Archive for January, 2009

A bad day

This isn’t going to be a pretty journal entry. If you are squeamish or don’t want to read all of the gory details of this particular day, then I highly recommend that you read up until the warning point in this entry, and then skip to the end.

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There have been many bad days for Geraldine in this battle, but the worst that I’ve personally witnessed had to be Saturday, January 24th 2009. She had been in the hospital for less than a week (checked in that Tuesday) and had been in relatively good spirits up until then. Her chemo regimen this time consists of different drugs, whereas last time she only had the Melphalan. On Saturday, she was having the last chemotherapy drug for this transplant.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the most toxic.

The drug’s name is Cytoxan. For those of you who may just be tuning in, the second bone marrow transplant (she’s doing two back-to-back) will work just like the first one, where her existing bone marrow is killed off by high-dose chemotherapy drugs. Her own stem cells, which were harvested around Thanksgiving, are given back to her so that new bone marrow can be regrown. This process completely destroys her entire immune system, replacing it with a brand new one. It takes about a month and a half, with a major danger period being during the first three weeks of that process.

That’s if she can survive the chemo. The doses used here are near lethal and extremely toxic. On Saturday, I walked in to find her in seriously bad shape.

Warning – if you are easily grossed out, skip to the end of this post (The next morning…)

I’m used to her sleeping, and even getting nauseous from time to time. There’s a convenient little device built into the toilets of these hospital rooms. It’s basically like a shower-head on an arm that swings down over the bowl. It allows you to hold the “bucket” that they give patients to vomit into over the toilet, bring the arm down, and flush the contents into the drain. It makes it very easy to clean this out and return it to the patient without getting your hands too dirty. It also gives them some comfort, because they don’t have to keep puking into the already filled container.

I emptied that container at least 10 times in one hour. Just when I thought there was nothing left, there would be more. It was bile, all bile. It looked like Mountain Dew, and at times it was thick. It smelled awful. I can’t imagine how hard it was on her. From my understanding, she had been doing this for at least 6 hours straight, and it was getting worse.

She didn’t look right either. They had to give her a lot of fluids. I’m also used to seeing her a bit puffy when they do this, but she looked swollen this time. Her eyes were dark, sunken, and almost closed. She wasn’t coherent. She really couldn’t talk much. She couldn’t sleep, no matter how much they encouraged her by eliminating all noise and light. When she wasn’t puking, she would lay down, but there was this constant sound of heaving – almost sounded like hiccups, only worse. With these heaves, her whole body would twitch. It was constant at one point, and the twitching heaves were about 2 seconds apart. They had given her as many anti-nausea drugs as they could, and the medical professional that was taking care of her, well to me he looked really worried. He was doing everything he could think of to calm this whole thing down. Finally, with the addition of some morphine to ease the heaving/twitching, she fell asleep. The vomiting stopped. I left for the evening and went to stay with some friends who were kind enough to put me up for the night in Richmond. (Thanks Emily and Jeff!)

The next morning, when I got to her room, I was very surprised and relieved to see her up and smiling at me, albeit weakly. She even cracked a joke or two. I watched her order food and eat it without fear of it coming back up. I was amazed and very, very grateful. That day by comparison was one of her best. She had tons of visitors, including her daughter and parents.

I went to say goodbye that evening, and she was sleepy, but happy. And of course, she was still talking shit. You know she’s feeling better when she’s busting on you or saying some ridiculously dirty thing.

Ah, Geraldine. You have such strength and resilience. And you’re a complete pain in the ass. 😉

For our newest visitors…

Welcome to the site. In case you’d like to catch up, I’d start with this post. It is a letter written by Andrew, who is Geraldine’s father. It really nicely sums up the situation before we started this blog.

Other helpful historical information to have on hand is that this site was created and is maintained by Geraldine’s friends Nick, Pete, and Malcom (that’s me). Nick and Pete worked on the design, hosting, and setup of the site. They worked especially hard to get the donation utilities built. I am the main poster here, and am always sure to provide updates when Geraldine is unable. We are in this because we promised our friend that her story would be chronicled, no matter what the outcome may be, so that her daughter would have a record of everything that happened.

We work on this project, as always, in our spare time.

