Jim’s Health Updates

Jim’s Health Update – Thursday, February 10, 2022

Hi Friends! It’s been awhile! I’m going to give you a quick update on my health and where we’re at in the Stem Cell Transplant treatment at OHSU in Portland, OR. The final two weeks of January were filled with tests, scans, EKG’s, Echocardiogram, and lab draws. On Monday, January 31, I checked in at 6:00AM to have my central line installed for all further draws and infusions through the course of the transplant. They say that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. The way to my heart is through my Central Venous Catheter! The first thing we put through it was a heavy dose of chemotherapy. And then another the next day. Tuesday afternoon I was admitted to intensive care in the cancer unit – K14. After some orientation and, yes, more tests and blood draws we were ready.

The transplant happened at 02:02 PM on 02-02-2022. The transplant took an hour, in which 3.7 million of the stem cells I had harvested on last September 30 were re-introduced into my body. As the chemo destroys all my old immune system, the stem cells find their way into the bone marrow and begin to become red cells, white cells, platelets, and rebuild my immune system.  I have felt progressively worse each day since the transplant as my blood cell count drops. I’ve been at “nadir”, the lowest measurements for 2 days, and I eagerly look at my charts each morning to see if we’re making the turn for the better. Just so you know, this is exactly how it’s supposed to work and I’m exactly on track. Within 2 or 3 days, those little stem cells will be on their way to giving me an new immune system and some additional time here on earth!

We still expect up to a week more in the hospital, then three or four weeks staying in Portland for daily outpatient treatment. For now, please pray for my little buddies, the stem cells, to flourish, prosper, and refill my bone marrow with everything needed to get me out of this place and back into the wild!

Your notes, emails, text messages, FB messages, and GraceNotes responses are keeping us encouraged. Thanks so much!

Jim’s Health Updates – January 27, 2022

The past two weeks has been a whirlwind of appointments and waiting. The outcome summary is that I’m medically in a good place for a successful stem cell transplant. Dr Clover, my local oncologist, and Dr Hayes-Lattin, head of the Stem Cell Transplant team at OHSU, both tell me I’m in remission due to the past 10 months of treatment (and, in my opinion, due to a lot of prayer on my behalf!). So the actual transplant has less heavy lifting to do to cleanse my bone marrow and blood of the cancerous cells.

Jean and I were in Portland earlier this week for lab work and to sign consent papers for the transplant. We came home to Bend Monday evening to prepare ourselves and the house for our absence for a few weeks. We leave Friday January 28 for OHSU, I get a COVID test on arrival Friday afternoon and if it’s negative, begin two days of chemo on Monday, January 31 and Tuesday, February 1. The actual Stem Cell Transplant will take place on Wednesday, February 2. That’s 02-02-2022. I’m not sure if there’s any significance in the date, but for us it’s a big step forward after a long time waiting!

Incidentally, days immediately prior to the transplant are “minus days” as in -2, -1. Transplant day is “day 0”. Subsequent days are “plus days” as in +1, +2, +3. Just thought you might like to know that.

The best-case scenario, time-wise, is that I’ll spend about two weeks (day -1 through day +14) in hospital at OHSU, then a few weeks in Gresham, at the home of our daughter Stephanie and her family, receiving any necessary outpatient treatment until my immune system is renewed enough for me to be released back into the wild. Then I’ll come home to Bend and begin my new life! We pray and hope that it will be a long season of full remission of the Multiple Myeloma cancer.

Jim’s Health Update – Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Hey Friends, Here’s the latest information we have on my health and on next steps of treatment for my Multiple Myeloma Cancer: I’m continuing my regular treatment of three meds for the next couple of weeks. That treatment has prevented the cancer from advancing significantly and has got us ready for the Stem Cell Transplant. The SCT is scheduled to take place the last couple days of January and the first couple days of February. I’ll then spend about two weeks in the ICU ward of OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) hospital in Portland. Once the stem cells begin to reproduce and rebuild my immune system adequately, I’ll be released from the hospital and will spend the next few weeks staying with my daughter Stephanie and her family in the Portland area for follow-up treatments and to be close by in case I need to be readmitted to hospital. When I’m healthy enough, I’ll be able to come back to Bend and resume care at St Charles Medical Center here. The desired outcome of the SCT is remission of the cancer for as long as possible. I will likely have a maintenance treatment of some sort and regular checks to let us know if the cancer stays in remission.

Your prayers are appreciated for getting all the scans, tests, and evaluations I need in order to be ready for the SCT at the end of the month. Thank you all so much for your prayers, care, and support!

