Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rounds 17 and 18

Well my insurance company finally came through and approved the drug I needed to stimulate stem cell production. I believe that I have now successfully collected enough stem cells to allow me into the 8h9 clinical trial. My doctor’s told me that they wanted to harvest 7 million cells but that 2 million was the bare minimum. After six days of collection, I was able to produce 3.4 million cells. Hopefully this will be enough, as the protocol for the clinical trial has still not been released, but they told me that I would not be able to collect any more cells because I have had so much chemotherapy.

I returned to New York as planned. I had a little surgery on Wednesday, August 12, to insert a leukapheresis catheter in my groin. I had originally been told I was going to have my chest catheter replaced, but they later said that the only vein in my body that was large enough to support the stem cell collection was in the groin. The second collection began immediately after my surgery, and ended up lasting three more days. Because of the temporary catheter in my groin, I was kept inpatient until Friday, August 14. Fortunately, I was able to stick around just long enough for the candy cart to come by my room on the pediatric floor. Marissa and I stocked up for the long drive home starting Saturday morning. We got back home on Sunday evening, August 16, Just in time to start chemo on Monday morning.

I started my 17th round of chemo on August 17th. This round, like the last few was relatively uneventful. I have had some mild nausea, but most of my side effects are now attributed to the steroids that I am taking. Decadron (dexamethasone) is given with my chemo to help prevent nausea, allergic reactions, and to stimulate my appetite. I have recently learned that taking this drug at high doses for a long period of time can cause Cushing’s syndrome. The effects are completely reversible when I stop taking it, but symptoms are severe swelling, back pain, bruising and thinning skin, fatigue, and insomnia, all of which I have. I spoke with my doctors about it before I started my 18th round and they drastically reduced the dose. Hopefully I will see some results in the next few weeks.

As Marissa and I were looking at the calendar, we noticed that we would be in NY for medical treatment on our 5th Anniversary. That is not very romantic, so we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Nashville on September 1st to celebrate. We spent the night at Hotel Indigo near Vanderbilt and went to the Grand Ole Opry. Marissa seemed to really enjoy it, and although I’m not much on country music, it turned out to be a fantastic evening.

Because we were so close, and feeling relatively well on my off week, we decided to visit my family in West Tennessee for the remainder of the week. Our last visit there was in April. Because it was more or less a spur of the moment trip, we caught everyone of guard, but that made the visit a little more relaxing. I was able to go watch my nephew’s play football, Hunter on Thursday night for Northview Middle School and Dawson played Friday night for Dyer County High School. Saturday, of course, was Tennessee football, and a fabulous family dinner. Sunday morning, September 6th we returned back to Atlanta.

After we got back home, Marissa was changing my bandages on my chest catheter and noticed that once again all of the sutures have pulled out. The catheter had pulled out of my chest about 2 inches. Tuesday morning I had an x-ray of my chest to see if it was in a safe position to receive chemo. They said that I could receive this round, but that it would have to be replaced immediately afterwards. I will be returning to NY this weekend for another set of scans on Monday. Dr. Laquaglia will be replacing my chest catheter Tuesday morning, September 22. I should get scan results back on Tuesday or Wednesday. Until then, we pray.

Thanks for taking the time to check in on me and for continuing to pray for me. I have no doubt that is why I am still here.