This post is #2 in a series
My last blog, “How Did I Get Here?” ended with Gina taking me to the hospital on Friday, September 16th. After work that day, Gina was alarmed at my decline, so she called my doctor’s office and convinced them and me that I needed to go to the hospital. I’m glad I listened to her then. I should have listened to her sooner. She was the first to suggest that my back pain might be more than back pain, and that was two or three weeks earlier.
I have not been hospitalized since my tonsillectomy when I was a child, and I am typically not eager to seek a medical treatment, but I was surprised and confused by my lack of improvement over the past month. Almost immediately, I felt a sense of relief that help was coming. We arrived at Holmes Regional Medical Center ER late in the afternoon. I spent a few hours there before I was admitted to the hospital Friday evening. I stayed through the weekend, and I was released around lunchtime on Tuesday, 9/20. Gina and I both felt like we received consistently excellent, compassionate care from all of the professionals we met that weekend.
I’m not sure how my friend, Dr. Kurt Hensel, knew that I was in the ER, but he stopped by the ER waiting room and prayed with us even before we got to a room in the ER. My primary care physician, Dr. William Wahl, was on call at Holmes that weekend, so he met with us in the ER room to discuss options for the weekend. He suspected some type of blood cancer, but the concluding tests would probably not be available until Monday. We opted for admission to the hospital for the weekend so that testing and some treatment could begin.
By the time I was admitted to a room, it was past dinner time. My room was crowded with visitors, Gina and my mom, friends from church and school. My first night in the hospital ended with a carryout sushi party from Siam Orchid.
My hospital days started at 4:00 AM with a phlebotomist drawing several vials of blood. Gina spent every night at the hospital with me, sleeping in the recliner in the corner room. Her routine was to wake up early and go home to shower and change, returning by mid-morning. The doctors, both Dr. Wahl and my oncologist would stop by early morning every day I was there, so Gina missed several of those meetings, and I had to relay the details to her later.
I met Dr. James Neel, the oncologist/hematologist on duty that weekend, on Saturday morning, 9/17, and I was impressed from the beginning. He told me that his diagnosis would not be confirmed until after the bone marrow biopsy on Monday, but that he was convinced that I had multiple myeloma. After the shock of the diagnosis, he had some very hopeful news about my prognosis, the course of treatment and the likely side effects. That conversation will be the subject of my next blog.
WARNING: If you google “multiple myeloma,” you will find information that is accurate as to symptoms, but out of date as to prognosis. This is a rapidly advancing field of study, and the outlook is much more hopeful today. Nowadays, this is a considered a type of cancer that is very responsive to treatment.
I had a steady flow of visitors on Saturday, and at some point in the day I developed a fever and I had trouble staying awake during visits. That was probably my low point, and I think the sight of me must have been alarming. On Sunday, Walter was not sure it was a good idea for the congregation to come visit, but I woke up early Sunday feeling much better, and welcomed several visitors Sunday afternoon and evening.
Monday’s highlight was a bone marrow biopsy, the test that ultimately confirmed Dr. Neel’s diagnosis. Tuesday’s highlight was my first chemo treatment, a shot administered by two nurses in HAZMAT gear. The chemo treatments are a form of targeted poison, designed to attack the cancer, but chemo is toxic to others so it is administered carefully to protect the nurses and anyone else who might be around. I was released from the hospital just after lunch on Tuesday, 9/20.
Next blog: My diagnosis / prognosis / treatment