen cabinets. We'll return to Greenville in late January for her 100 day evaluation. They'll determine at that time what the next steps will be -- maintenance chemo or a second transplant. We're ready to take on either! Happy Thanksgiving!

Fighting Like A Girl

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


We've officially been discharged. More details tomorrow. Is it possible to forget what your forks look like in 8 weeks? Apparently so.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 24 : Into the heavens on a hot air balloon named Rosie

Today was one of those days where you know when your head hits the pillow you'll take a huge sigh and realize exactly how amazing the day really was.

Our day started at 4:30 am after a night of crazy heartburn, parking lot fights, and hardly any sleep. Momma loaded up on a few preventative meds hoping Ativan and Lomotil would prevent any potential flight disturbances. We made our way to the Anderson civic center in the dark, got checked in and waited on our balloon pilot to come find us. We were greeted by our pilot Wayne's mom and made our way over to watch Rosie get ready for take off.

Wayne briefed us on what to expect during the flight and the landing. We signed a forest of documents that reminded us over and over that ballooning is "inherently dangerous". Not much different than the pre-transplant documents Momma signed that said "oh by the way, your transplant might not work and you could possibly kick the bucket". We're all about taking risks around here.

The balloon was ready for take off so we hopped in the basket and Wayne's mom snapped a quick photo of us before take off.
The take off was really smooth and we were quickly high above the trees. Lib was wishing she wouldn't have passed up an Ativan around this time but she settled in after about 15 minutes.

A few shots from the air.

We stayed in the air for about an hour and 15 minutes before landing in a paved entrance to an Anderson neighborhood. The landing was alot easier than I was expecting -- well after avoiding a set of power lines that Wayne didn't seem to see at first. After Wayne and the chase crew got Rosie stuffed back into her bag they asked us to help get the rest of the air out of her.

We loaded in the chase car and made our way back to the launch field for a champagne toast. Today was a great day -- a memory that I'll hold on to forever. Thanks to Wayne and his crew for an amazing morning.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 22

Liver enzyme levels are still elevated but much better than they have been. The transplant nurse still has us scheduled for discharge on Tuesday!
We're planning to check out the Greenville Open Studios event tomorrow and going on a sunrise hot air balloon ride at the Balloons Over Anderson festival on Sunday. Great way to wrap up our stint in Greenville!

Fighting Like A Girl

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 19

There's a light at the end of the tunnel and we're getting closer to it. We got to play hookey today from the cancer center -- we slept late, ate breakfast, and got ourselves ready for a visit with Papa (Momma's Daddy) and Ms. Jo (Papa's little lady).

Background story on Papa and his little lady --- I met Ms. Jo while lifeguarding one summer before leaving for college. Her husband had passed away and she spent her days sitting by the pool with me soaking up some Vitamin D and watching her grandkids swim. I'd mentioned my handsome Papa to her a few times and one hot August day he just happened to stop by the pool for a visit -- conveniently while she was there. They seemed to hit it off during their first encounter but Papa played hard to get for a month or so and didn't call to ask Ms. Jo out until the Fall. He always says that he told her he'd call just not when he'd call.....always the jokester. They had their first official date and have been together ever since --- 8 fun filled years or is it 9?? Ms. Jo has become a part of our family and in a way a quasi grandmother for my sister and I. She was the stand in bride during my rehearsal and was seated as a grandmother would be during the wedding. I know they both drive each other crazy sometimes but I can't imagine the last few years any other way.

Back to today -- we headed out tonight for a red meat fest at The Peddler Steakhouse here in Greenville. Papa ordered the prime rib well done, then I convinced him to change it to medium. It of course came out bloody as a stuck pig (not a big deal for me or my dad) but not so appetizing for the cowboy. He's convinced food gets spit on when you send it back -- we sent it back anyway for a little more heat. Momma and I split a ribeye which was decent, Lib had chicken, and Ms Jo had a very well done ribeye. I was definately intrigued by their massive salad bar. I'm wondering if I can convice the chefs at Morrision to start putting Vienna sausages on the salad bars in our cafes??? That was a first and no I didn't put them on my salad.

Overall the food was good but the company was better. It's been nearly 6 weeks since Momma has seen anyone besides her caretakers (me, Jess, Daddy, and Lib) and the folks at the cancer center so it was nice to see them. If we all disappear next week it's because we packed up and headed to the Keys --- I'm hoping my Florida fever rubbed off on the great traveler.....

