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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Forget About It - Part I

Forget about it
I'll split and I'll be gone
And you'll have memories
You'll find hard to ignore



My doctor told me in early 2015 that despite my treatments it was "pretty certain" that'd relapse within 1 year of my original diagnosis (May 2014). And relapse for Multiple Myeloma is never good news.

But as of 2017, three years later, that has not happened; either b/c of medical wizardry, wild cosmic luck, or because so many people (more than I could have ever imagined) prayed for me. You pick the one(s) that fits your view of the universe.

This month (Nov) 2014 was a memorable month for me and my family. And not because of some bad mustache I grew and shaved off. In this month 3 years ago I had my blood pumped out for 8+hours for 2 days over what would be this coming weekend, Nov. 8-9 at the Duke University Hospital Adult Bone Marrow Transplant (ABMT) clinic.

We've made an inordinate number of trips there before and since.

Of course my wife Judy was there with me; but we remember that our daughter Amelia was at a church retreat (Pilgrimage '14) on that weekend, and our boys, Daniel and Eric, just 13 and 10 at the time basically had to take care of themselves during those two days.

 Turns out all of our views 
of the world were being 
re-worked this month in 2014.

Following this collection I was lucky enough to spend 17 days in the cancer ward beginning November 16 at Duke Hospital, including over Thanksgiving that year.

I remember a lot of things about this holiday, but one was about one of my doctors. She and her family were going around door to door in the cancer ward Thanksgiving Day, visiting people, giving out desserts they had made. On her day off. Basically they had prepared and sacrificed their holiday to be at the hospital: a place she'd almost certainly already been at every other damn day and night that year.

But here they were, giving again, in a non-medical, but important, way.


Forget about it
If we chance to meet somewhere
Don't think it's 'cause 
I'm trying to reconcile


Many forgettable things happen to your body before and after they give you "the real chemo" to kill off your bone marrow. However, many memorable and sometimes humorous things happen to you, even if it takes some years to appreciate it as humor.

It's these better memories I'd rather share over the course of this month in 2017. Here are some good (if not funny) memories, particularly about the nurses at the Duke ABMT, and in the Duke Hospital Cancer Ward (9th floor!).

November 8-9, 2014

Not much to do but Sudoko; and wait
Before you can do a stem-cell transplant (SCT), you have to have stem cells. For my SCT they use my own stem cells. They collect your stem cells out of your blood by cycling your blood into a machine that separates them from the rest of your blood. It's a very interesting process, if you can get over the weirdness of watching your blood leave your body and go into a machine and (hopefully!) come back.

This process takes time; a lot of time, like hours and hours. We spent 8+ hours for a couple days at the ABMT doing it. 

Keeping up the humor and the stem-cell count with such great drugs like Neupogen; Mozobil, one that kicks the stem cells out of your bone marrow and into the bloodstream. I called that one "Beelzebub" because of what it did to my intestinal tract.





My Favorite Visitor
I always joked that Coach K (Duke basketball) came to "visit" me. Seemed like everywhere I went in Duke Hospital facilities, there he was!

I never got tired of this joke, but no-one else seemed to care.











One of my stem-cell colletcion nurses



Nurses make the hospital. Someone told me that once. Now that I have spent the better part of a month in the hospital, watching, and being cared for, I agree. I have had good ones, bad ones, and great ones.

The nurses at the ABMT and in the cancer ward over at Duke Hospital were amazingly good.










Other (perhaps) fond memories of those days:
  • Listening to one phlebotomist brag about her IV-placement prowess only to watch her make a (painful) mess of my left hand's veins and have to move on over to my right hand late on a Sunday night, my very first day in the hospital.
  • One nurse literally climbing up on my bed, straddling me, and applying the "sternum rub" to wake me up after my "post-chemo nap", from which neither my wife nor regular nurse could wake me.
  • Uncommon kindness by one of my nurses to track down and install a 4" foam pad under my sheets on the bed I was in for 17 nights after several nights without.
  • Measuring my bodily fluid output for 2 weeks+ every time, every day. Yes I had to catch #1; and also #2 into a "hat" on the toilet. I once mentioned that once you go into the hospital your dignity is the first thing to go.
  • Did I mention the "MRSA" tests? Yep, every Sunday night was "ass swab" night, and yes it's as embarrassing and awkward as it sounds. Somebody had to do it and somebody has to endure it.
  • The countless times the nurses wiped down my access port. It was in my neck, and the plastic ends would "click" together as they cleaned them every time they took blood samples. And this happened so often that this "clicking" sound is engrained into my memory and it makes me literally cringe now thinking about it (maybe that's not such a "good" memory).



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