Saturday, March 28, 2009

Transplant II

Raj preparing to defrost Steve's stem cells-

Andrea, Steve's P.A., Amelia, one of Steve's favorite nurses and the man himself!

The past several days have been eventful and this round of chemotherapy introduced us to new friends - referring back to Steve's slogan "Chemo Is My Friend." So now on board are Carmustine, Gemcitabine (cousins maybe) and old friends, Bortezomib, Melphalan and good old Dexamethasone. Yes Dex is a steroid as well as the only oral medication in the bunch and we are told it helps create a hostile environment for the cancer cells. Following the infusion of these friendly foes Steve had transplant number two on Friday. Above you will see Raj and the container that houses Steve's stem cells as they wait to return home. Hopefully the ten million or so that are left will have to wait a very long time to be utilized.

Steve your are truly the BEST!! Yes, Sarah the best! (Sorry an inside family story-)

A shout out to my husband, the gold standard of how to be a patient. Grace under pressure comes to mind. He very rarely, if ever whines - whining has always been something Steve finds intolerable, right girls?? Always says thank you for any small act of service or kindness shown. I will never be able to match his amazing demeanor if the tables are turned. I do realize this is not news to those who know us well. I have cherished the alone time we have shared and hope Steve feels the same. We are closing in on the last phase and section of the road -- so as Judy Cooley said - Go show cancer what metal you are made of!

Many thanks!

A huge thanks to all who continue to check in and send words of encouragement . We appreciate your love, support and especially your prayers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good News

Last Friday Lynn and I met with Dr. Zangari to go over my test results to see if I was healthy enough to proceed with Transplant II and to find out how effective my treatment to date has been in killing off the Myeloma. I am happy to say that the news was positive on both accounts. My heart, lungs, kidneys and blood are all in good shape and as a result I started chemo yesterday (5 hour + infusion) and so far the side effects have been minimal. I have today and tomorrow off, more chemo on Thursday and Transplant II on Friday.

As for my Myeloma markers, my PET scan showed no lytic bone lesions (excellent) and my bone marrow biopsy showed that my Kappa Qnt Free Light Chains and my Immunoglobulin G Serum have both dropped faster than my 401K and are hovering just above the level that is considered complete remission (very good). I'm sure that lytic lesions, Kappa Free Light Chains and Immunoglobulin G Serum mean about as much to most of you as they do to me, but what really counts is that I am very close to being in complete remission and there is every reason to believe this last round of treatment will get me there.

Thanks again for all of your prayers, love and support.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Transplant #2

Well it looks like my vacation is about to come to an end. I have my schedule for Transplant #2 (T2) and it looks something like this:

March 16-19 Baseline Testing
This is a series of tests that are done prior to each round of chemo and serves two purposes. The first is to assess my general health (heart, lungs, kidney, etc.) and determine if I am ready for T2. The second purpose of the tests is to evaluate my Myeloma markers which will tell us how effective the treatments to date have been in putting my cancer into remission. Lynn and I have a vested interest in the answer to this question and will be looking forward to our next appointment with Dr. Zangari.

March 20
Appointment with Dr. Zangari to go over the test results and get his official OK to proceed with T2.

I will also get a new catheter installed to support infusions, blood draws, etc...

March 23-26
Series of chemical infusions.

March 27
Stem Cell Transplant #2

March 28-?
Approximately 8 week recovery period after which life can get back to normal.

This would complete my treatment protocol and if all goes well, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, I will be in complete remission and this beast won’t show its’ ugly face again for another 10 to 20 years.

As to my current condition, I have recovered well from the first transplant in January and except for a few minor symptoms that continue to linger on I am feeling fine. In fact, a few weeks ago I was cleared by my Dr. to go back to work part-time until the next transplant if I desired with a promise that I would use good sense and not overdue. As it turned out work did have a short term project that I could work on and I have been going in for half days. I don’t know how much good it has been to the Company but it has done a world of good for me and my mental health. It was good to have something to do each day and to see my friends at work that I have really missed over the last few months. This along with being able to go to dinner with friends & family, attending church, the visit from Jennifer and Kelly, and the Wednesday lunches with my friends that go back to my youth have all helped me maintain a positive attitude and get ready for this last round of treatment. Thanks to you all.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Laughter, the Best Medicine

Kelly and I are here visiting this weekend and thought we'd take over the blog for a bit. We all went to church together today and were reminded in one of the lessons about the importance of humor in dealing with adversity. We have found this to be very true and want to share some of our favorite comments people have made about dad's cancer.

Children say the darndest things-...

Annie Grace (Jenn's youngest) - After grandpa had been sitting in the passenger seat of Jenn and Gary's car... "Mom, don't sit in that seat, you might get the cancer." Grandpa and Grandma love how she calls it 'the cancer.'

Lia (Kelly's oldest) - After months of praying for grandpa's health she sighed and said, "Isn't he better yet?" (Our cousin Q has mentioned similar comments coming from her kids. Would that we all had such simple faith.)

Annie Grace again - While taking his hand on a walk... "Grandpa, I love you even though you have the cancer."

Bridgette (the young girl next door) - After Grandma Lynn commented on Bridgette's cute new haircut, "I gave my hair to 'Locks of Love' and I've been thinking that Steve might get it!"

(Speaking of 'Locks of Love' here is one of our favorite Annie Grace comments of all time. Her older sister Lauren had been growing out her hair for 'Locks of Love' and we were explaining to Annie about how they use that hair to make wigs for people who have lost theirs due to an illness. Gary (her naturally bald daddy) was teasing the kids about what a great wig his hair would make and she replied, "But daddy, you wouldn't even be able to see it on the shelf!")

Riley (Kelly's Niece) - Following her dad's explanation of why people fast..."Oh, so when I'm old enough, I can fast for people like Lia's grandpa!"

Adults get in on the action...

Lynn - This comment from mom about made our Uncle Roy fall off his chair with shock and uncertain laughter. Dad was saying how no one is guaranteed tomorrow, and that you never know, he might even outlive mom. To which mom replied, "Yes, but that wouldn't be the smart way to bet!"

Charmaine (Jenn's mother in law) - Soon after dad was diagnosed Charmaine saw Steve and Lynn at a wedding. She knew of his diagnosis, but didn't know if it was too soon to approach them about it. She told me later on that she chose not to say anything yet but instead turned to him and gave him a 'strong fist.' We think that is pretty adorable. Just picture an 80 year old woman raising her fist in tribute to my dad in the middle of a wedding reception. What a character!

Scott (dad's good friend from work) - Dad went to lunch with a group of people from work the other day and Scott said to him, "Can I ask you a personal question?" Dad was curious what was coming next because you never know where someone is going with a question like that, but told him, "Sure." Scott then said, "Can I rub your head?" And it's understandable isn't it? Dad's head is pretty cool right now.

Dad weighs in...

Dad is seriously one of the funniest guys I know, and has been an example to the rest of us when it comes to approaching his illness with humor.

Since the diagnosis, mom has been trying so hard to get dad to take his vitamins and watch what he eats etc. His response? "Oh Lynn, don't you think that's like shutting the barn door once the horse is already out?" Good luck mom.

This is my personal favorite. I can't believe dad had such a great attitude right out of the gate. Mom and Dad had just come out of the doctor's office after having learned of his cancer. They got in the car and really, what do you even say to each other at this point? Dad came up with the following, "Well, thank heavens I didn't waste a lot of time exercising!" Honestly, you have to love him.

We've had a great time visiting. Thanks for the meals, the love, the skiing, and the late night chats!

Jenn and Kelly