Oh and about the light at the end of the tunnel --- we could possibly be going home next week. :)

Fighting Like A Girl

Monday, November 2, 2009

Still Fighting

We're still here! Last week's work meeting in ATL was crazy busy and left little time for updates. Beyond a week long migraine and elevated liver enzyme levels there wasn't much to report.
Daddy stepped in and did a great job as caretaker for the week.

We went in to the cancer center this morning for labwork. No need for fluids today. Liver enzyme levels are still elevated however they've gotten significantly better since Friday.

We get a day off tomorrow -- Papa and Ms Joe are coming up for a visit. We'll have to be back at the cancer center on Wednesday for labwork.

I'll leave you with the Week 6 Photo

Fighting Like A Girl

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick Update

Super quick update before I head down to my meeting.

Engraftment happened Sunday! She's no longer neutropenic and was released from lock down yesterday! No more extra fluid bag to carry around either.

I think she and daddy went out to celebrate last night -- for his birthday AND for her. :)

How GREAT is our God?

Fighting Like A Girl

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 9 & 10

Just arrived at the outpatient center at St. Francis for weekend labs, fluids, and doc appointment. We've been here for 45 minutes already and she's only had her BP and weight taken. No labwork yet which means the doctor will be here before the lab results are. Fluids haven't been hung yet either which means we'll be here even longer than we need to be. Not sure what the deal is but they need to get moving.
ETA: Fluids are going. The doctor came in and said things were looking good (no need for blood products today -- something they mentioned possibly needing yesterday). Sigh of relief. Labwork is back and looks good. WBCs are up to 2900.


Blood pressure yesterday was significantly better. WBCs were up to 500 from 200 on Friday. Lab results didn't show neutrophil counts so I can't report on those. She also had to have fluids.

Lib (momma's sister) came and took over for the afternoon so I could do a little shopping. EJ also came down for dinner and a movie -- I can't believe it had been two weeks since we'd seen each other.

I forgot to mention a few posts back that she started neupogen shots again on Wednesday. She's not experiencing any bone pain yet like last time. We're becoming pros at changing fluid bags, operating pumps, and giving shots. The neupogen shots as well as antibiotics will stop when neutrophils reach 15,000.

I'm leaving for a week long meeting in Atlanta later today. Lib will be staying with momma tonight and Daddy will be here tomorrow afternoon to take over for the week. Should be an easy week for him especially if she's taken off of lock down mid week as expected.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and well wishes!

Fighting Like A Girl

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 8

We're on the upswing! Counts are rebounding and the transplant nurse thinks momma will be out of this neutropenic stage by Monday! WBCs are up to 200 from 100 yesterday. Monocytes are up to 44%. She had to get extra fluids today and yesterday because of her low blood pressure. They decided to put her on two BP meds today that should help. BP this morning was 78/60 --- probably due to the dehydration which is due to the diarrhea. She was dizzy this morning when we were getting ready to leave for the cancer center so she's taking it slow when moving around.
The transplant nurse commented today that typically on Day 8 transplant patients have to be wheeled to the transplant unit in a wheelchair. No need for a wheelchair here!! Not surprising considering how great things have gone thus far.
The absence of the DAB pump hasn't been much of an issue. She's been able to control any nausea she's had with her ativan. As long as she keeps something in her stomach at all times she seems to do pretty well. She's been snacking on cheese, crackers, and cookies. Cheerios seem to hit the spot in the morning too.
Her love for sweet tea can't be quenched -- the transplant nurse warned her that she should probably stay away from her "favorites" for now so she doesn't develop an aversion to them later. She couldn't seem to find a beverage that tasted right -- she tried tea, Sierra Mist, Coke, juice -- nothing seemed to work. So we stopped at the gas station on the way home from the cancer center and I loaded up on a variety of beverage options for her to try. Her first test was a Sun Drop -- go figure it tasted good and she requested a 2 liter when I went to Walmart for groceries. Who's going to drink all of these odd ball drinks now?