Jim’s Health Update – 11-09-21

Hey Everybody, We’ve got two kinds of good news this week! Jean accompanied me to my Oncologist appointment on Thursday, November 4, and we had lots of prepared questions to ask the doctor. My current treatment is working well. All the significant lab test numbers are improving and 2 of the main 3 are actually at or near normal range. I’m still feeling pretty well day by day, some days better than others, but no major side effects from the treatment and the disease symptoms are minimal. If you’re praying, please pray for less fatigue and restful sleep. And now for more good news!…

The other good news is that due to decreasing of occupancy of ICU beds with COVID patients and the resumption of cancer treatment, I have a tentative date for the Stem Cell Transplant at OHSU. We’ve penciled in the date of February 2 for the actual transplant, beginning what is likely to be two or more weeks in ICU and then a criteria-based release to our daughter and her family’s home in Gresham, near Portland. We must stay within 20 or so miles of Portland for follow-up treatment until criteria-based testing allows us to come home to Bend.

If you’re praying, please pray for smooth processing through the testing and evaluations that will consume much of January, and the financial re-arrangement that must be re-negotiated due to the delay past the end of 2021. And, of course, for the success of the SCTransplant in producing a season of remission from the Multiple Myeloma Cancer.

I’ll be posting one or two more updates prior to the February 2 date of the Transplant. Thanks for caring, checking on us, and praying!

We love you!

Jim’s Health Update – Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Please read the update posted below for 09-27-21  to get the full story

Hey Everybody! Here’s an update from Tuesday at 7 PM! I spent the day in the Apheresis Unit at OHSU harvesting stem cells for the Someday Transplant. It takes 6 million cells to make a successful harvest. I, overachiever that I am, produced over 7.5 million cells! They’re in the freezer waiting for ICU beds to be available. It looks like it will likely be after January 1 because of the backlog due to COVID patients occupying the beds in ICU. But it’s progress! We’ve done the part that we can do. It’s in God’s hands. Thanks so much for your prayers!

Jim’s Health Update  (09-27-21)

Jean and I are in Gresham, near Portland, Oregon, at the home of our daughter Stephanie Smith and her family. We’ve been here for most of the past two weeks making preparation for my Stem Cell Transplant at Knight Cancer Center at OHSU to treat my Multiple Myeloma Cancer. The actual transplant process was to have begun later this week, but the transplant has been postponed indefinitely due to ICU beds at OHSU being occupied by COVID patients at present. So we’re going ahead with the parts of the process we can do in the meantime.

The past few days, I’ve been injected daily with a medication that stimulates my body to produce lots of stem cells, and as a side effect creates a lot of bone pain. On Monday, September 27, I checked into the OHSU main hospital to have a line implanted to draw and return my blood. On Tuesday, September 28, I will go to the Apheresis unit to begin the harvest of my stem cells. My blood will be drawn out and filtered to remove the stem cells and my blood will then be returned to my body (at least that’s what they told me!). If we can harvest enough cells in one long day, we’ll be finished with that part of the process. If not, then more injections and back in the chair for another day!

After enough cells are harvested and frozen (The target number is 6 million. I’m glad I don’t have to count them!), Jean and I will return to Bend, resume my previous treatment plan, and wait for ICU beds to clear and transplants to resume.

I’ll post an update in a day or so after the SC harvest is completed.

Thanks so much for your care and your prayer! Both mean so much to us!

Love, Jim and Jean

Jim’s Health Update (08-31-21)

My treatment has been going well. The three-times-a-month lab tests have consistently shown that the bad numbers are going down and the good numbers are holding steady. I’ve been offered the opportunity of having a Stem Cell Transplant at OHSU in Portland. This is a complex process in which healthy stem cells are harvested from my blood and bone marrow and then reintroduced after into my body after I receive a pretty massive dose of chemotherapy to kill off the cancerous cells in my bone marrow and blood stream. It’s a several week process, involving some time in the ICU unit at OHSU to keep me going while the new stem cells grow and produce new healthy blood cells that can give me a season of remission from the Multiple Myeloma cancer.

We had a disappointing development this week in that process. All the ICU beds at OHSU are filled with COVID patients, so the Stem Cell Transplant had to be postponed. The cancer treatment will have to wait until the COVID crunch eases.

Your prayers will be appreciated! I’ll be going to OHSU in early September for treatment that will stimulate Stem Cell production. Then the Stem Cells will be harvested from my blood and stored frozen until we can do the Transplant. As of right now it could be December or even January before we can get it done.

Jean is doing well in her recovery from a broken leg and surgery. She’s free of boot and walker and the surgeon gave her a “clean bill of health” to keep pushing her limits and regaining strength. We’re thankful!

Jim’s Update (07-13-21):

On Thursday, July 8, I had my “three months of treatment” cancer checkup. Again, not too much to report at this point. The treatment is working and the side effects of the chemo are bearable. I have three weeks on and a week off each month. The week off is to give room for a little “bounce back” effect, but in reality the effects of the treatment are cumulative, so I don’t bounce very high. I’m trying to  learn the pattern of the cycle so that on my good days, when I have energy, I can make the best use of the time and the day. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t! But the numbers are still going in the right direction. We’re encouraged!

