Day +4: Father’s Day

Father’s Day Gifts from the Family.

So many people helped make this Father’s Day a special time for me. I received some very thoughtful and heart felt gifts from the family along with encouraging messages that blessed me. Also, throughout the day I received calls and texts from many people wishing me a Happy Father’s day, again blessed by thoughtful friends.

Hospital food can be quite something. Sometimes pretty “OK”, other times not so much. Thankfully, today, once again, a chef angel (Shirley) arrived with a complete lunch! One of my favourites and certainly something that’s not on the hospital menu, Chicken Caesar salad and a chocolate dessert!

As you can probably guess my appetite has not been negatively effected. πŸ™‚ I’m still tied to an IV pole for hydration 24×7, which is helping to stabilize my blood pressure (low) to some level which doesn’t have me dizzy when I stand up. Blood count numbers continue to drop as expected and should turn around in a couple of days. Overall, feeling good. One or two naps are figuring more prominently into my day, but that’s good too.

Wishing all the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day!

Day +3: The Pressure

Well, by 4:30am I can tell the the blood pressure (BP) is not what it should be as I’m a little shaky heading to the washroom. Sure enough with the 6am check its officially low again and I’m hooked to the IV once more. Seems like I’ll be pole dancing for several days now to keep the hydration up.

Shirley is back today! Hurrah! Complete with Starbucks, homemade lunch and re-supplies of all kinds of stuff. She got asked if she was moving in. πŸ˜‰

We chat, play gin rummy, where I mostly lose, and have lunch together. During the morning the hospital decides I should get some additional blood culturing done to rule out any infection issues that might be causing the BP issue. Four samples are collected, two from a vein in my arm and another two (duplicate test) from the PICC line. My lab expert (Shirley) says it will be a couple of days before results are available. My temperature is fine and infection is unlikely, but good to be cautious.

More naps are in order for the afternoon.

Day +2: Memories

I’ve been thinking about my dad over the last couple of days, because of this.

Williams Lectric Shave

Guys seem to be either an electric razor guy or a blade guy. My dad was an electric razor guy all the way. Me, I’ve tried them on and off but settled on the blade for many years now. However, with the treatment, they recommend using an electric razor (or growing a beard ) as opposed to a blade to minimize the chance of getting a cut. A cut might pose two problems, one being bleeding due to low platlets etc. , and the other is a source of infection, to be avoided for sure at this point.

Turns out dry shaving with an electric razor is not optimum. Enter William’s Lectric Shave, the stuff my dad always used. I can still remember the smell. Fond memories for sure.

Today, I was pretty tired. Blood pressure has been low all day which leads to some dizziness when I get up at times. At around 10pm I’m re-connected to the IV pump to get a rapid infusion of saline solution. Within 1/2 hr I’m feeling a lot more energetic and the blood pressure is now textbook perfect.

Day +1: By the numbers

Some people like the numbers, some don’t. The hospital certainly does! They track every thing in/out and all around. Multiple times a day I’m checked for a temperature, blood pressure, heart rhythm, bowel & lung sounds. All of which have been pretty steady and “OK”. Blood work is a bit of a different story.

Daily, there is blood work and here are some of the key factors they are keeping track of as I journey along.

The first two on the chart below are platelets ( the green line) and hemoglobin (the blue line). Apparently this is pretty normal as a result of the chemotherapy and as the stem cells get to work these numbers will start to turn around and return to normal.

The next chart is the white blood cell count which is looking not too bad at this point.

White Blood Cell Count

And then there is the weight! All the up and down is caused by the constant 24×7 IV hydration over the first 7 days and some meds to make you lose some of the hydration account for the dips. All that has stopped now so things should level out unless I’m eating too much . πŸ™‚

Weight

Otherwise things are good, I’m feeling well

Day Zero: Stem Cell Transplant

A major milestone in the journey happened today with the re-introduction of my previously harvested stem cells, all without complications or side effects, except that apparently I smell like creamed corn. Thankfully, I can’t smell it but everyone else can and it will last a day or two.

For the highlights of the process here is a quick video:

The day started off at 6am with the standard blood work and a very kind nurse bringing me a coffee and toast with peanut butter. Breakfast is still hours away.

Breakfast of Champions

At about 8:30 it’s breakfast and a little later in the morning Shirley arrives with Starbucks. We chat and visit and then it’s lunch. Sure is a lot of eating around here!

Lunch, pizza & corn beef sandwich

Shortly after 1pm the process begins when my stem cells arrive with another nurse who looks after the frozen cells. They are extracted from a liquid nitrogen container and then verified that they are mine, quite carefully, which is a good thing.

Out of the deep freeze

They have their own aluminium protection case.

Then they are placed in a temperature controlled water bath to bring them back up to body temperature.

Coming up to body temperature
And they are ready to go

The next step takes place in just under 30 minutes for optimum results. The stem cells are gravity fed into me, bypassing the IV pump which apparently would damage the cells. There is a manual process to force the cells in but it is not required as the PICC line is working well.

Incoming stem cells

This process is repeated for the 2nd bag of stem cells and the whole thing wraps up in under 90 minute. I experience none of the potential side effects, not even the most common one which is a tickle in your throat that makes you cough.

Happy to have successfully completed the stem cell transplant

Thanks to everyone for the prayers, support and encouragement on this milestone day. Shirley and I appreciate you all so much.

Next phase is the recovery of various blood components that have been affected by the chemotherapy, specifically the white blood cell count, hemoglobin, platelets & neutrophils. Once the levels are back up to something acceptable and I’m feeling well, I get discharged home. Current estimate is another 2 weeks in hospital.

