Last night, I slept at home in my own bed for the first time since Easter Sunday. The week after Easter, I was admitted to the hospital for a Bone Marrow Transplant. After eighteen days in the hospital, we spent a week and a half at the Bartch Transplant House. After my release from the hospital, I had three appointments at the BMT clinic, and my blood tests were good enough that I did not require any transfusions or additional treatment. Yesterday, I went to the hospital to have my trifusion line removed. That is a very exciting development for me. I’m looking forward to taking a normal shower again this week.
I wrote my last blog a few days after I was admitted to the hospital, just before the actual bone marrow transplant. It was overly cheerful about my time in the hospital. The first few days were easy, and the procedure itself was no big deal. On Wednesday, April 19th, I had a chemo blast that wiped out my immune system, and eventually caused me to lose what was left of my hair, but the side effects did not start right away. Two days later, on Friday, I had the actual bone marrow transplant. Just like the chemo on Wednesday, I just sat in bed while they pumped stuff into me through the trifusion line. On Wednesday it was chemo, and on Friday it was my stem cells that they had harvested two weeks before.
Saturday was when the side effects started. For the next ten days, I experienced a variety of flu-like symptoms. Fatigue was my favorite symptom. I tried my best to sleep as much as possible during those days. Nausea was my least favorite symptom. So far, I have lost twenty-five pounds since the BMT, and I am still trying to rediscover my appetite. During my time in the hospital, the nurses told me that it was important for me to eat and walk, but I did not feel like doing either. Before this treatment, it would have been difficult for me to imagine meal time as a chore that I had to endure. Gradually, I discovered foods that I could tolerate, and I was able to discontinue the anti-nausea medication by the time I left the hospital.
I continued to improve during my time at the Bartch House. Most days I was able to walk two and a half miles and eat three decent meals. My returning appetite defies logic. So far, I am not able to tolerate coffee or tea, but I enjoy Mexican food with salsa. My favorite meal is breakfast, either cereal or raisin toast, and some days that’s a good lunch also.
Gina and I were both very impressed with the care I received at Florida Hospital. The entire team on the Bone Marrow Transplant unit combined competence with compassion. We were also surprised by the Bartch House. We expected that we would find safer, more affordable housing, and we found exactly that before, during and after my hospitalization. We did not expect to form friendships and find a community there, but we did. The staff at the Bartch House are amazing ministers guided by our common faith, and we commiserated with the fellow travelers there.
It has been twenty-five days since my transplant, and, because of my wiped out immune system, I will have several restrictions for one hundred days. Exercise is good, but I cannot ride a bicycle this summer. I’m not allowed to eat at restaurants or order carryout, and fresh vegetables and fruit are okay only if we cook them. I think I’ll be allowed to drive again in a few weeks. I am supposed to limit my exposure to the public and our cats, so I will spend most days on a recliner in my bedroom, but I will have a laptop and plenty of books and DVR and Netflix. I’m planning to return and deliver the Sunday sermon at church on June 11th. I’m excited about being back in the pulpit, but to appease my doctor I will have to arrive at church late and leave early for most of the summer.