I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I posted an update on my health, cancer treatment, and Stem Cell Transplant! So here’s some of what’s happened since the last post on 02-22-22. Sorry for the delay! By the way, my Stem Cell Transplant began at 2:02 PM on 02-02-2022. It took just over an hour.
This is REALLY from the other side! Remember a couple of posts back I told you about my local oncologist, Dr. Clover, saying to me as I walked out the door into the world of Stem Cell Transplants, “I’ll see you on the other side!”? In my previous post I wrote to you “from the other side.” The transplant was done, I was feeling worse each day as the chemo took its toll, then gradually better each day as my bone marrow recovered and my blood counts improved. Then, just a day short of two weeks in the hospital, I was released to stay at Stephanie and Philip’s home in Gresham and return to OHSU almost daily at first, then a couple of times a week for blood tests and doctor appointments and other fun stuff.
Now I’m home in Bend and doing well! I had all my external connectors (the central venous catheter for lab draw out and medicine and treatment in) removed on Monday, March 7, and came home to Bend on Tuesday March 8. I’m not very strong yet, and some days are definitely better than others, but it’s progress! I reconnected with my local oncologist on Friday and we’ll be exploring what type of maintenance treatment I’ll be doing. But that’s a little way off yet. Right now I’m free of Myeloma Cancer cells and the prognosis is good that I’ll have a substantial period of remission going forward!
We’re thankful to God! We’re thankful to the various teams that have cared for me through the early treatment last year following diagnosis, the preparation for and the process of the transplant, and the excellent follow-up care! In fact we’re just pretty much thankful for everything and for everyone who has prayed, cared, checked in, supported, and been a part of our process and experience!
One thing that impacted me more than I expected was the loss of my mustache and beard to the chemo drugs. (Not so much the hair that used to be on my head so much as it had begun to desert me some years ago. Fickle!)
But here’s the thing: I started growing my mustache on April 4, 1967, the day I arrived in Vietnam. And I never shaved it off. Ever. And I started growing my beard on June 1, 1980, when we moved to Medford, OR. And I never shaved it off! Ever. Both my mustache and beard went through color changes through the decades, from red-brown to grey to white. But they were always there. I could count on them! (The hairs on our heads are numbered. I could count on them!) The mustache was with me for 55 years! The beard was with me for 42 years!
You and I may have been friends for a long time. Even a long, long time. But unless you knew me before I was 24 years old, in Vietnam in 1967, you never saw me without my mustache. And unless you knew me before I was 37 years old, in 1980, you never saw me without my beard! And now they’re both gone! And I still don’t recognize the face of the old man elderly gentleman who stares back at me from the mirror!
And people say, “It’ll grow back!” You don’t know that for sure! Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.
Anyhow, this is not a Dark Valley issue. I’m alive and I’m getting better and I’ve got a lot to learn about post-transplant living. Pre-transplant, I still had an immune system that remembered my measles vaccine, my smallpox and diphtheria vaccines, in fact all the vaccines I’ve had since the polio vaccine in 1954 when I was 11. But post-transplant, my new immune system doesn’t remember any of that so I get to start all over daily living carefully in a world full of germs, mold, and dust. Then beginning in about three months to a year I’ll start re-immunizing with COVID vaccine and then all the others. And my new immune system has to learn to deal with Jake the Desert Bone Dog and leaf mold and Bleu Cheese dressing and flu germs and the common cold. So I’ll not be joining the ranks of the Maskless Oregonians for a while at least.
I’m not sure what my blog schedule will be for the next few weeks. I know it’ll be a while before I’m up to doing a weekly blog along with daily GraceNotes devotionals. I guess I’ll send you what I’ve got when I’ve got it and we’ll see how it goes!
Grace and Peace, Jim
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.