Fighting Like A Girl

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We're still here! I made it back from my Philly work trip around 8:30 last night. Daddy was on cancer center duty on Monday. Jessica was on duty yesterday. They both did an excellent job filling in for me while I was gone. I didn't like being gone for the short time I was. I'm attending my company's national meeting in Atlanta next week and will be gone for 5 days -- Daddy will be here while I'm gone. I'll try my best to keep everyone up to date on her daily progress while I'm gone.

Momma had to be given extra fluids yesterday because her blood pressure dropped when she went from sitting to standing. Other than diarrhea, lack of appetite/taste, and low energy she seems to be doing pretty good considering what her body has been through. She's still neutropenic and will be for a few more days. Cancer center visit today was a quick one. Fluids and labwork. They also gave her a script for the diarrhea so she can try something other than Imodium. They reduced her DAB pump yesterday to try and start weaning her off the nausea meds. The transplant nurse mentioned trying to remove it completely tomorrow. She'll still be able to take meds by mouth. Let's hope that goes well -- it's not the most stylish accessory. But I must say there's only been 1 vomiting episode so that little bag of meds has done it's job!

One thing I noticed today --- the transplant nurse and nurse practitioner seemed so surprised that she hasn't developed mouth sores yet. It was kinda like they were disappointed when she opened her mouth and they didn't see any -- I know that's terrible to say but that's my observation. Hey she beat the record for stem cell collection why can't she beat the odds and not get mouth sores? I'm just saying.

Also, Google Analytics says we're getting visitors/readers from 13 states and 10 countries. Who are you guys? We'd love to hear where you're from and what brought you to our blog!

I'll leave you with our Week 5 photo. Channeling Michael Jackson and still smiling.

Fighting Like A Girl

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Update

We spent the morning at the cancer center for labwork and to see Dr. F. Counts were still in the normal range. They sent us home with fluids -- so now she's carrying the DAB bag and a 2 pound fluid bag. They gave us 2 extra bags and taught me how to change them on Saturday and Sunday.
We tried to venture out to the grocery store Friday afternoon. We'd barely made it out of the hotel parking lot when we had to pull over to puke. She'd been sleeping and got up to go fairly quickly so we think she didn't take the trip out to the car slow enough. No puking after that.

We made our way to the outpatient unit at St. Francis (the cancer center is closed on weekends) for labwork. We also saw Dr. F since she was on call this weekend -- all transplant patients are seen every day after transplant. They increased dosage on the DAB pump - it had been decreased on Friday and Dr. F thought it may have caused her increased nausea on Friday. She also gave us a script for Zofran to take as needed. Counts were still in the normal range Saturday.
Daddy arrived Saturday night to spend a few days so I can take a quick work trip out of town Monday and Tuesday.

Back to St. Francis this morning for labwork again and to see Dr. F. They always check her BP sitting and standing -- she had a drop in BP when she stood up this morning so they decided to give her fluids.
The outpatient unit was insane when we got there. Every chair was full of patients, the nurses were behind, and the phones were ringing off the hook. The nurse taking blood from momma's port was talking on the phone the entire time regarding a patient who was being admitted. She ended up getting the patients name mixed up (actually used momma's first name) and wasn't even close to saying the correct last name. I wanted to say "Listen, we aren't in any kind of hurry today. Get the other patient admitted then come focus on us. I'm not impressed by your lack of multitasking skills." Everything finally settled down. We saw the doc and got the heck out of there.
Jessica was able to come today to celebrate her birthday a day early -- I can't believe she'll be 20 tomorrow. We went to lunch at Cracker Barrel (your favorite place PaPa!) then opened presents and had cake back at the hotel. She'll be spending the new two days with momma as well while I'm out of town.

I wonder if I can convince one of them (Jess or Daddy) to update this while I'm gone for two days?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 0: Blow by Blow

We've been waiting for reinfusion day for the last 4.5 weeks.

We began the morning with labwork followed by premeds - Benadryl, Ativan, and Tylenol. The transplant nurses let me watch while they prepared the two bags of stem cells for reinfusion.

The SCs arrived an an R2D2 like contraption.

The bags then had to take a warm bath to thaw out.
Each bag took about 10 minutes. Each bag was checked, double checked, and tripled checked to make sure they were her stem cells before they bags were hung.