We’re also actively pursuing the possibility of a Stem Cell Transplant at OHSU. We’ve talked and prayed about it as a family and we feel the potential of a year or more of remission sounds really good. Please pray with us as we keep moving forward with this. It would mean a month to six weeks in Portland to harvest the stem cells, to receive the transplant, to be in the hospital for a few weeks as my immune system re-engages and rebuilds itself, then to remain in the Portland area as an outpatient for about another month of several times per week tests and treatments until I’m released back to the care of my local oncologist and can move back home. It sounds daunting!

Jean’s Update (07-13-21):

Jean is doing great! The wheelchair is a thing of the past! She’s getting around well with the walker, doing Physical Therapy a couple of times each week, and walking daily with the boot and walker. It’s still over a month before the boot goes away, but recent X-rays looked good and pain is diminishing as she gets stronger and gets more exercise. Thanks for your prayers!

Jim’s Update (06-14-21):

On Thursday, June 10, I had my “two months of treatment” cancer checkup. Not too much to report at this point, except that the treatment is working and the bad cancer numbers continue to go down. So the prognosis remains encouraging. The current treatment is moving us in the direction we need to go and the side effects are manageable at this point. The best case outcome of continuing the current treatment plan is to achieve a degree of remission of cancer growth for a season and be able to reduce treatment to a maintenance dose of my current Chemo meds.

I’ve had an online consult with an oncologist at OHSU in consideration of a Stem Cell Transplant. The desired outcome of a Stem Cell Transplant would be to achieve a full remission of cancer growth that might last for a year or more before the cancer begins to aggressively multiply again. There are some risks involved as well as a certain amount of unpleasantness with the SCT. I’d need to be in hospital at OHSU for some time and then stay in the Portland area for a few weeks as my immune system rebuilds itself.

It’s a lot to think about and process and we’d appreciate your prayers as we move toward a decision on it.

Jean’s Update (06-14-21):

Jean is making good progress on healing from the leg surgery and the break. She’s beginning to walk carefully (and with very limited weight on the broken leg) with a walker and is scheduled to begin Physical Therapy next week. It’s been six weeks since the fall and that’s really a long time to be couch and chair-bound. But there’s progress and that’s very encouraging! Thanks for your prayers!

05.24.2021 Update on Jim’s Health and Jean’s Surgery

1) On Thursday, May 13, I had my “one-month of treatment” cancer check-up. My oncologist told me that the numbers that should go down are beginning to go down and a couple of the numbers we want to go up are climbing. He said, “What we wanted to happen is happening. This helps us toward a good prognosis!”

2) Jean had a successful surgery to repair her broken leg/ankle on Monday, May 18. She’s recovering well at home with minimal pain so far. She has more mobility than any time in the two weeks since the break occurred. It’s looking good! Our daughter Melissa and her husband Colin have been looking after us. They’ve been coming over to help get Jean out of the house and into the car when we need to go for medical stuff. Our daughter Stephanie is with us this week to help out and give me a break. Son-in-law Philip set up our Alexa so Jean can reach me in any room in the house from her headquarters in the living room. Life is good!

So many of you have written, texted, phoned, and emailed words of hope and encouragement! Many have given financially to help with the unexpected expenses of my illness and Jean’s injury! A Meal Train team from our church has been providing evening meals most days. Please be patient with us if we’re slow to acknowledge and respond. Your responses have been overwhelming in a very good way! We love and appreciate you all very much!

04.16.2021 Initial Report:

Hi friends, We’ve got some news to share with you about my health. I was recently diagnosed with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The cancer was fortunately caught by an alert Primary Care doctor through some abnormal readings on a routine blood test.  MM is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. It’s not curable, but is treatable. We’ve chosen a chemotherapy treatment which is proposed to continue for one year. If I respond well to the treatment, remission is possible.

I started treatment April 15, 2021. Treatment is three weeks on and one week off. After only one treatment, side effects are minimal but those who know tell me the effects tend to be cumulative, so I’ll probably be ready for the week off when it gets here! I’m in good health otherwise, so that’s in my favor. My disease is at Stage 2 of 3 Stages. Doctor’s comment: Overall, findings are prognostically favorable.” I love science!

Jean and I are doing well. This caught us by surprise, but after a month and a half of blood tests, MRI scans, and bone marrow biopsies we’ve accepted that we’re moving into a new season of life that simply isn’t going to be like it was before the diagnosis.

We’re having lots of discussions: Jean and I, Jean and I and the kids and grandkids, Jean and I and cancer survivors we know. We’ve learned more about cancer than we ever wanted to know and we’re just getting started!

We would appreciate your prayers for healing and for wisdom and for God’s continued provision as we daily remind ourselves of two of the most important questions: 1) What really matters? 2) How much is enough? And as we also hourly remind ourselves that God has always been faithful and will continue to be faithful through this season.

Thanks for your love, prayers and support.

Love from Jim and Jean Stephens