“Day -1" and “Day-Zero” are Done
I have now made it through “Day -1” (Infusion of Melphalan chemo) and “Day Zero” (Infusion of my stem cells aka “The Transplant.”) Both days went generally smoothly and anti-climactically, with no major hiccups (except for literal hiccups — see below).
Thursday was Melphalan (one-shot chemo) day. Although we were at the infusion center overall for probably 5 hours, the actual chemo infusion lasted only 30 minutes. The stuff packs such a powerful punch that 30 minutes is all it takes to wreak the required havoc on the bad cells and cause whatever collateral damage it will to the good cells. So why were we there for so long? To check my blood and give me all of the “premeds” that will ideally protect me against many of the non-desired effects of the chemo. The premeds included high-dose steroids (look out for signs of ‘roid rage), a heavy dose of anti-nausea meds, IV antibiotics and a few other things thrown in. [NOTE that pre-diagnosis, and even now, I was/am a person who would/will ruminate over whether I should take the recommended dose of tylenol, or half, or none for a headache, etc. This is when the universe is laughing at me.]
I also spent an hour pre-Melphalan and a few hours afterwards chewing on crushed ice and the occasional popsicle in order to (we hope) alleviate some common mouth, throat and other GI symptoms that Melphalan can cause. Thoughout the process and the rest of the day I felt pretty good.
Yesterday (Friday — “Day Zero”) I woke up with a queasy stomach and thought “Uh-Oh — the GI stuff isn’t supposed to start until my counts crash in a few days,” but I had a small breakfast and felt better. We headed over to the infusion center for the “Transplant,” which like the prior day was relatively anti-climactic in that most of time was spent giving me the same “premeds” and checking my blood prior to the infusion. The infusion of my stem cells (over 5 million of them) lasted all of 15 minutes. I was lucky on both days that I didn’t have any immediate negative/severe allergic or other reactions to the chemo or the stem cells, which can happen and which would have slowed down the process. Some pics from Transplant Day:
In the photo above, I am holding up a bag of mints because the preservative for the stem cells smells something like creamed corn, and that scent often leeches onto the recipient of the stem cells for 24–36 hours and can cause an unpleasant taste for the patient and smell akin to corn soup for the patient’s lucky neighbors. In my case I tasted something weird (maybe corn or tomato soup) for no more than 3 seconds and that’s it. My dad didn’t smell anything, but there was definitely something in the air because every nurse that walked into the room commented about it.
The rest of the day was fine at the house, except for the aforementioned hiccups that started after dinner. I had a bout like this last year when I was here, and they’re likely due to the high-dose steroids. Normally when I have hiccups I can get rid of them easily. With these types, my normal tricks don’t work. Luckily by bed time I was able to get them under control* and I slept pretty well. Will have to discuss with the nurses today because I am scheduled for 2 more days of high-dose steroids so I expect more hiccups are also in store. Not the worst side effect if I can keep them under control. We’ll see!
The next two weeks will consist of daily trips to the hospital to monitor my blood levels, electrolytes, etc. and check and manage side effects of treatment and other meds. Let’s hope it’s all really boring!
*My dad has helped alleviate the hiccups with a trick that is new to me: I pinch my nose and drink a glass of water while he puts his fingers in my ear. It has worked every time! They do return but since my dad is always no farther than a room away, I can rest a little easier about this hiccup on the road to recovery.