Wondering why I smell like creamed corn? They mix some form of preservative in with my stem cells before freezing them. Part of the way the body gets rid of the preservative is to expel it in your breath. Why creamed corn? I have no idea.

Happy Socks are ON! Transplant done!

Day -1: New Treatment Today

The last of the chemotherapy treatments occurred today with a new medication, Melphalan.

This one took place over 30 minutes with a bit of a twist. While it’s coming in by the usual IV pump system, I’m sucking on a mouth full of ice chips. The theory here is to reduce blood flow to the mouth to reduce mouth sores. Apparently, this one is fairly aggressive with messing with rapidly growing cells, such as the mouth lining. So far, so good.

The big treat for the day was when Shirley brought take-out for lunch! Burger, fries and chocolate milkshake from George’s Burgers and Subs. First full non-hospital meal in 8 days, yahoo!

I really was much happier than I look!

Day -2: More of the same

Not too much to report today as the treatment is identical to the last 3 days. I’m still feeling good physically, a bit down emotionally with being stuck in a fairly confined space with quite a few days to go. Trying not to think about that too much and keep myself distracted.

Speaking of distractions, 2-3 times a day the STARS helicopter lands on the top of the HSC Diagnostic Centre of Excellence building which I can almost see out my window. So far, this is the first and only hospital helipad in Winnipeg!

The STARS air ambulance sits on the new helipad at Health Sciences Centre’s new Diagnostic Centre of Excellence on Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

I’m on the lookout for a night shot and there was one a day or two ago but I was already in bed and would have missed it by the time I got organized.

Day -3: Gratitude

I’m grateful for a great many things in my life, but at this particular point here are a few things I’m especially grateful for.

I’m grateful for my salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and 25+ years of solid biblical teaching from Springs church that has laid that firm foundation in God’s goodness, faithfulness, mercy and healing miracles.

I’m grateful for prayer. Both my ever deepening prayer life and the prayers of family, friends, and our extended church family who are praying for Shirley and I as we move through this journey.

I’m grateful for the extraordinary health care system we have in Canada and the excellent care I’ve received from CancerCare Manitoba, St. Boniface Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. Everyone has been so kind and compassionate well above and beyond their medical duties.

I’m grateful for all the extra special love and support I’m receiving during my own “special” 21+ day “lockdown” at HSC from so many people. I have received encouraging and supportive letters, card, texts, emails, phone calls, video messages, FaceTime calls, and special art work some of which I’ll share below.

Cards & Notes
Original Water colour art work…
… with meaningful song lyrics and scripture on the back of each

Hand made cards, stories, art work from all the Grandkids.

All of this and more was organized by Shirley into a special gift pack so that there would be new things every day to discover while I’m in hospital.

Special wishes and surprises for every day

I’m very grateful for Shirley. Shirley is the love of my life, kind, generous, supportive, encouraging, lifts me up when I’m down, makes me laugh and makes me cry (in a good way) and is as I like to say “you’re simply the best”. Love you so much.

My Family

Day -4: Competition

Not a lot to do in the hospital and thankfully I’ve got all my tech devices to help pass the time. However, there is one thing they encourage the patients to do instead of sitting or laying around in your room. It’s not much, but it’s something, we get to walk the hallway!

Its just one straight hallway, not too long, but to make it interesting there is a whiteboard with everyone’s room numbers on it and you’re encouraged to log your laps and walk 4x/day. The board is pretty empty when I arrive but there is one room with quite a bit of activity. I have a look and say to myself “I can beat that!”, so it’s game on. After a day or two I meet my competition, Harold, while walking. We exchange stories briefly and carry on with our walking.

The leader board

I’m 43 and Harold is 42. He’s post-transplant and in recovery, so different but similar circumstances, still a fun little motivator and I think he likes the competition too.

So far I’ve logged 173 laps or 7.2km.

Hallway Lap Distances

Day -4: And now for something completely different

The last number of posts have certainly been medically heavy so I think I’ll switch it up a bit for a day or two since the medications are identical for Days -5 to -2. For a brief status update I’m feeling good and my weight is up quite a bit due to the hyper-hydration they have me on, a 24 hour x7 days saline solution.

Thankfully, the hospital visitation rules have eased up somewhat and I’m allowed a visitor! Guess who? My angel of mercy, love of my life, Starbucks connection and home cooking!

Each day Shirley has driven to the hospital mid-morning, navigated the parking system, picked up Starbucks, passed through two different screening processes all to hang out with me and make my day so much brighter! After a coffee and some catch-up chat we share what we’re calling a “picnic lunch” which is a combination of home cooking and stuff I can select from the hospital food cart.

The “picnic lunch” – Legit chicken fingers, salad & cookie (hospital), chicken sandwich, fresh fruit and cheese (home).

Thanks honey for supporting me so well on this journey, love you! 😍

My window view is of several other hospital building, some of which are quite new and still being completed on the inside. Nothing too interesting until yesterday when I spot two guy on the roof wandering around with full climbing harnesses and a bunch of ropes. Next thing I know one of them is going over the edge!

Going over the edge

I’ve seen this done a couple of times but it always makes me feel a bit queasy when they first go over the edge and get settled into the bosuns chair. Well, they are washing the windows.

Washing Windows


This morning one of the devotions I’m doing was based around Exodus 15:26 where the end of the verse is “I am the LORD who heals you.” or Jehovah- Rapha, a compound name of God combining the personal name and a word referring to healing; hence β€œthe Lord who heals”. After reading this I thought I need to be reminded of this a lot right now so I did a little graffiti art. πŸ˜‰

The LORD who heals you (me!)