Currently, Geraldine is undergoing her second bone marrow transplant. The first one ended only a few weeks ago, and took about a month and a half. She has been fighting this battle for about a year and a half at this point. She hates being away from her daughter for too long, but she loves it when you leave her notes of encouragement. Please note, however, that some comments are moderated on an as-needed basis.

Thank you for your continued support.

Don’t forget to check out this post! It’s very helpful.

Second Bone Marrow Transplant

The second and hopefully final autologous stem cell (bone marrow) transplant for Geraldine begins tomorrow, January 20th, 2009. I’ll post more info as I discover it. She will be heading to Richmond for about a month or so, and has been told that this transplant will be rougher than the first. However, I think she’ll actually fare better because of several factors such as familiarity with the process, her incredible resilience and her ability to snap back more quickly from this than the typical transplant recipient. Also, she seems more focused this time, and that will be the key to ensuring a speedy recovery. I strongly encourage everyone in her life to do whatever it takes to support her in staying focused on healing and getting through this.

Positive Influences

Brace yourself kids, this is going to be a long one. I am home now and things are starting to get back to normal. Viviane has been with me and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have her in my life again. She is doing awesome and is happy to be back to her routine. The month of December was very hard. Not only with my first bone marrow transplant, but having the added stress of things going on in my personal life did not create a positive emotional recovery. I know that there are certain things that are beyond my control, but rest assured that I would never wish the things that have happened to me to anyone. Its especially hard when you are fighting for survival to have moments when you are vulnerable and weak. You seek love and support, but that is also the time that you reach out and find the people that make a difference in your life. Everyone who has called me, emailed me, visited me, and texted me have all contributed to my recovery. Viviane and all of you are my lifeline. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you.

Viviane – You are the love and light of my life. You are the reason that I will beat this. I love you with everything that I have and that will never change.

Andrew and Martine – You both are wonderful parents. You have shown and taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Malcom – You are my foundation of strength. You are always there to help me pick up the pieces and rebuild me.

Harvey – I feel the love and support that you continue to send even being miles away. Thank you for everything that you have done for me.

Allie, Katie, Risa, Sara, Brooke, Amy, and Courtney – You are my sisters. Thank you for comforting my broken soul and helping me heal. All of you inspire me to be better. I am so grateful for all of your friendships.

Kim and Candis – “my circle sisters” 🙂 – You fill my life with humor, laughter, and sugar. You are both amazing women and I am lucky to have you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

Pete and Ron – what would I do without the both of you? Thank you for your love. You both are a part of my heart.

Nick and Sha – You are my husband and wife 🙂 – You bring me joy and warm my soul.

Mary – You are the voice of reason and an incredible mother. Thank you for being so nuturing.

Megan – You are so brave. You give me strength and hope that everything will get better.

Gwen – little brother – you amaze me. I have such fond memories of my childhood with you. Thank you for being part of my family.

Drew – You drive me crazy, but I have love for you. Thank you for being so giving.

Diana – my PPU – You are so loving. Thank you for always reaching out to me.

Chrissy – You are the disturbed in my life. Thank you for checking in on me and giving me some much needed comic relief. God bless you.

Katina – You are my gangsta. I love you dearly and miss you. Don’t let Malcom talk you into anything and remember that you got that killa P.

Crystal A – Where do I begin? Thank you for your weird sense of humor and your husband (who is not a good boyfriend).

Emily – ” I am a doctor, so…..” – You rock! I could not have made it through this transplant without you. Thank you for being awesome.

Cat – You are my supermodel P****. I want to grow up and be just like you! Thank you for everything that you have done for me.

Darren – My snuggle. Thank you for visiting me and giving me such emotional comfort.

Boris – Thank you for all of your emails. Its so nice to hear from you especially after all of these years.

Craig K – You are straight up silly, but I love it. Thank you for all of your texts.

Libby, Sara W,Emily H, and Sabine – I can’t even describe how much it means to me that we were able to reconnect. Thank you for your emails and words of encouragement.

Ann Lee – You are a remarkable woman. Thank you for your visit and all of your cards. I love you.

Neil, Brenda, and Lois – You are a wonderful family. Thank you for all of the love that you have shown me.

Susanne – Thank you for the bond that we share. Its nice to know that we have each other and that we are not alone in our dark times.

There are many more people that I would like to thank. More to come soon. Thank you to everyone. I feel such amazing love from each of you.