This is today's entry in Sue's CaringBridge journal, copied here with her permission. You are welcome to leave notes for them here on the forum:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 4:19 PM, CST
First of all, before I forget… YAY! The blood clot issue of last week is history! Jack’s Thursday night CT-scan revealed no abnormalities that need further treatment. What a relief! At the same time, Jack’s mouth infection from last week left him unable to eat; that, combined with the earlier radiation causing him to lose his sense of taste (everything he eats tastes like some form of ground-up paper and makes him nauseous) have caused him to lose yet another ten pounds in ten days.
The past two months have been pretty rough… but somehow we have managed to remember that each day has brought its own share of progress. Remembering back to December, Jack was in extreme pain, could barely stand or walk, and learned that he had Stage Three Myeloma (there is no Stage Four – his is as bad as it gets). In the preceding weeks, he had lost at least 4 inches in height (due to vertebral collapse) and since then, he has lost almost 60 pounds. But the miracle workers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have worked their magic: after many treatments, drugs, tests, and procedures, they have beaten the myeloma down to the point where he is a candidate for a stem cell transplant.
A stem cell transplant involves giving Jack a drug that makes his bone marrow over-produce stem cells, at which point the excess cells are dumped into his blood. There, they are harvested and when enough have been collected, Jack will receive high-dose chemotherapy: it will destroy his entire bone marrow system. The harvested stem cells will then be re-injected into his body. They have to “learn” where their new home is – and as they do, they will “engraft” in his bone marrow and start producing healthy blood. Being a computer engineer, Jack calls this whole process a “wipe and load” of his bone marrow -- it’s a difficult, risky process, but Jack is ready to cross this bridge, as he has all others to date, knowing that his doctors hold great roadmaps to guide him across the minefield.
Today, we met and fell in love with Jack’s new stem cell transplant doctor. His presence and interest in his patient, his honesty and directness, and his surety about what needs to be done, gave us all the confidence in the world that we are moving forward at breakneck speed into a world Jack has not yet seen: remission. Tentatively, Jack will start the stem cell transplant process on March 29. Five to seven weeks later, he will emerge with new bone marrow. The biggest risk involves infection: Jack will have no immunity… NO immunity… until the engraftment takes place. At that point, he will have to rebuild all his old immunities – starting with the re-taking of the vaccinations of childhood.
Much has to happen between now and March 29 – new bone marrow aspirations, dental cleaning, echocardiograms, chest x-rays, and so on. Next week he meets with the “pain doctor” -- his job is to help patients manage pain. He will determine if Jack might benefit from “kyphoplasty;” Jack has seven collapsed discs and in this local-anesthetic surgery, physicians pump cement into vertebrae to prevent further collapse, prevent nerve impingement, and relieve pain. Jack’s signal symptom of the myeloma right now is still back pain – he cannot sit up straight or stand for more than 10 minutes without experiencing pain (and that’s while he’s on pain pills). If Jack can have this surgery, it might relieve the remaining back pain he has, which would be wonderful!
Jack and I cannot thank all of you enough for your friendship – and the continued physical, emotional, and spiritual support you have provided. Special thanks go to Jean for a pork roast and wonderful spaghetti, to Fran for tasty soup, and to Joy for delicious banana bread. WA – I love the flowers! Missy – Jack so appreciates your visits (with WA, too!). Also, thanks to Mark and Susan for co-piloting on our trips downtown; they really have done wonders to keep me relaxed and on an even keel. And to Mary W for continued guidance, to many of you who have sent cards and emails, and to many more who continue to make guestbook entries – they are great boosts for Jack, who otherwise spends many of his days in isolation. We simply cannot begin to thank everyone for their friendship -- words are not enough, but please trust that we deeply appreciate each of you!
Sue and Jack