Monday, December 19, 2011

Crunch Time......

The Nurse Assignment board for floor 11, NE Pod.  I blocked the other patients' names.
Ho! Ho! Ho!  Merry Christmas to is my last day of chemo, which means I will start feeling very yukky very soon - I am already on anti-nausea meds 3 times a day - fortunately it is very effective, so I don't feel really sick, just what I call a little 'green'.  It will get worse over the next several days, my docs and nurses promise.

Our floor has a little exercise room that I am taking advantage of while I feel well enough.

Since we last "talked", Laure left to go back home on Friday and had a great reunion with her family on Long Island - bless her heart, even though she was so homesick, she felt badly for "leaving me" just as I start the long and difficult part of my trial. 

As for today's pictures, I thought I would show you a little bit of my hospital home away from home (apartment) from home (Raleigh) .  The nurse board shows the patients and nurse assignments for our pod, which is one of 4 pods on this all-SCT (stem cell transplant) floor - so there are 56 patients on the floor and it is pretty much always full.  There is also an overflow floor where there are usually another 10-30 SCT patients - so typically there are anywhere from 70 to 85 SCT patients here at MD Anderson, which makes it the largest SCT facility in the US....not sure about the world, but I believe it is.

On the last 3 mornings, I have bothered the nurses to open up the gym room at about 8 am - only security or a physical trainer can open it - and someone (a nurse or an assistant nurse) - has to be in there with me at all times, but they are  very supportive of maintaining physical fitness and activity levels - my nurse yesterday said that in a couple of days I will need to be coaxed out of bed to get walking laps around the floor because I will be sick and exhausted.

One corner of my room
   As you can see above, we've added some homey touches to the room - Renee got me the mini-Christmas tree and decorated it;  Laure gave me the 3 framed photos (from left to right), and Renee's parents brought the rightmost frame, my digital frame, along with them in Renee's car.  Bob and Vaun arrived here on Saturday after a 1200 mile drive in Renee's car - so now we have our own car and returned the rental.  Also, Rachel arrived yesterday and spent the evening here with was GREAT to see her again;  she will be here on her Christmas break until January 4.  Kenyon will arrive here on the 23rd, so while this will be a very unique Christmas, we will be together and that's what is important. 

Medically, this is my last day of chemo and I am starting to feel lousy.  I just got my blood counts and my white count crashed in the last 24 hours, from 2,000 to 400, and my neutrophils are zero - so now is the time to be hyper-vigilant about infection, as I am essentially defenseless.  This is all exactly as the procedure is designed.  Tomorrow is a "rest day", ie no chemo, and Wednesday the 21st is day zero, a.k.a. transplant day, a.k.a. infusion day.  What I can expect over the next three weeks is a week or so of harsh chemo side effects, including nausea and mouth sores, and a couple to three weeks of very low blood counts which will cause extreme fatigue.  Once I have Laure's stem cells infused, there is a waiting game for her cells to "ingraft", which will be indicated by the beginning of the recovery of my counts.  This is estimted to take 2 to 3 weeks from day zero.  The ingraftment is the #1 prayer request.  If the new cells do not ingraft by day 28, the transplant is considered to have failed and we will likely begin again with another attempt.  That is unlikely, but as you know, other unlikely things have happened:  i.e., most recently, Laure's collection process taking 10 days instead of 2. 

Second on the prayer request list is for little to no graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), which is when the new immune system attacks healthy parts of the recipient's body that it shouldn't, like the skin or liver.  It can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases.  The third request is to remain infection-free, fourth is for side effects being minimal or at least better than advertised.  Please don't forget Renee and the rest of my family that is here in your prayers.

We continue to trust the Lord.  We had a heart to heart with Rachel yesterday evening that was one of those unforgettable discussions where Rachel declared her faith that everything was going to be OK, even though she knows that there is no guarantee of the success of the treatment.  I said that there is only one way that I will not make it through this process alive in body - ONE WAY - and that is if the Lord wants me in Glory with Him.  We all agreed again that I cannot lose this battle, and even that the phraseology 'so and so lost their battle with cancer' is inappropriate in light of the promise of eternal life, the victory over death that Christ won for us on the Cross and sealed with His resurrection on the third day.  Victory - is all that is in my future - victory over cancer or victory over death.  Halelujah!

Forgive me for such a long post;  I hope you are still with me.  All the Rookers, Moores, DiCiccos, McKennas, and McElraths send you warm wishes for a blessed and joyous Christmas and Holiday season.  Please remember us in your prayers as you have been doing so faithfully and wonderfully.  Til next time - Dan and Family


  1. Dan, Each year the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has a poetry contest for poems about stem cells. Here is last year's winner:

    Stem C.

    By Tyson Anderson

    This is my body

    which is given for you.

    But I am not great.

    I have neither wealth,

    nor fame, nor grace.

    I cannot comfort with words,

    nor inspire to march.

    I am small and simple,

    so leave me this.

    Let me heal you.

    This is my body

    which is given for you.

    Take this

    in remembrance of me.

    First place winner Anderson is a U.S. Army linguist from Tampa Florida, who wants to "return to my roots in Bio.

  2. Kathy, thanks for that precious gift. That really is moving and tear-bringing. I know Laure will love it too.

  3. I need to amend the first comment I made on my blog above. I read the poem as pertaining to stem cell donation - like Laure to me - not about embryonic stem cell harvesting...and I am sure that is how you read it as well, Kathy. Looking at some internet traffic on the poem, it looks like it may be, or may be read as, a statement supporting the latter - so I thought I would make my reading of it clear. I do not support the destruction of embryos for the harvesting of stem cells.

  4. Vaun speaking---
    I can't decide which way is the most emotional way to read the poem i.e. a sister giving so much of her time and working so hard to generate MILLIONS of her stem cells for her "little brother" or so sad from a baby embryo, which in retrospect, I think it really is. It is a beautiful poem and I too have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.
    This mammoth hospital complex and surrounding area is beautifully landscaped. I am having a great time walking around and looking. Just as our growing season has ended, theirs is starting all over again. I will spare you naming all the flowers and flowering plants I am enjoying.
    Dan is still felling reasonably good and his attitude and outlook is amazing. We are all in this together and am so thankful Renee, Rachel, Bob and I are all here together to support Dan and each other. Will be happy when Kenyon arrives. Dan's "Other Mother"--Vaun

  5. Dan, thank you so much for allowing God to use you through this trial to bring such encouragement and inspiration! Your ability to bring Christ to the forefront of this season in your life causes others to rejoice with you, rather than "feel sorry" for you (which is the customary emotion in times like these). Praying Hard that you are healed through this...and no matter what God's will, that He would continue to use you and your family to encourage and inspire others (and spur on the body of Christ).

  6. WE ARE PRAYING!!!!!! GOD IS GOOD and LOVES YOU soooo Much! Keep the Faith!!!
    Jeff and JoEllen