This is blog #6 in a series.
I met my local oncologist, Dr. James Neel, on my first morning in the hospital back in September. He told me then that he was 95% sure I had multiple myeloma and he described the treatment. I would go through three months of chemotherapy from the end of September until the beginning of December, then in January I would have a bone marrow transplant. The chemo was handled through Dr. Neel’s office at the Cancer Center in Melbourne, but he referred me to Dr. Ahmed at Florida Hospital in Orlando for the transplant. Gina and I have visited his office twice to meet with Dr. Ahmed and his team to learn about the procedure. The preparations are extensive, and it sounds like the recovery will take several months. Dr. Ahmed said that most of his patients are able to go back to work after two months, but that even then it would be a good idea to avoid public settings like movie theaters and church.
The nurse coordinator at Dr. Ahmed’s office sent me a detailed schedule that included five diagnostic tests the week before Christmas, stem cell collection the first weekend in January, and admission to the hospital for the transplant at the end of January. The usual timetable includes 10-14 days inpatient, then two more weeks staying in Orlando near the hospital to make it easy for me to return for tests (or in case of complications), then one month of lockdown at home before I am allowed to return to public interaction. I’ll be like the boy in the bubble. Gina has been busy turning our bedroom into a clean room, and the cats will be banished from the bedroom when I return home after the transplant.
I made plans at school and church to have my positions covered while I was out of commission. Because my last chemo ended in early December, I have been stronger every week since then. I have been more energetic and productive over the holidays, and I was looking forward to a productive January before admission to the hospital.
During the week before Christmas, Gina and I spent two nights in Orlando in order for me to undergo five tests at the Florida Hospital. Most of these were new tests for me: a pulmonary function test, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, and a PET scan. I also had my second bone marrow biopsy. This one was done outpatient under local anesthesia, and it was my least favorite thing so far. My first bone marrow biopsy was done during my first hospitalization under general anesthesia, so it felt like turning back the clock to have it done outpatient. According to Dr. Ahmed, we would need to know the results of these tests before I could give informed consent for the transplant, so we were scheduled to meet on the first Tuesday in January for me to sign the forms and confirm the treatment schedule.
Dr. Ahmed called me the morning of our scheduled appointment and told me not to come. He said that the most recent bone marrow biopsy showed that my chemo had been effective, but not effective enough. Therefore he was recommending two more months of chemo with a different formula before rescheduling the transplant. The new timetable will push my transplant out about nine weeks, depending on the results of the next round of tests. I’ll write more about that in my next blog. I am disappointed in the change in schedule because I was eager to get it over with and get on with my recovery, but I am trusting God to work through my doctors to provide me the best treatment.