On Thursday, July 13, my parents brought me to Princess Margaret Hospital for what I figure will be close to 30 days – though I would try to cut it to 23.
Wednesday, the day prior, I spent with my wife and kids. But first I had to go to a mandatory education session about transplants. Having already met with the transplant doctor, I had no further questions and didn’t learn anything at the session. Good for the hospital to educate the patients, and I’m sure most people need both the session and the doctor meeting. But I would have been fine with just the doctor meeting only. Instead, my wife and I had to waste the entire morning getting into Toronto, parking, sitting through the session, and coming home for 1pm. We took the kids to Neb’s World in Oshawa, followed by the movies (Despicable Me 3). We had planned to also have lunch with them, walk them and the dog down some trails, etc. But that was in the morning and we had to go to the session instead. The prior night (Tuesday), I slept in the tent with the girls and the dog. A fitting final day.
But on Thursday, after checking into PMH and getting my room all set up and a few tests done, the doc told me I could go home and come back first thing Friday. A bonus night! It was nice to surprise the girls when I walked through the front door.
Friday was hectic. I had to get pics taken of my heart. Then I had to get a Hickman line. It was two hours in that waiting room before I went in to get the line, which took about 15 minutes to put in. As gross as the process is to hear described, it wasn’t painful at all. The freezing was probably the worst. Then a weird pulling sensation as they snaked the tube into my body up near the collarbone and then curving right towards the left half of the chest.
Friday night was my first night in-hospital, but it wasn’t lonely. The day was too hectic. Saturday they started chemo – three different kinds. The rough one was an orange color that had to be injected slowly via syringe. Sunday was more of the same and that was when I started to feel nausea. At this point, it slowed my appetite, but didn’t defeat it. By nightfall, however, I was really only interested in eating apple slices.
Monday, the vomiting began. In the morning, and again in the evening. I gave up even trying apple slices at dinner. Monday was also the final day of that “rough” chemo. I’d still get the other two, but this one was done after Monday.
Tuesday I did not vomit, but neither did I eat more than three or four apple slices the entire day. I started feeling a little better that night, and had a banana. The next morning I had a donut and by lunchtime I started getting cocky. I had a Big Mac combo brought to me by my parents. I ate most of the burger and a couple of fries – and held it down. Riding this wave of confidence, I decided to have an egg salad sandwich for dinner. That didn’t work out well – the vomiting returned.
Meanwhile, my daily blood counts were going wild. My WBC shot right up over 5.0 for the first time that I’ve seen in years. But by Thursday it was down to 0.1. On Wednesday my hemoglobin was at 75, which was their cutoff for getting a blood transfusion. They decided to give it one more day – and hemoglobin actually went up to 77, thus buying myself another day. A blood transfusion seems to be in my future for Friday.
Also Thursday – in the afternoon I was set free of my IV pole. That thing had been attached to my hickman line since Friday. It made going to the bathroom a pain in the ass, since it required stretching far to reach the plug and pull it from the wall, and then wrapping the cord out of the way, and slowly weaving it out from between my bed and the privacy curtain. And because the IV was giving me a steady flow of saline, I had to go to the bathroom often – every three hours if I drank nothing, every two hours if I drank water along with it. So yes, I had to get up and pee at 10pm, 12am, 3am, 6am – each time doing the merry dance called “untangle the cord and the IV pole”.
But now I’m free of it. And what’s more – the doc said I may be able to go home Saturday evening for 36 hours.
It’s my understanding that the next two weeks will see my blood counts hit bottom. I’ll be highly susceptible to illness but otherwise feel somewhat normal. Hair loss is expected around Day 14 and today (Thursday) is considered Day 6. I’m feeling positive about this first month. Like the worst is over and all that’s left is hair loss and slow improvement of the nausea. I can see lots of these day passes ahead, plus I feel that I’ll get out of here in 23 days instead of 30.
The big one is in early September. The transplant is where things not only get risky, but they get rougher. This here in July is just a practice run.