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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/item_id/1467972-My-Saga-with-Leukemia
by JudyB
Rated: E · Book · Experience · #1467972
My experiences of diagnosis/treatment of cancer
A day by day journey of my walk down Cancer Road.
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May 23, 2009 at 1:24am
May 23, 2009 at 1:24am
The beginning of March I was scheduled for lab to get the catheter inserted to collect my stem cells. As I always do with invasive procedures, I made sure I told the doctor I wanted some sedation before the procedure. I have no doubt they would want some if it were it were being done to them. I must admit that I was rather surprised and shocked when instead of giving me a sedative directly into my IV line, they instead gave me three injections in my neck. The procedure was explained to me...a small incision would be made in my upper chest, a large but flexible tube would be threaded into my artery ... which would be connected to a machine that would work just like a dialysis machine, causing my blood to circulate through the machine and back into my body while it collected my stem cells for five to six hours for each of two days.

Before being hooked up to the machine that first day, I used the bathroom and took a moment to find out why it was so uncomfortable and painful to move my head to the right or left. The tube that had been inserted was uncomfortable, but it was the two relatively large, plastic butterfly clips that were attached to "something" below the incision site that bothered me the most. In part I was afraid to move for fear of dislodging something and needing to get the insertion procedure done over again.

Thankfully for the two days I had to endure it, all was well AND best of all, the doctor came in to see me on the morning of the 2nd day to announce they had collected way more stem cells than they could ever had hoped for. They are now frozen and will be good for a whopping ten years in the event I need a stem cell transplant.

March 28, 2009 at 11:10pm
March 28, 2009 at 11:10pm
With the chemo finally completed, I once again moved to the cancer lodge and just made daily trips to the hospital lab for blood work, etc. Because the doctor wanted me to have my stem cells collected, they doubled up the growth shots so I would recover from the chemo quicker than usual.

The shots really did boost my recovery and a week later I was scheduled for an exam with the transplant doctor who would oversee my stem cell collection. The day I met him, I was very disappointed. He was a very "negative" individual and the first words out of his mouth were, "I have a lot of doubt that you'll have enough stem cells to do a collection. You'll probably have to come back in a few months after you have more."

OK, so I'm 62, they don't expect things to recover as quickly, but I have been physically active my entire life and to hear him talk so negatively really caught me by surprise.

I was discouraged for days but was pleasantly surprised to learn a week later that after a test was conducted to see how many stem cells I was producing, the collection was declared to be a "go!"

March 28, 2009 at 11:01pm
March 28, 2009 at 11:01pm
Somehow, knowing this would be my last hospital stay, I was more upbeat about getting the final round of chemo started so I could get back home the next month and begin to live my life again!

Good news awaited me that my last bone marrow test showed that my faulty chromosome was normal and I was indeed in a full remission. The final round of chemo would hopefully keep it that way for a long time.

From previous rounds of chemo I knew my blood pressure always became elevated so I carefully monitored those readings. Halfway through the treatment, I had my daily blood pressure reading and for lack of a better word, I "freaked" out! My BP was an alarming 200/100...and I was already taking blood pressure pills. I was quickly prescribed a second pill which thankfully brought me under control, but it was a scary point in my treatment.

After all was well that day, I asked what dosage of chemo I was getting. No one had ever told me each dose was higher so when the nurse came in to advise me that these final doses were just under 6,000 mg's I was shocked. Up from 3,750 ...that was quite a shock. No wonder my BP was taking a hit!
March 28, 2009 at 10:54pm
March 28, 2009 at 10:54pm
February 10, 2009 -- this would be the day I left for my final round of chemo and possible collection of my stem-cells.

I was babysitting just a few days prior to leaving and after tucking my granddaughter Emma (age 3) into bed, I sat next to her rubbing her head in the pale light of her room. She well remembered me having been gone for a month at a time on three occasions already, so I felt it was important to let her know I would be going away soon ONE MORE time!

As I whispered to her in the quiet, I gently told her I would be leaving again soon but would talk to her every day on the phone and see her because a visit was planned. Emma said nothing in return. As I looked at her closer, I clearly saw her her fighting hard to keep from crying. Her little mouth was quivering and she couldn't speak. This, of course, caused me to cry as well. I was so moved that this little child loved me so much that she grieved my leaving.

Somehow I managed to keep some control and I just whispered that I loved her, told her everything would be fine, and kissed her good night. But her devotion to me wrenched my heart. I will never forget it!

March 28, 2009 at 10:42pm
March 28, 2009 at 10:42pm
About ten days later, after my blood counts were beginning to rise quite well, Bill was visiting while I was again in labs. The doctor checked my numbers and said any day soon I would be able to go home.

