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Fundraising Auction – One of a kind, handcrafted pendant

An expert jeweler has generously crafted and donated a unique piece for a fundraising auction being held on eBay.com!

See info below.  This impressive pendant is going to be eligible for bids on eBay for the next 10 days. 10% of the proceeds will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

FreindsofGeraldine.org would like to thank the designer and crafter of the piece, Drew Weiser of Ann McKay Studio for this awesome donation.

Click here to go to the auction!

Pendant Fundraiser Auction

Pendant Fundraiser Auction

Many thanks to Wilcox Graphic Innovation for the high quality promotional poster design!

Progress report after first transplant

Geraldine and her mother, Martine, just before being released

Geraldine and her mother, Martine, just before being released

Hello again everyone. I have been out of the hospital since Thursday afternoon, and am staying in a very nice corporate apartment in Richmond.

The view here is incredible, and the apartment is a very upscale, furnished condo with assigned parking and 24 hour security. Although I do miss seeing everyone back in Norfolk, I am grateful to be out of the hospital with such a nice place to recover. Its important that I stay only a few minutes away from VCU Medical Center in case anything happens during the next couple of weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

On to even better news. My counts continue to climb and I continue to make progress with healing and re-growing my bone marrow at a fast pace. The hospital staff has been very pleased and everyone is saying how far ahead I am in the recovery process. I still feel like it is going too slow sometimes, but then I get reminded how far ahead of schedule I am.

I feel very lucky in all aspects. I get to spend the holidays with my daughter and my parents. I have wonderful friends who have shown me huge amounts of support and love.

Thank you all, and I hope you all have happy holidays.

Thank you for your donations by check or bank draft!

Geraldine would like to thank the following people for their donations by check or bank draft.

  • Vanda and Paul Holik – $1000
  • Gwenole Denard – has been (and is still) donating $25 by automatic bank draft every two weeks for a while now.
  • Elisabeth Lawson – $200

Thank you very much for your support! We will try to get this added to the donation tracker on this site and have the total amount updated soon. With your contributions, and those of the generous folks who have donated through the website, the total is well over $7500 since we started this site back in August 2008! All of these donations are tax deductible, and go toward helping Geraldine with her medical bills and treatment costs.

If I have any of your names spelled wrong or missed anyone/anything, please let me know.

P.S. I am still trying to find out the post office box address that Geraldine set up before she went in for transplant. She set this up by request of some donors who wanted a place to mail checks to her for donation purposes. I hope to post this info soon.

White counts coming back up

Hello all. I am still pretty weak but I wanted you all to know that I my white cells are on their way back up. This is good news. I am sorry that I haven’t answered many calls or texts as I am sleeping a lot, but I may be getting out of the hospital this Friday and moving to the apartment in Richmond.  I’ll let you know more when I can. Thank you all for being so supportive.

Transplant and beyond

Emily, Geraldine and Monica in the Apheresis Unit

Emily, Geraldine and Monica in the Apheresis Unit

Before she went into the transplant process that she is undergoing now, Geraldine wrote a post that she did not finish. I made the decision to publish what she had written. This is the followup post.

That first day of stem cell harvesting, which happened on “Black Friday”, came to her as a surprise.

She had been going to Richmond every day to get her blood counts measured, and expected this to be like any of the previous mornings that she had traveled to the hospital. Her routine consisted of having someone drive her the 1.5 hour trip to VCU Medical Center/MCV (the hospital where her transplant is occurring) so that she could be one of the first in line, and therefore avoid the crowds.  She was not allowed to eat, so most mornings she would show up around 8am and wait briefly to get her blood drawn.  Once that was done, she grabbed a light breakfast and began her 2 hour wait, just like every other morning. There wasn’t much of a crowd because it was the day after Thanksgiving, and many other people probably had plans to come after they had done their early Christmas shopping. In fact, Geraldine had considered going out later that day as well, but the hospital had other plans.

Olig, Monica and Geraldine in Apheresis

Olig, Monica and Geraldine in Apheresis

She was surprised when that day she was told that her counts were high enough to harvest the stem cells. She headed out for the apheresis unit in another building. In case you’re wondering, the process of apheresis involves drawing her blood out, running it through a centrifuge which separates it into red, white, and plasma, and then harvesting the stem cells that she will need for her autogolous bone marrow transplant.

The process takes several days. In the case of Geraldine, they needed 8 to 10 million cells for both transplants.

The staff that worked with her over the next few days was the best group of people that she could have asked for. Many thanks to Emily, Monica, and Olin for being awesome. Anyway, they really thought the harvesting would take 5 to 7 days, but Geraldine was able to really produce and harvest well over the goal in 3 days. This sped up her timeline for transplant quite a bit.

