It’s T+10 today. The doctor told my Mom she’s finishing the “first bad third” of this transplant journey, and she’ll soon enter the “second bad third”, which is slightly less bad. The final third is recovery, but in this situation it’s really best to take things one day at a time.
I’m glad we’ve moved on to math metaphors. Previously we inhabited a world filled with the kind of clichés that would have driven your freshman English comp professor around the bend: “This rocket has launched,” “It gets worse before it gets better,” “there’s no going back,” “it’s darkest before dawn,” etc.
Monday and Tuesday of this past week were Mom’s final days of Cytoxan. They were almost as dreadful as the initial rounds, however, they did control the nausea and vomiting in a way they didn’t the first time. Now that the Cytoxan is done, she’s on a host of medications to help the transplant itself. Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals. She gets transfusions of red blood cells and platelets as needed. The chemo has almost completely killed her own marrow—her blood counts go down every day. Sometime between T+14 and T+21, we’re going to see the counts go up…IF THIS WORKED…that will be MY bone marrow doing it’s thing. I asked a nurse a lot of questions about what to look for—she got concerned and said to me, “I want you to remember, sometimes this doesn’t work, and you are not responsible”.
Of course it will work. And of course I’m responsible. OK, rationally, I’m not—the nurse is right; but I think it’s impossible not to feel invested in this. I guess that’s why anonymous donors are not invited to meet their recipient until a year after the transplant has passed.
We’ve had some good days and some bad days. One good day my Dad and I spent 4 hours with her and we talked about lots of good times and the day flew by. We’ve had some bad days where Mom is in so much pain she can’t even move her head from the pillow. The situation changes from hour to hour. Dad and I find our moods are influenced by how well she feels. If she’s good, we’re up, if she’s bad, we’re down. One thing remains though—the conviction that she’s made the right choice. In spite of the expected, and extremely difficult physical side effects of this procedure, SHE IS DOING IT. She made it through the bad chemo—ten times stronger than what they give most cancer patients. She is free from infection (knock on wood, throw salt, etc).
Mom’s biggest challenge right now has the lovely name “mucositis”. Those are sores that appear in all the mucous membranes (think about that for a second. Yep. ALL) after the kind of chemo she’s had. They won’t go away until her body can fight them off, so they’re going to be there a while. They make eating nearly impossible. They are giving her a strong pain-killer for that. If it becomes unbearable, they will give her a pain pump.
As for me, I’ve been amazed at how tired I am. The discharge sheet did say “2-4 weeks” until I felt better, but I’m tough! They didn’t mean me! Ha! I’ve been sleeping 10 hours a night and taking 3 hour naps every afternoon. And I still hobble around. I’m heading back to work tomorrow—hopefully they won’t find me curled up under my desk by 9th mod. And if they do find me, maybe they’ll just slip me a pillow.
Did you know that transplant patients can’t have live flowers? Actually, they can’t garden for the duration—there are lots of nasty fungus in dirt and mulch. I made my Mom some tissue paper roses for Mother’s Day and my son drew some pictures. He chose the subject matter: “Grandpa with one leg eaten by a crocodile” (yet he’s smiling…Dad says it’s because he still has the other leg) and “Grammy sticking her tongue out” (sort of appropriate).