Friday, November 13, 2015

A Transplant for the Cure - Moving Forward

Karen Luehrman is preparing to receive her first pre-transplant
chemotherapy treatment at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Last week I received an email from Nurse Ellen Maxwell with the heading, "Moving Forward". It said that Karen's stem cell transplant is scheduled for November 17th. This is the third transplant date that has been set since the end of May.
 The first transplant date was postponed because Karen's CLL  changed into prolymphocytic leukemia and she had to take a three-month course of Campath. The second proposed transplant date was postponed because of a systemic fungal infection.

It looks like the transplant is going to happen this time. I flew from Houston to Kansas City yesterday. Karen and I reported to the University of Kansas Cancer Clinic at 8:00am today. Karen already has a tri-line in her chest, so the nurse started an IV with fluids as soon as we entered the office. She then started the first pre-transplant chemotherapy treatment. The treatment took about 30 minutes. I didn't even know she was getting the chemotherapy until it was all over. A pharmacist came in and talked to Karen about the medications she would be taking over the next week. Karen left the building with two large bags full of prescription medicines.

I was getting my first two Neupogen shots.
As the stem cell donor, I am required to take two shots of Neupogen for four days in a row. My first shots were today. I did not know the shots would be given in my stomach. This was an unpleasant surprise. The nurse said she had to give me two separate shots because the dose was too large to be absorbed in one place. The nurse grabbed my stomach fat, and stabbed me with a large needle. The first shot seemed like it would last forever, and I felt a burning sensation as the substance entered my body. The second shot did not last as long and the burning was not as severe. I felt a little dizzy after the shots, but that might have just been anxiety from seeing those long needles.
The pharmacist was talking to Karen about her medications. 

 Neupogen (Filgrastim) is used to increase the number of stem cells in the blood before collection for use in stem cell transplantation. I was only given a limited amount of information about the possible side effects of this drug. I was told I might suffer from some bone and joint pain or possible headaches. I was NOT told that the use of Neupogen could result in serious allergic reactions (including a rash over the whole body, shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, and sweating), ruptured spleen (sometimes resulting in death) and an assortment of other ailments. The long-term effects are not known. (Source: Wikipedia)

I agreed to be a stem cell donor because my sister has a terminal disease and a transplant is the only hope for a cure. At the age of 62, I hope that my good health will not be compromised by the transplant procedure. Most stem cell donors are many years younger than I am, but an exact match is hard to come by.

It may seem like I have a wimpy attitude and I just need to suck it up. The fact is, I live a very sheltered life. My sweet husband protects me from all the problems of the world and my life consists of doing art, crafts, reading, and walking with my dogs. I can honestly say, I have no problems after seeing dozens of leukemia and lymphoma patients come to the clinic seeking radical bone marrow transplants.

Karen and I are staying with our youngest sister, Lois Crane, during the preliminary treatments. Today was Lois' birthday! I appreciate her hospitality and hope we can do a little more birthday celebrating tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be another day of chemotherapy for Karen and Neupogen shots for me.  Sweet dreams.

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