My Life: The Next 9 Months

I’ve known for four days what my immediate future holds.  You would think that in those four days I could have found the time to write a short little snippit to share this bit of news, but I was able to come back to Oklahoma over the weekend.  That means I got to come home with my kids.  That means finding clothes, shoes, fixing hair, breakfast, playing dinosaurs, reading books, teaching the importance of not stealing from little brother and then the importance of not lying about it or anything else, etc, etc.  It also means quiet time sitting on the couch cuddling, and both kids having a special ‘spend the night sleeping with mommy’ evening all to themselves.  I’m so grateful that I was able to come home.

Unfortunately, barring anything unforeseen due to the weather, mom and I drive back to Little Rock tomorrow to begin treatment.  Actually, more biopsies and treatment.  Yes, more biopsies.  I HATE biopsies.  So, why do I need more biopsies?  Let’s start with my doctors appointment last Friday.

After a week of testing I finally met Dr. Barlogie.  All week long nurses would ‘warn’ me not to let my first impression of Dr. Barlogie scare me away.  Had I not already seen the YouTube videos of him, I really would have been annoyed at how often this happened.  I have seen those videos, though, so I can understand how some people are concerned that this man is going to be their leather pants and chaps wearing, motorcycle riding, ears pierced and jewelry adorned doctor.  AND that he is THE world renowned myeloma doctor.  He is all of the above and more.  He almost made me cry within the first two minutes of our meeting because I questioned one of his testing techniques.  I need a stronger backbone.  (Literally.  My thoracic and cervical spine is filled with lesions.  Something my tests done in OK did not tell me.)

Dr. Barlogie tested every system in my body.  The great news in that is most of me is perfectly healthy.  That tells my ‘team’ that they can do a mountain of things to me, and I should be able to take it.  That means they will be able to place me on the TT4 (Total Therapy 4) Protocol.  TT4 is a clinical trial of eight chemotherapy drugs.  EIGHT.  They will be able to give me human growth factor shots for two weeks so that my body will start producing stem cells in my peripheral blood to be harvested.  That means I will potentially produce enough stem cells for 4 or 5 transplants on my own!  It also means that this process will take approximately 9 months.   Way more than 10 weeks.

Yup…nine months.  That’s an entire pregnancy.  I start on Thursday with ANOTHER biopsy of my chest so that he can do genetic testing on the plasmacytoma.  Then I start chemo on Saturday.  Somewhere in that time I will have a port inserted into my chest so that I’m not constantly having to be stuck with a needle.  After two weeks of chemo, I start the human growth shots.  Within three weeks I should have produced enough stem cells for harvesting.  Then I’m done and am allowed to go home for two weeks.

After my two weeks home I come back for four to 5 weeks for my tandem stem cell transplant.  I’ll also start another round of chemo.  Then I come home for 3-4 weeks, then go back for chemo.  Then come home for 6 weeks or so, then go back for 3 weeks for chemo.  This pattern continues for approximately 9 months, but up to a year.  At that point I will be in remission with a true shot of being CURED.  I’ll then be on weekly chemo for maintenance of up to 3 years.  But again, I could be cured, friends.  My eyes are on that prize.

The process will be exhausting and painful.  I will be sick, sick, sick.  I will lose my hair.  My body will be pumped full of poison.  It will affect our finances, test our patience and be hard on our children.  But this, too, shall pass.  What doesn’t kill you DOES make you stronger, it already has.  We will all grow in this, and come out on the other side better people.  I truly believe that sometimes it takes the worst to make the best possible.

As always, thank you for all the love and support given and shown to my family.  Please continue to pray for the big and the small things.  Keep my husband and kiddos in your prayers, not just me.  Pray for my mom, my ‘primary caregiver’, that she has patience to deal with me and my doctors.  Pray that she can hold her bladder while I have a procedure done (HA!  Sorry, mom, I couldn’t resist!)  And that she stay healthy, too.  And lastly, on this World Cancer Day, say a prayer for anyone you know fighting this nasty disease.  Say a prayer of thanks for anyone you know that has SURVIVED this nasty disease!

I’m ready for my 9 months to start.  As a mom, it’s easier for me to put it in the perspective of a pregnancy.  It took my body 9 months to create a baby.  It will take me 9 months for my body to reboot, kill this disease and birth a new, more healthy me.  I can do this.  I WILL do this.

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’  2 Corinthians 12:9