We are here at the University of Washington Medical Center getting acquainted with the transplant unit and settling in for about 3 weeks. Dan had 3 days of total body radiation this week that he tolerated pretty well until Thursday morning when he started getting some chest pain. Long story short, after hours in the emergency room, tens of tests with negative results (thank god), we landed ourselves at the hospital a day early. He had some pretty scary blood pressures and heart rates so it was just as well. Everything was back to normal during the night Thursday and we were right back on track Friday for chemo. Dan got two doses of chemo on Friday and Saturday and is taking today to rest and gear up for the big day on Tuesday. Turns out his stem cells will arrive too late tomorrow night so they will infuse them on Tuesday during the day. His cells will still "come Monday" but his official transplant day is now October 30th. We were kinda bummed at first to wait another day, but feel like the ball is already rolling and we're on our way. Please think of us in an extra special way on Tuesday - tomorrow we'll be resting; although prayers always welcome!
Welcome to bone marrow transplant 101: Dan is having an allogenic stem cell transplant aka bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. The only known information about his donor is that she is 21 years old. The donor's stem cells will be infused through Dan's central line - the same way he gets chemo, etc. now. The infusion takes anywhere from 2-12 hours and will take place right in his hospital room, me by his side. The medical team will keep an eye on him and frequently take his vitals, but it should be very similar to the many blood transfusions he's had before. Dan is also on an immuno-suppresant drug that prevents him from rejecting the donor's cells. After the stem cell infusion, we wait for the cells to "engraft", in other words, for Dan to accept the donor's cells. This process takes anywhere from about 10-21 days. During that time, he will experience significant side effects from chemo/radiation and lack of blood cells such as mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, etc. Once engraftment takes place, he will start to feel better and gain back some strength and energy. He can be discharged from the hospital once his blood counts start to improve and he is eating, drinking and walking about the halls, hopefully in about 3 weeks.
It is hard to describe how I feel about this day finally being here. Dan and I have been married now for 2 1/2 years, all of which Dan has had cancer. He took chemo therapy pills on our wedding night and every single day until his relapse. We packed his pills on our Costa Rica honeymoon, lugged them camping to the Fo, on spring break adventures, beach vacations, and countless weekend getaways. Dan taught freshman Econ at GW after having IV chemo and a spinal tap. We celebrated our second anniversary over cafeteria dinner at Georgetown Hospital. He has always handled whatever side effects showed up with grace and sincere positivity. We have never let cancer get in the way of life, in the way of family time, taking adventures, or making memories. We live with cancer. But now it is time for cancer to stop. No more packing pills, no more Ensure shakes, no more staying home on Thursday night to take Methotrexate pills. Time for Dan to finish school and time for us to plan our family. We have so many plans and cancer is not one of them. So I guess I'm feeling a lot of emotions about the transplant. It is a day I hoped never to see, but I am more than excited to kick cancer out of my life for good. I am scared of seeing Danny sick, tired, and maybe depressed. I am overwhelmed about the long-term care that we face for years to come. I am sad that the person I love so much has to endure such pain to get rid of this disease. But I am grateful for modern medicine and this chance for a cure. I am excited to start a new chapter in our marriage and I am hopeful that this is it. We are almost there. Our countdown can finally begin and our new life is here.
I will try and update the blog at least once a week with Danny's progress. Please kick up the prayers and continue to send well-wises and cards. We are making our room a little homier with some cards already. Dan is doing well and ready for the big day. He is still rocking his signature grin; though, maybe partially due to Notre Dame's big win again last night. Thanks for sharing this journey with us.