4 Year Stem Cell Transplant Birthday Reflections

And so the journey of my Stem Cell Transplant to Remission began July 5, 2010

July 2=  Day 1- Hospital admission
July 3=  Day 2- Day 1 of High-dose Melphalan IV chemo begins
July 4=  Day 3- Day 2 of High-dose Melphalan IV chemo continues
July 5=  Day 4- My stem cells arrive, are infused via my Hickman catheter, and my one month journey to near death, recovery and eventual remission begins in full force

July 3, 2010- Melphalan chemo arrives
My nurse had to wear special protective gear
as Melphalan is so “hazardous”
wow, I am so puffed up from 6 months of high-dose
Dexamethasone steroids! ugh!

 “Happy” (not!) 4th of July to me
Actually all my nurses were the kindest, sweetest
most caring professionals ever! 
They did an awesome job taking care of us and 
cheering us up, and on

 The BMT/SCT transplant nurse team was required to
accompany their patients to the “penthouse” area of the hospital
to monitor our meds and IVs
We had a semblance of normalcy on 4th of July
with a glimpse of fireworks from afar…
So surreal! I felt like a participant in a movie
 Here I am
All hooked up to all kinds of meds
So unreal to me then
and still now

 Staff and patients alike were “shocked” that I still had hair.
In the beginning days, I still styled my hair, and put a little make up on.
That ceased as the days marched forward, and I became sicker,
neutropenic, and my Hickman line became infected and
had to be removed via emergency bed-side surgery
I was “delirious” by then…
just about a week and a half after these pictures

 Still being the silly optimist that 4th of July
only day 2 of my hospitalization
Thumbs up… all will be ok I naively thought
(Little did I know the death defying crash to come…)

July 5, 2010-  My Stem Cells arrive!!!
 About 11:00am, July 5, 2010 my “stemmies arrive
all protected, frozen but thawing, ready to be infused. 
My stem cells arrived by a special nurse from the apheresis lab

 Next, another specialized nurse setting up my IVs
monitoring me hourly, making sure all goes well

Jim and Alissa show up, just after my stem cell transplant
They either hit traffic, or my stemmies arrived early…
But they came, we laughed, we cried, we tried to be “normal” 
And I even walked them to the elevator…
which was one of my last ventures out of my room 
for a month…

After all the complications and crazy side effects, I was able to leave the hospital about 28 days after I was admitted. I cried and sobbed when I was wheeled out of my room, out of the hospital and into fresh air. I couldn’t believe I was finally “free”. Free to go home and try to recover my life. Truly I was grateful beyond words for all the TLC I received by every staff member at COH and Kaiser… but being confined in that room for a month nearly did me in. Honestly, there were moments where I thought I would never be released… 
As I breathed in the outside air, and briefly soaked up the blazing summer sun, I realized the Julie that walked into that hospital, was not the same Julie that was walking out…
I knew that I had battled a battle I never chose to battle, and I knew I battled deadly complications. But I also knew that I was RELEASED from from that hospital ALIVE, and I had a chance to stay alive. I was given another chance at life and living, and 4 years later here I STILL am!

Yes, Myeloma came back mid 2013, but my initial high-dose chemo treatments, my Autologous Stem Cell Transplant, along with 1.5 years maintenance chemo post transplant, gave this cowgirl additional years! I continue to battle forward now that myeloma has returned, and will battle as long as I am strong enough to do so. I have so much to live for, and so much life left within me. Yes my future scares me. Yes additional chemo scares me, but I keep on keeping on… downing my pills and meds daily! But I live today, focus on today, smile and laugh any chance I get, and I look forward to all my tomorrows!

Happy 4th “New Immune System” Birthday to me today!

Here we are way back in the day
riding in the local 4th of July parade
I decorated us and the horses alike with red, white, blue accents
and we won the parade trophy for “Matched Pairs” !

Live happy, live well, and make a difference somewhere, somehow, with someone or something as often as you can!