I am so glad this week is over. That is probably not the last time that I will say that, but it applies ten times over for the events since my last posting. A week ago, we were ecstatic: tests indicated that Jack had enough stem cells in his blood stream to begin their extraction. It is now April 16 – and the early excitement was short-lived. Jack needed 13 million stem cells in order to perform his transplant; for most people, the stem cell harvesting is done in 3 to 5 days. After five days, only 2.5 million stem cells had been harvested from Jack, which weighed heavily on us. To complicate matters, the extraction process made Jack extremely nauseous. To add insult to injury, I managed to come down with a terrible case of the flu; we were quite the pair – both of us sick as dogs and both of us worried sick. Jack’s strength continued to decline – and he began to feel as if he were the victim of death by a thousand cuts: horrible nausea, terrible bone pain, chills, aches, major depression, exhaustion, and worse. To complicate matters even more, Jack started throwing millions of white blood cells from his marrow into his blood. The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center physicians decided to take a more intense course of action; they removed a quart of white blood cells from Jack, and added some new injections aimed at increasing the movement of stem cells into Jack’s circulatory system. At $16,000 per injection, I once again wondered: what do people without insurance or other resources do?
Today, after almost $70,000 of injections, Jack has 14 million little baby stem cells sleeping in a deep freeze somewhere in Houston. And finally, Jack was able to eat his first meal in a week. It would be an understatement to say that I am relieved. Of course, that relief was followed by a phone call from M.D. Anderson: please rush him downtown immediately; his blood chemistry is critically out of balance. Ah heck – what’s another rush hour trip into town? But really – on the way to M.D. Anderson, I was just in tears: when is this guy going to get a break?? Cancer doesn’t give anyone time to feel sorry for anything, though; you just move on, taking one day at a time.
Between now and a week from tomorrow, Jack will have more tests and time to recuperate before he gets his whopper dose of chemo. That chemo will kill all of Jack’s bone marrow. Then, on Monday, April 26, half of the stem cells that were collected over the past week will be defrosted and find their way back into Jack’s circulation. Lucky dogs – they get to party on! When those cells are transplanted, as it turns out, the M.D. Anderson folks consider this Jack’s “birthday” and everything counts forward from day zero at that point. Eventually, once Jack gets past the worst of his immuno-compromised period, I intend to throw one heck of a birthday party for this newborn guy! Gee - do you think we have to get married again, too? (answer: it doesn't really matter - but I'd do it in a heartbeat!)
We owe so many thanks to so many people this week. Praise goes to Mark S, who stepped in and transported Jack downtown for a couple days while I was too sick to do much of anything – and to Mary G who also filled in, driving Jack into town and giving him shots while I was too sick to do so. Many thanks go to Diane S, who sat by my side, pushed wheelchairs, and took notes the rest of the week; and to Robbie D for fixing the smoke detector that chirped for a week because I couldn’t climb a ladder tall enough to replace the batteries. As always, many thanks go to friends for their caring and support – with a special thanks to Jerryann C for an especially thoughtful and heartfelt gift (you deserve stars in your crown for such friendship!). And to Fran G for standing by many days, “just in case.” And to all of you who are part of that great army of prayer warriors, thank you, thank you, thank you; you are helping Jack fight the good fight and giving him much hope. Finally, thanks to those who have warmed Jack’s heart with your guestbook entries, private emails, and cards. You are all incredible, absolutely incredible. I know that friendship does not carry the burden of debt… but we still believe that we “owe” you all so much – even if the best that we can offer in return is our unending friendship.
With much love,
Sue and Jack