After we left the hospital, I just couldn't bear the thought of going out to eat at a restaurant, return to the cancer lodge, watch some television with my husband and say good-bye to him again.

While Bill was somewhat reluctant to do as I asked, I was so frustrated that I told him to take me to the car rental place to see what it would cost to rent a car for just one night. A really nice car was available at a good price so I went back to the lodge, packed a suitcase and told the staff we would be spending the night in a motel. Instead I drove the 2-hours home in the rental while he drove our car and I enjoyed a most wonderful evening with my grandchildren, and relaxed in the comfort of my own house.

Funny how it all turned out. Early the next morning I left for the hospital, with my son following me in his car. I got to labs at 8 a.m. and after my tests came back, the doctor decided to discharge me to go home! My son and I locked eyes and smiled. My freedom had been granted!

Many thanks to all who are displaying a "Butterfly for Judy"
March 28, 2009 at 10:34pm
March 28, 2009 at 10:34pm
I have found myself to be a very "emotional" person. Probably it is because after the chemo was finished and I was moved to the cancer lodge, I became very restless and wanted my blood counts to recover so I could go home!

I had daily shots of Nupogen...a medicine to promote grow of my various cells, but became really unhappy when the counts lingered at dangerously low levels. I also needed more blood and platelet transfusions than usual ... often on days when Bill was coming to visit. That was discouraging because I often was then in lab from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and while Bill was able to sit and visit with me in the lab all that time, he always needed to leave for home by 4 p.m. so I got very frustrated.

I wish I could learn to have more patience, but I think it's still hard to realize I have so little say in my life during my times away from home. With it being the Christmas season that didn't help either!

Many thanks to all who are displaying a "Butterfly for Judy"
March 17, 2009 at 5:15pm
March 17, 2009 at 5:15pm
Bright and early after the third round of chemo was completed, the doctor released me to the local cancer lodge, Hope, which is just blocks from the hospital. I would spend the next several weeks there until my blood recovered from the most recent chemo infusions.

Hope is a great place and I had a very nice room, but within a week I began to get so home sick that I got very restless. Talking to my loved ones by phone helped a little, but depression moved in fast, especially knowing the real Christmas Day was coming and I'd be missing everyone.

I spent a lot of time (more than I knew) on my cell phone the next few weeks, but nothing really helped for long. Most nights I was in bed by 7 p.m. just so I could sleep and forget about my unhappiness.

Many thanks to all who are displaying a "Butterfly for Judy"
March 17, 2009 at 5:08pm
March 17, 2009 at 5:08pm
Bright and early the next morning, the chemo was started. I would be receiving two bags a day...one early morning, one early evening for five days.

The chemo has never made me sick but I did notice on this occasion that my blood pressure became elevated after each chemo session. As I was lying in the bed, looking up at the bag of chemo, I nearly choked to read there was 3,750 mgs. of drugs in that small bag. Yikes! I'm usually so sensitive to drugs that I really worried about getting such strong doses of medicine.

Being tethered to the IV pole was a pain...I had thought I would be free of it between chemo infusions, but most of the time it was used to infuse a saline solution to keep me well hydrated between the doses of chemo.

Many thanks to all who are displaying a "Butterfly for Judy"
March 17, 2009 at 5:01pm
March 17, 2009 at 5:01pm
The night before I had to leave for the hospital (Dec. 7), I went to visit my son and his family. I tried to be upbeat but was unsuccessful. Jason was visibly upset but the little ones had fun opening their presents.

Gage, being only 18 months old, couldn't understand I would be gone for another month, but Emma, who would be three on Dec. 12, could readily grasp it. With this being my third time to be away from home she selectively refused to acknowledge it, choosing instead to just play with her new toys. In a way, that made it easier on me.

Bright and early the next morning Bill and I left for the hospital. Thankfully the roads were clear and travel was safe. We arrived shortly before 9 a.m. where I had saw my doctor before officially checking into the hospital. I was happy to be given a 2-person room that had been changed to a single room. It was very large and roomy and didn't seem as confining as the air-filtered rooms I'd been in on my first two hospitalizations.

February 21, 2009 at 9:58pm
February 21, 2009 at 9:58pm
We had a lot of "early" celebrating to do this December. Two birthdays, Dec. 12 and Dec. 15 and then an early Christmas as well. I was scheduled to return to the hospital for chemo #3 on Dec. 8 so we had no choice but to celebrate everything early or do it all late.

I celebrated as best I could with a smile on my face, but there was a definite ache in my heart. What a lousy time for anyone to be in the hospital ! I could only realize that many others were in the very same situation as me, so at least I knew I wouldn't be the only one having to juggle the holidays.

Many thanks to all who are displaying a "Butterfly for Judy"

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