Day -7: Chemotherapy gets under way

I’m up just before 6am and get my room tidied up, bed made etc., and shortly thereafter a nurse arrived to start my IV. Initially with just saline solution and later around 10:30 with some Benadryl. Now, at, 11:30 with the the chemo therapy choix du jour, Bendaustine.

My pole dancing partner

Yesterday, I was worried about boredom, and I suspect that will come, but today it’s been quite busy so far.

  1. Start the IV and take some anti-nausea medication.
  2. Full set of vital stats, blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, listen to my chest, listen to my heart (checking for rhythm ), mouth check (for sores)
  3. I’m weighed on a scale that is wheeled into my room
  4. I walk some hall laps (2x) and meet one of my fellow “residents”. He is my competition for the most number of hallway laps in a day. Its game on!
  5. The bathroom is cleaned and garbage emptied.
  6. Normal medications are delivered.
  7. An EKG is performed
  8. All of my electrical cords (chargers, extension cord, and CPAP power cord) are inspected and approved by the maintenance department.
  9. Actual physical mail gets delivered (thanks!)
  10. Multiple texts from well wishers (thanks very much!)
  11. Some pre-chemotherapy medications (pills) to prevent negative reactions to the chemotherapy are delivered and consumed
  12. The chemotherapy medication is added to the IV pump
  13. The nurse pops into the room quite frequently just to see if I’m doing OK

All this before noon!

Two lines at once. The red line or the blue line?

Day -8: The Countdown Begins

We’re up at 6am, and I spend some time with devotions and praying before a quick breakfast and some last minute packing and we’re off to HSC.

At our 8:15am appointment the PICC line is installed and it was an easy procedure (for me) but quite an amazing process performed by two excellent nurses. First they use an ultrasound device to evaluate your veins, and apparently mine are excellent and they pick their preferred target and mark the location. Then they measure how long to make the tubing which runs from your arm (my left arm) to just above my heart, 47cm. Then the arm is draped, the area sterilized and a sensor is placed on my chest. The sensor lets them know when the tip of the PICC tubing reaches the correct location near my heart. Next I’m injected with some local freezing and then a needle is guided into the vein. A guide wire is inserted into the needle and threaded down the vein to its destination. Once that’s in place the PICC tubing is fed over top of the guide wire and then the guide wire is removed. The external end of the PICC line is attached to my arm with a StatLock which holds the tubing and seals the entry point. A gauze bandage wraps around the whole thing and I’m off for an x-ray to confirm the placement of the tip of the line. Once the placement is confirmed, I’m free to go and the whole thing takes about 90 minutes.

Check-in time at my new digs is 1pm, so we head off to Stella’s on Sherbrook for some brunch followed by a brief drop in visit with Mandy, Easton & Clark and then its back to HSC.

My Mexican Breakfast brunch at Stella’s

We’re COVID screened at the HSC front door, processed by admissions and then up to the ward on the 6th floor. At this point there is a locked door with a phone where we are screened again with a bunch of different questions before being buzzed in, basically it’s like Fort Knox. Once in we’re greeted by Shannon, my nurse for today, who shows us around the floor and directs us to my room.

My view for the next 21+days

After getting unpacked Shannon returns and I get weighed, measured, various body parts are listened to, poked and prodded and I answer a lot of questions about all kinds of medical things. We’re introduced to the Physician Assistant, Sung, who repeats the process with a few additional questions. Between the two of them they explain what will be taking place during my stay and answer all our questions. They are very nice and kind to us both and make us feel quite comfortable and reassured.

So, what does it look like, this place where I’ll be hanging out? Let me give you a tour, it won’t take long, I promise. 😉

Welcome to my room: 643
The TV and behind Shirley is my workstation.
My bed & chair

And of course no day would be complete without the hospital tray dinner of a yummy grilled chicken thigh, plain rice, and broccoli. Milk, tea and a coconut dessert. I eat it all.

Dinner #1

Doctor Touch base

Thursday we spoke with Dr C Speziali the oncologist in charge of my bone marrow/stem cell transplant. He reviewed the planned schedule (below) and answered all of our questions. As of today, the planned admission is still Tuesday June 9th.

On the 9th at 8:15 I’ll have a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) “installed” and then it’s off to the admissions department and then up to the ward on GD6 at HSC. The schedule is planned to go something like this…

June 9-8PICC, Admission, Blood work and other tests
June 10-7Chemotherapy
June 11-6Chemotherapy
June 12-5Chemotherapy
June 13-4Chemotherapy
June 14-3Chemotherapy
June 15-2Chemotherapy
June 16-1Chemotherapy
June 170Stem cells are re-introduced into my body
June 18 –
July 1
1 – 14Recovery
July 215Possible discharge and go home!

The Stem Cell re-introduction is a major milestone and the days before are referred to as the “countdown” hence the -8 to -1 day numbering.

We also got the results of the MUGA and Pulmonary Function Test from May 20th, both of which are fine according to the doctor. However, the MUGA ejection fraction fell from 58 to 52 for reasons that are unclear to me. The current chemotherapy is not supposed to have a negative effect on heart or lung function. Oh well, it came back up before and it will be restored again.

After the phone call we head out to the lake for a few days of R&R, some family time and generally just taking it easy before heading back to town on Sunday to enjoy a barbecue with our sons and their families.