1st Transplant Delivered

1st Transplant Delivered

And then, on Thursday, Geraldine was admitted for the long haul to MCV in Richmond, VA.  They had frozen the stem cells, and would administer the transplant on Friday. First, they had to kill off her existing bone marrow with a high dose of Melphalan. This chemotherapy regimen was delivered in all of 30 minutes on Thursday, which has further reduced her time in Richmond.  The original plan was to have 7 days of BEAM chemotherapy (BCNU, etoposide, ara-C, and melphalan), but that was changed to this one short dose of Melphalan.

So, about killing her bone marrow – one of the medical staff members used the analogy of a sink full of dirty water.  You pull the plug and the sink starts to slowly drain. That’s what this melphalan dose is doing to her old bone marrow. Now, pour in the stem cells that were harvested, fortified, etc., and that will eventually replace the bone marrow that is dying.

It will take about a week for her bone marrow to completely go away and about two weeks for the stem cells to grow the new bone marrow. So, during this process, her immune system will be completely weakened.

The next day after that chemo regimen, they performed the autogolous stem cell transplant.  They brought the four frozen packets of stem cells into the room in a metal container filled with dry ice. The guy who was handling it used large rubber gauntlets to remove the frozen bags, and placed them into another container with bags of warm water in it. Once the stem cells had turned slushy, they hooked them to an IV and they entered her body. She started shivering during this process, because of the cold contents of the bags. They warned her that a preservative, DMSO, had been added to the stem cells and may make her nauseous. Of course, it did.

An hour later, the stem cell transplant was complete!

Today marks about a week since her transplant. She has been and will continue to be in Richmond, in a hospital room on the 10th floor of MCV. She’s been tired and nauseous, mostly because she is at her lowest point – where the old bone marrow is gone and the new cells haven’t yet begun to grow. Her white blood cell counts should begin increasing at this point, so it is going to get better as each day passes. The good news is that a few days before Christmas, she may be released to an apartment that her parents have rented in Richmond about 5 minutes away from the hospital. So, she will be able to spend that holiday and the subsequent week after that with her family, albeit in a city about an hour and a half away from her home.  Most importantly, her daughter will be able to spend that time with her mom at Christmas.

Now, here are the rules if you want to visit her. Geraldine spends most of her time sleeping lately.

Tired

Tired

She is very weak and nauseous. She is also very susceptible to infections and viruses. No live plants, no flowers, no fruit, no fresh vegetables. She can have visitors, but they must have had a flu shot – no exceptions. And visitors can’t show the slightest sign of being sick.  No cough, runny nose, etc.

If you visit – and you should – you will have to wash your hands before entering the room and you might have to wear a mask (probably not unless they specifically tell you to.) Don’t let that stop you. Visiting Geraldine will mean a lot to her.

Malcom with mask

Malcom with mask

Also, Geraldine isn’t really answering the phone much unless it has to do with her daughter, so don’t be offended if she doesn’t respond to texts, emails, and phone calls until she gets back on her feet.

I’ll keep you posted as best as I am able over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, it will be Geraldine writing the next post, but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll bring you up to speed next week.

Transplant has begun

Apheresis/Stem Cell Harvesting

Apheresis/Stem Cell Harvesting

I’m working on a longer post with more detail, but the short version is that Geraldine checked in on Thursday to MCV in Richmond, where she will be for two weeks.  She received a high dose of chemo to kill her existing bone marrow, then the next day she received her stem cell transplant. She is very tired and doesn’t answer the phone or texts or emails much right now. If you come to see her, please do not be sick in any way, don’t bring flowers, plants, or fruits, and you have to have had a flu shot – no exceptions. I’ll post more details as soon as I have finished gathering them.

Apheresis and Melphalan

Olin, Monica and Geraldine in Apheresis

Olin, Monica and Geraldine in Apheresis

Okay, so do you guys remember the magic number of stem cells that I needed to collect for my two stem cell transplants? If you don’t its okay, I am sure that I given you so much info to process its hard to remember the magic number. Well, the magic number was 10 million stem cells. This number was the crazy goal. They would have settled for 8 million, but they really wanted 10 million. I guess the higher the number, the better the results. I know that I am rambling here, and you really just want to know that number of stem cells that I alone (with the help of Neupogen) harvested. 10.5 million stem cells in 3 days! How awesome is that? I was really shocked and excited at the same time about my numbers.

The apheresis process started on Black Friday where I was hooked up to an apheresis machine for 6 hours. This was a very long day and I was glad when that day was over. There was some concern regarding my number of platelets…

(Geraldine stopped this post here, she had it saved as a draft. A followup will be posted by Malcom.)

Sexy Tubes!

