Gearing up for consolidation round #2

Met with the oncologist on Friday, and even though my body is still taking its time to get the white blood count up, he thought I was ready to start my second round of consolidation on Monday. So, what do you do to prepare for another round of chemotherapy? You do whatever you can to enjoy the days leading up to it, because chances are it’s going to suck (I think that’s actual medical terminology) again.

So, we did what any normal couple would do on a beautiful summer Sunday. We prepared a picnic and headed for the park.

Picnic at the Park

Picnic at the Park

After a hearty lunch, a chapter or two and a leisure stroll back to the car, we stopped at the Birchwood for treats (key lime pie for me, carrot cake for Virginia) and iced coffee.

Back at home, the afternoon was still beckoning us to stay outdoors, so we sat out on the deck and created some scratchcrafty goodness (for those new to this blog, that’s typically spinning and knitting around here).

Virginia Knitting

Superwash Colonnial

Note about the yarn: The spinning of this yarn was interrupted back in March, but I decided to take advantage of feeling energized and finish it up today. This is a skein of 3-ply superwash colonnial wool, spun from about 3 oz. of dyed top, totaling 330 yards. Surprisingly, I was able to keep it the same wpi’s as when I first started. Some skills don’t get rusty, even with cancer.

Speaking of which… nah, I’ll stop talking about that for now and just enjoy the rest of the evening. I think there’s probably some more spinning on tap and an episode or two of The Avengers.

On having tubes

I think I’m allowed to gripe a little (obviously, since this is my blog, I can gripe all I want, but there remains a fine balance of not turning away those who wish to follow this journey with me by griping all the time — that can get old).

There are certain things about having cancer that can really put a damper on activities that one normally enjoys (OK, that’s a bit of an understatement). Take for instance, bathing. For the past three months I have not had a complete soak in the tub. Sure, I can sit and splash and sort of soak. But, as one nurse referred to bathing with a hickman, “It’s like taking a bird bath.” To get an idea of what I’m up against every time I try to get clean, here’s a photo:

(Word of warning – it’s not a pretty picture, but nothing about having tubes sticking out of your body is pretty).

Hickman Line

There are obvious advantages to having direct access to one’s blood stream. For one, every time I have blood work drawn (two or three times a week), I don’t have to get pricked. The same goes for medications, I.V.s and blood transfusions. Pain medication is especially effective when administered this way. I found that out real fast when given Demerol and Dilaudid at different points during my hospitalizations… “Ummm, I’ll have some more of that, please.” (Just kidding). But, that’s about it.

Ah, but to be able to submerge myself to the neck and take a nice long soak… I believe that will be the first thing I’ll do when this is all over with.

With the flow

After a couple of successful injections of G-CSF (thank you, Virginia for the shots, and thank you, modern medicine, for powerfully effective drugs), my white blood counts jumped from a meager 1.5 k/ul to a whopping 12.6 (the normal range being between 4 and 11) practically overnight. I felt pretty invincible over the weekend, with more infection fighting cells in my body than I have had in a really long time. But, like the saying goes, all good things must eventually come to an end.

My white count is back to where it’s typically been… 2.0 k/ul. So, I’m back to plugging along, letting my bone marrow do the hard work without the help of growth factors. I’m good with it, even if it means more of a delay before being able to start my second round of consolidation. In fact, it reminds me of a beetle I observed while sitting outside the other day.


It was walking across the long expanse of our patio table with a dogged determination (being especially patient once I started to get involved and forced it to stop for a photo). It just kept on walking, destination unknown to me, and perhaps unimportant… just kept walking, pushing forward.

So, we, too, learn to just go with the flow, moving forward. No amount of stress, mental bending or finger crossing is going to make my bone marrow do anything other than what it is going to do.

Activities for this week include an echocardiogram on Thursday (make sure the chemotherapy hasn’t done any permanent damage to my heart), an EKG on Friday, and a scheduling appointment with the oncologist to determine the start date of my last (keeping my fingers crossed, despite what I just talked about — habits are hard to break) round of consolidation.

Home at last… again

That’s right. The oncologists agreed to send me home today. I’m still neutropenic, so they made me promise to come back if my condition changed, and packed my bags with a whole arsenal of antibiotics. So far, so good. I’m awfully tired (2-and-a-half weeks of hospital stay is no way to build strength and endurance), but very happy to be able to spend the better part of the day hanging out somewhere other than room 8109. And, since it is our 8th anniversary today, it’s especially nice to be home.


A week ago Sunday (has it been that long?) I was admitted back in to the oncology ward (referred to as 8 East – has a better ring to it, doesn’t it?). The fevers I had on Sunday and Monday went away (probably because of the antibiotics they had me on again), but my numbers are still taking their time to get back up to where I can fight off infection. So, even though I’m feeling relatively good, here I am. This time around I’m one of the easy patients — other than 3 transfusions of platelets and 2 transfusions of packed red blood cells, I’m just sort of hanging out (although, the days when my hemoglobin is down I tend to sleep a lot, so that doesn’t really count as hanging out).

So, the other day they talked me into getting a DVD player in the room (provided by 8 East) as well as a Playstation (a PS2, if I’m not mistaken). The last time I spent any serious time on a gaming console was when I bought a second-hand SEGA Genesis with my hard-earned allowance in junior high. Twenty years later and a couple of hours of some arduous training, I still might have a chance to become a mechanized cop ready to free the world of terrorists and robots. Of course, Andy (the nurse that hooked me up with this particular distraction) has coached and encouraged me a little (in between his rounds, of course).

So, while I save the world from the bad guys, I wait here in the hospital while the real heroes (sorry for the cheesy comparison) work on getting my bone marrow to start functioning properly again.

I’m hoping to head home early this coming week, so keep your fingers crossed. And, after a few days of rest and rebuilding of strength, I’ll be repeating the whole process all over again. Let’s just hope they don’t overwrite the memory card on the PS2 between now and then…