The Big Update

Okay gang, here’s the results from the latest doctor’s appointment. There’s a lot of information to cover, so feel free to start skimming to the good stuff if I start to ramble, which I probably will.

First off, they handed me a little folder when I registered at Yale that had various Important Information for me. One of these pieces of information was the current Yale Cancer Center newsletter. The front page is taken up with a large article about my doctor (Dr. Cooper) and his team and the amazing strides they’ve made in stem cell transplant research. Not only is this the only place in Connecticut that does this stuff, they’re also leading the way for the rest of the country in a lot of it. They might’ve just slipped this article in there because I was going to be seeing Dr. Cooper, but it still gives me a lot of confidence in the team.

So, let’s get to the important part – me. Dr. Cooper hasn’t looked at all of the PET scans yet, but between what Dr. D and I have told him, as well as what the various reports have said, he’s 98% sure of the path we’re going to take. He’ll just be looking at the scans a little later today and then talk to Dr. D about what’s going to happen. The current idea for the game plan is this:

Starting sometime next week, I’ll undergo a new kind of chemotherapy involving different drugs than before (ICE rather than ABVD). This chemo is rougher than the last one (it’s about time – that other chemo was for wimps) and will be given for three days in a row, every other week. Luckily, Dr. D’s office will be able to give me the chemo there, so I can just go down the road for the treatment rather than drive down to New Haven. The treatment will be given to me one week, I’ll have another week off, then another three days of treatment. The next week will be another PET scan to check the progress. Basically, we’re hoping to drive the cancer into remission with these two treatments.

Assuming that PET scan is clear, the fun stuff begins. They give me another of the ICE treatments, then I go back the next week to have my stem cells harvested. Skip the following section if you don’t need the medical nitty gritty.

Stem Cell Harvesting 101

Stem cells are like the building blocks of our blood cells/immune system. They’re basically baby cells that your bone marrow creates and your body decides what to turn them into depending on what it needs at the time. In my case, I’m gonna need white blood cells. A lot of them. The last chemo I have will shut down my immune system and put me in a bad way. They’ll then stick the harvested cells back in me and this influx of new stem cells will reboot my immune system. This is what’s often behind the process of those bone marrow transplants you might have heard of. The trick with this is, they harvest MY stem cells, so there’s no problem with my body rejecting them later like it could if I had them donated from someone else. So don’t worry, I won’t be sizing you guys up for marrow. At least, not for this reason. I don’t know what my dietary requirements will be yet, so keep it handy, just in case.

Once that’s done (it takes around a week), they’ll hit me with some really hard chemotherapy that will completely shut down my immune system. Fun, huh? Once they’ve got me on the ropes, they’ll inject my stem cells back into me to get my system restarted.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, it’s all uphill from here, but there’s a path up the hill. It’s a rocky path with a steep dropoff on one side and scary mountain goats every few feet, but a path nonetheless.

The good news is, I’ll still be able to work through most of the treatments. I’ll have a few off days, and I’ll probably have to do a lot of work from home in that last bit, but if I can make my way over to my home computer, I can get things done. The bad news is, so much for the rest of my hockey season.

So there you have it. The timing is still in sort of a gray area, so I can’t be definite about times and dates just yet. I do know that when it starts, it starts fast and just keeps on going, and that start will probably be next week.

I’m not sure I got everything in there or if what I did get in there made any sense, so feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

On to the next adventure we go…