I just looked back at my last post, in which I wrote I was heading back to LA for “a few weeks of R&R.” That was on March 7, 2020(!), so those “few weeks” turned into over 14 months due to a certain coronavirus. Since then I’ve been on medications that have kept the disease at bay and stable (a “Very Good Partial Remission” in myeloma lingo) but have not put me in the preferred status of “Complete Remission.” The side effects have been minimal but this is probably not the best long-term approach (though with this disease it is hard to figure out the best approach — as evidenced by the fact that the top experts constantly disagree — especially since I managed for so long without treatment and against the odds). In any case, the doctor that I trust the most (Dr Van Rhee in Little Rock) feels strongly that I should hit the disease harder in an effort to possibly get rid of it for the foreseeable future, and now that the pandemic has eased and Mom Mom, Pop and I are fully vaxed, I am ready to do that. So we are back in Arkansas.
We arrived last weekend to the house we rented last year. On Monday and Tuesday I had the usual tests (lots of bloodwork, 2 hours of mris, a pet scan and my umpteenth bone marrow biopsy), and I also found time for my favorite local hike (twice — on Sunday and Tuesday):
Yesterday (Wednesday), we met with Dr Van Rhee who gave the thumbs up for the stem cell transplant, and then I went to the interventional radiology department where a central venous catheter was inserted (I guess in my central vein) to simplify blood draws and delivery of medication and fluids. I also went to a barber shop for a crew cut so the upcoming likely hair loss won’t seem so drastic. The new look:
Today is chemo day. I will receive an infusion of a drug called Melphalan which is basically a form of mustard gas and is so good for you that you are strongly advised to chew ice before, during and after the 30-minute infusion to avoid/limit mouth and throat sores (the cold constricts blood vessels and supposedly keeps the chemo from attacking that area). The drug will kill the myeloma cells (and many others), and then tomorrow I will get the “transplant” which is my own stem cells (frozen since last year) infused back to rebuild whatever good blood cells the Melphalan kills. After transplant day (considered “Day Zero”), I will visit the clinic each day so they can check my blood counts and symptoms and give me whatever meds, fluids, etc. that may help at the time. I will probably start feeling bad around “Day +5” as my red and white cells and platelets start falling (the Melphalan usually take a few days to have that impact) and will feel worse each day until about “Day +10”, when I hope I will start feeling better. Not looking forward to it but glad to be getting it done!