The transplant nurse monitored her temperature, BP, and heart rate during the entire process. Getting those babies back is alot less complicated than giving them up!
We'd read and heard that the preservative used to store the stem cells gives off a garlic like smell after reinfusion. It definitely smells like Olive Garden in our room tonight. Momma can't smell it but I can. It's only supposed to last 24 - 48 hours. It's not nearly as bad as the time EJ ate an entire bulb of roasted I can live with it.
Still on the DAB bag and she was also given a fluid bag for the night.
She doesn't have much of an appetite and has been napping pretty much all afternoon. Today was a good day -- a day that gives us hope for the future. On the other side of this, if she reaches CR, the garlic smell will all be worth it....

Side note --- Michael McKean played on behalf of the International Multiple Myeloma Foundation on the Jeopardy Celebrity Invitational tonight. He won and $50,000 is being donated to IMF!!! AWESOME!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 cannot invade the soul...

I think we're both in a weird funk today. Maybe it's the crappy weather. Hopefully it will be gone tomorrow -- the crappy weather and the weird funk.

Went in to the cancer center for lab work and fluids today. Lab work still looks good -- should start seeing those counts drop early next week.

Reinfusion is tomorrow. Nurse Carolyn told us today she'd be getting 32 million stem cells back!!

I saw this poem on the wall at the cancer center. Thought I would share it with our readers.

Cancer is so limited. . .

It cannot cripple love,

It cannot shatter hope,

It cannot corrode faith,

It cannot eat away peace,

It cannot kill friendship,

It cannot silence courage,

It cannot invade the soul,

It cannot reduce eternal life,

It cannot destroy confidence,

It cannot shut out memories,

It cannot quench the spirit,

It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

Though the physical body may be destroyed by disease, the spirit can remain triumphant. If disease has invaded your body, refuse to let it touch your spirit. Your body can be severely afflicted, and you may have a struggle, But if you keep trusting God's love, your spirit will remain strong.
Why must I bear this pain? I cannot tell;I only know my Lord does all things well.And so I trust in God, my all in all.For He will bring me through, whatever befall.

Our greatest enemy is not disease, but despair.

--Author unknown

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

High Dose Day 2 -- alot like Day 1

Not much to report today. Second and final day of Melphalan. We will return to the cancer center tomorrow for labwork and fluids. She feels pretty good -- using the "give me more" button on the DAB pump when she needs it. Reinfusion aka DAY 0 will be Thursday. I've read a few other blogs of MM patients who refer to reinfusion as a birthday. Maybe there will be cake? Let's hope it's chocolate.

Speaking of dessert -- we treated ourselves to this heavenly delight today. Good thing the gym is right down the hall from our room.

Monday, October 12, 2009

High Dose Day 1 in Pictures

Melphalan - has to hide out in a kryptonite green bag because it's sensitive to light. That's it's only weakness -- this stuff is no joke kids.
Nonstop popsicles to prevent mouth sores.

More popsicles...

Accessories are a girl's best friend.

Excited about the DAB bag -- anti nausea meds.

Still Smiling. Still Fighting.

Fighting Like A Girl

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Back in the Ring

We are heading back to Greenville today to start high dose and reinfusion tomorrow rather than next week. The transplant coordinator called last week to say our favorite tranplant nurse would be on vacation during the week we were scheduled to return and asked if we'd come back a week early. No problem. We didn't get to head down to Edisto like we planned but Edisto isn't going anywhere (neither are the sharks teeth) and we're ready to continue the fight.

Here's how our week should look:
Monday: Melphalan
Tuesday: More Melphalan
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Reinfusion of stem cells

We're stepping into the ring this week feeling pretty good and hoping that the last stage of the transplant will be a TKO of multiple myeloma.

Also, for those who have been sending cards, letters, etc., our address will remain the same. Please comment with your email address if you need the info and I'll send it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We were released yesterday to come home for a two week break. We'll have to be back in Greenville on the 19th to begin high dose chemo and reinfusion of her stem cells. Hopefully the break will give her enough time to recover from what she's been through so far and she can give Melphalan the one two punch when we return to Greenville.

Planning a trip up to the mountains or down to the beach to relax for a few days.

She's feeling good today and was able to sleep in this morning. Abby is enjoying our company now that we're back.

Thank you for your continued prayers and thank you to those who sent cards/letters -- your words of encouragement mean so much.

Fighting Like A Girl

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