Hello again! Today is Thanksgiving and I hope everyone is having a wonderful Turkey Day. I am so grateful that I am not in the hospital yet and able to enjoy this holiday with my family and friends. Here is the latest recap of this week. Monday I went to Richmond and had some blood work done. I was suppose to have surgery in the morning for placement of my apheresis catheter. My blood work came back that I had no platelets. Platelets are part of your immune system that help your blood coagulate. By having no platelets, a simple bruise could make me bleed to death internally. I need to live in padded world with no sharp edges. Because I had no platelets, my surgery was postponed until I received a platelet transfusion. So I got 2 units of platelets. Platelets look like the yellow stuff that comes out when people have lipo. It is definitely not appetizing, but neither is blood.

It took a couple of hours and then I was cleared to go into surgery. This surgery normally takes between 20 minutes to 1 hour. My surgery took 2 hours and it was one of the most awful things that I have been through. I was given conscience sedation which was supposed to relax me and put me out, but it didn’t. I was awake the whole time and felt just about everything. They gave me 9 shots of lidocaine to help numb me, but it wasn’t enough. I started crying and kept crying until they brought me back to the recovery room. The radiology staff was completely unsympathetic and not accommodating to my needs. I kept telling them that I was awake and could feel everything, but they told me because I had received chemo that my body had developed a tolerance to conscience sedation.

Sexy Tubes

Sexy Tubes

Tolerance or not, give me something to knock me the hell out! I really felt out of control and felt like I was a specimen and not a human being. If there is anything that I have learned from this experience is that I will never tolerate any additional pain. Next time I will demand that they either stop and have my surgery rescheduled until they can put me under completely. Like I said before, I felt completely out of control and it didn’t matter what my needs were at the time. Never again ladies and gentlemen. Lesson learned.

So after my butchering session, I ended up with two tubes hanging out of my chest. These tubes will be used to draw blood and take out my stems cells. I look hot! I am totally bringing sexy back! Check out the pictures of my platelets and my new look. On a more positive thought, the results of my PET scan look good and everything will proceed as planned. I have a break today and will not be going to Richmond, but I will be going on Friday. I will continue to keep everyone informed. Again, thank you for all of your comments and texts. You are all wonderful.

Love always,

Geraldine

Update: Unexpected Pain

Geraldine is doing much better as of Saturday.  Her pain is down to about a 4, but the morphine patch is causing some mild nausea. She has to stay on top of her many pills for that, but it is controllable. Speaking with her today, she seems to be in a much better place.

They gave her another PET scan today, the results of which will be read first thing Monday morning before they perform the surgery for the catheter that will be used for the stem cell transplant. If the scan is normal, everything will proceed on schedule. Someone will post an update either way at some point on Monday.

Unexpected pain

Geraldine is having a very rough time right now. Out of the blue, her pain spiked up to about a 9 on the scale of 10 yesterday. By the evening, it was a 10. She had to get a morphine patch to take the edge off. She’s also very nauseous and in so much pain she can’t really talk a lot. You might recall that she has a pretty high threshold for pain, so a 9 and 10 are seriously debilitating.

I can’t go see her at the moment because I have a cold/virus that I’m almost over. She is neutropenic, meaning that she has a low white blood cell count which results in a severely weakened immune system. Her platelets are also low, which means she will bleed and bruise easily – the blood has a hard time clotting. I’ve been trying to research some sort of therapeutic treatment for alleviation of this pain. Getting a massage is out of the question because of the bruising.

I’ve started researching acupuncture, but was worried about the bleeding from the needles. There are techniques that don’t involve needles, which I am also looking into.

I’ve checked the National Cancer Institute’s website, and they somewhat endorse or acknowledge that acupuncture and other techniques are commonly used to treat nausea, vomiting, and pain from cancer and chemotherapy. I am checking the backgrounds and availability of some reputable, certified acupuncturists in the area today.

We will likely use the money we raised from friendsofgeraldine.org for this, but may need to begin a fresh round of fundraising after this.

I’m letting you guys know this because she needs encouragement, support, and anything else that can be done, now more than ever. Stress is making this worse on her because it has a direct correlation to her pain. Anyone who has talked to her over the past week can see that.

They are worried that her cancer has come back out of remission and may delay or even cancel her stem cell transplant. There has been some surprise and concern from the medical staff at how aggressive this has suddenly become. One possibility is that the cancer has come back out of remission and is now resistant to the ICE chemo regimen. She may be going for a donor transplant instead, which is more dangerous and lengthy. There is a lot of uncertainty and we simply don’t know what the next step is at this time.

Obviously, she is very scared at the moment. We all are. I wish there were better news, but I will keep you up to date as things unfold.