Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kelly's visit

As I have previously posted, I am in my recovery period between the first and second rounds of chemo. A good time for visitors, so Kelly flew in from Wisconsin to spend a few days with us, as coming home for Christmas with the family was not going to be an option this year. It was great to have her with us for a few days. She cooked for us, painted our front window for Christmas and generally lifted our spirits just by being here. A special thanks to Tyler for taking on all 3 kids by himself so Kelly could spend a few days with us.

As it turned out Jennifer and her family were here at the same time as Kelly. Their original plan was to be here at Christmas, however, Gary’s sister Maren passed away a few days before Kelly’s visit and the whole family came down for the funeral. Maren was 53 years old and had downs syndrome. She was a real sweetheart and will be missed by all of us. We didn’t get a lot of time with Jennifer and family as their visit was short and of course most of their time was spent with Gary’s family at this time of grief. However, they were able to spend one afternoon with us and I have posted a few pictures of their visit as well.

Right now I am feeling pretty good. My immune system is almost back to normal and my energy level is getting better every day. The second round of chemo starts the first of the year and the stem cell transplant takes place on the fifth day after chemo starts. Until then it is just rest, relax and recover.

Kelly and the Dad.

Making a chicken pot pie. Almost too pretty to eat.

Painting the front window

Making cookies with Jennifer's kids.

Jennifer making the frosting.

Gary and Steve. Two bald men, one from genetics, one from chemo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wearing the Mask

One of the conditions of my new found freedom is that I wear a mask anytime I am out in a crowd of people. So this week I have ventured out a little making a few trips to the grocery store and one to the bookstore. I am quite a site walking into a store wearing a ski cap (required apparel in the winter with a bald head), sunglasses, and a surgical mask. I believe that if my intent was to rob the place this would be the perfect disguise. First of all, no one would question my presence, and second, everyone is so worried about being politically correct that I would be walking out the door with the cash while they were still considering what the correct response is to someone wearing a surgical mask in a public place.

Generally the response is a quick double-take and then pretending you are invisible. I have thought that I might start carrying around a five dollar bill to give to the first person that acknowledges the mask. “Yo dude, what’s with the mask?” A quick explanation and “thanks for asking” followed by the fiver.

However, before I could put my five dollar plan into action I finally got a response, and of course you know it would be from a child. I had just turned down the aisle at the grocery store and was approaching a mother with two small children when the oldest, a little girl about five years old, said “Look mom it’s a Doctor”. The mother got a slightly embarrassed look on her face but said nothing. The child, not ready to give up on the subject, looked at her mom again and asked; “Why is there a Doctor in the store?” This time the mother looked at me with a look that was part apologetic and part I don’t know what to say. So I said to the little girl “Sweetheart, I’m not a Doctor. I have just been a kind of sick lately and I need to wear this mask for a little while.” This answer seemed to satisfy her as she then told me they were buying stuff at the store to go home and make a gingerbread house. She then started to walk off with her mother but stopped after a few steps, turned around and said “Goodbye, I hope you feel better soon”. Completely made my day, maybe even my whole week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Last Thursday and Friday I was able to complete my stem cell collection. Almost 22 million cells in 2 days. Not a record, some showoff got 30 million in one day, but I was happy to get it done as quickly as I did.

I'm told that my job for the next few weeks is to eat, sleep, exercise moderately, and build up my immune system so thy can knock it down again with the next round of chemo when I start stem cell transplant the week after Christmas. I guess the philosophy is to get me strong enough so they can hit me hard without doing too much damage to my body in the process.

Anyway, the next few weeks should be the easiest of the whole program and I am looking forward to the break in active treatment.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Collection Day

Each day we have been going into the Huntsman for lab-work to determine if the stem cell concentration in my blood is high enough to begin collection. The metric used is called a CD34 test and it has to be at a 10 for a productive collection. On Wednesday it was at 8 and we were a little disappointed that it was coming up so slowly. However, the shot they had given me that stimulates the release of stem cells from the marrow really kicked in overnight, because on Thursday morning my CD34 count was at 49. So today was my first day of collection and it went very well. The process involves hooking me up to a machine that becomes part of my circulatory system for about five hours. Blood is pumped out of my body, into the machine that separates out the stem cells through a centrifugal process, and then returns the rest to me. We won’t know how many cells were actually collected today until tomorrow morning, but with my high CD34 count they were optimistic that we can complete collection (20 million cells) in 2 to 3 days.

Going home

My white cell count is on the rebound so Wednesday we were cleared to go home. What a relief it is to be able to come home at night. Lynn and I were getting a touch of cabin fever being locked up in the hotel room for the last week. Upon our return we picked up our mail from the neighbors and there was a card from everyone at work that really lifted my spirits. I have always said the greatest thing about working where I do is the people I get to work with. You guys are the best and I really miss seeing your shining faces very day. Thanks for your support.

Bald is Beautiful

One of the things I was aware of when I started this adventure is that the effects of chemo will vary with every individual. Some get very ill, others hardly at all; some lose their hair, others do not. Since I completed my first round of chemo over a week ago I thought I was home free in regards to the hair situation. What I have learned since is that it takes a week or two for the damaged hair follicles to start letting go of your hair, which is why yesterday my hair started falling out in clumps. The worn out mop head was not exactly the style I was looking for so I recruited my next door neighbor Geri, along with her handy hair clippers, to come over and finish the job that the chemo has started. I figured at the rate I was losing hair it would only be about a week before it was all gone anyway and frankly it was making a mess. It was like having a diseased cat with a shedding problem in the house.

I have combed my hair the same way for the last forty years and my girls have always said I should get out of my rut and try something different. Well girls, what do you think?