Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day T-2

Check-in day at UW Hospital yesterday was "Day T-2;" that is, two days until Transplant Day! We spend most of the day checking in (getting a pic-line inserted, admissions, etc), but all went smooth. Last night Sabine received her shot of chemotherapy (melphalan) and it will kick in with a vengeance in 5-7 days. In the meantime, the "bag of life" will be administered on Thursday (T-Day!).

Coordinating chemotherapy, transplant and thrice-weekly dialysis will be a little tricky but we are confident and love our staff people. Sabine has a nice room with a southern view. (Wanting to eat before the chemo kicked in, she had me make a run to "Curry-in-a-Box" on Fish Hatchery Road.

This morning she was up and out on a 1/2 fast walk (yes, that's right!). Her is up ready to take this ordeal on and ready in mind, body and spirit!

If you want, you can send her a card or note at:

UW Hospital
Room B6-646
600 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53792

It is now Day T-1.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Off We Go!

Sabine's sister, Barbara, and husband, Ken, arrived yesterday to help us through the stem cell transplant. Barbara is looking forward to helping me be Sabine's "patient advocate" during her three weeks in the hospital.

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday, April 28) we will get up around 4 a.m. and complete our dialysis before heading to University Hospital for a 10 a.m. "check-in." Sabine will receive the chemotherapy and two days later receive back the stem cells which were harvested from her in March.

We are looking at a three week hospital stay while the cells take "root." When Sabine is released we will be headquartering at the cottage in Mazomanie (a more sterile environment than the farm) for at least the next 100 days.

I think we are all prepared for the coming ordeal. One one hand it is very scary just thinking about all that she will have to go through and how crappy she will feel during this time. I am feeling -- crisis! On the other hand, the transplant is a great opportunity (I have heard that the Chinese character for "crisis" consist of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity") for her to get a better quality of life and she could even be chemotherapy-free for up to a couple of years.

So, I enter into this feeling strong and positive. Sabine has prepared for this through daily exercise, good nutrition, and her ever-present happy outlook on life! (That's why I love her, so!!)

Stay tuned for my blogs from the bowels of the hospital...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Transplant Day is Scheduled!

We will be checking into University Hospital on Tuesday morning for a 2-3 week stay. Sabine will get her big chemo dose and then be transplanted on Thursday (April 30).

Our cancer support group has been wonderful. Over the months we have heard many success stories surrounding transplants along with one or two not-so-successful stories. Why is it I remember the bad ones?

Sabine is in good shape and a very good candidate for a successful transplant. But we do need your good thoughts and prayers to get her through this. (I'll take a few, too.)

Spring is a good time for a transplant as we see our neighbors tilling the soil and preparing to plant this year's crops. The days are getting warmer, the sun is shining brighter and I will be thinking and praying for "strong roots, nourishment, and growth" following our "planting" on April 30.

Blessing to all of you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

One more straw...

I suppose most caregivers go through the same ups and downs as I have gone through over the past year. While you focus on your loved one, the rest of the world goes on with all its ups and down... the path is not always smooth and without its elevations and depressions.

As we wait for another test before the stem cell transplant I am conscious that life is going on and I get resentful when I have to handle family or personal problems that pull me away from my caregiving. One such event was a problem one of our adult children was having. I wanted to help but at the same time I was resentful of having to deal with it at all.

While being torn with this, I put together this little poem which reflected my feelings -- most of which were sad. Perhaps you have had the same kind of feeling within your own life.

some say it’s the last straw
God won’t give you more
than you can bear
is that right?
if that’s so
why do i feel
so sad?
that last straw
is awfully heavy
it encouraging
(the word comes from heart)
this too i
will bear
in the meantime
why do i feel
so sad?

It took a couple of days before I "bounced back." but during this time I found that being a caregiver to your beloved and being involved in family is a very precarious emotional position -- one in which requires constant prayer for strength and plenty of connections with friends.

If all goes well with the tests next week, we should be heading to the hospital for the transplant on the following Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (April 27, 28, or 29).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

The New Fire at the Great Easter Vigil (Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison). A grand, classic Vigil to welcome the Resurrection Sunday!

On Easter Sunday it was Sabine's mother's birthday -- Happy Easter and Birthday, Charlotte! The family pooled a birthday gift and bought her a treadmill to keep her fit for another 85 years!

Then Sabine and I accompanied Charlotte to Barneveld Lutheran Church for a breakfast and Easter morning worship. We were joined by friends Leonard and Millie Swedlund and Nancy Carden. I also had the opportunity to meet their new pastor, Jack Way.

We continue waiting this month for one more test (a CAT scan) on April 23rd -- after than hope to get a date for the stem cell transplant. Will keep you all informed... Sabine has been feeling well as we wait the trial ahead.

A Blessed Easter and Passover to you all.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's our BIRTHDAY!

Here's my birthday poem to Sabine:

last year
we went to milwaukee
the pfister and the ballet
just hoping
just praying
that a year from then
we would still be together
snow they say
can it be spring?
it’s the 5th of april
we hear birds and
remember what
we hoped & prayed for
to be
it’s not the pfister
this year
nor the ballet
we attended
but still
the room
the day
yesterday in milwaukee
it’s more exquisite
more wonderful
even blessed
as we awake on
our birthday
in bed again
not sick
nor particularly worried
we have each other
and this is so so
and you are still
in both
my dreams
and next to me

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At the Hospital

Here are some photos from the infusion lab at UW Hospital. We had a successful "harvest" yesterday! With my injecting the growth hormone, neupogen, at home, Sabine went from 400 then to 900 in her white blood cells (WBC) -- then within 24 hours (and why she felt she had been run over by a truck!), her WBC count jumped to 11,000, we got the call that she was ready. We headed for the hospital yesterday morning and the harvest was on!

The machine is a fantastic miracle, it does other things besides spin stem cells out of your blood. For instance, folks who just had an organ transplant, and are having rejection problems,can come up here and have the antibodies taken out!

This is the "magic machine." You can see the stem cells starting to be harvested in the tomato-soup colored bag above the machine.

Looks like a good run and enough cells for this coming transplant plus one in the freezer for future use.

Sabine is with Jan our transplant coordinator and has been with us since Sabine started the process last week.

Friends from our support group, Tony and Darlene, came down for a visit. Darlene received her stem cell transplant the day Sabine went in for her first step -- the cytoxan hit!

All things going well, Darlene should be able to go home this coming weekend. She has been in the hospital for about 12 days now.

So, step two has been completed (harvesting). Sabine is now home recovering! She will have a couple of weeks until about April 20th to build up her bone marrow and white blood cells. Step three occurs when Sabine checks back in the hospital, gets a hit of melphalan (another powerful chemo drug) and gets her bone marrow wiped out again -- but this time the harvested cells (which have been frozen in waiting) will be put back into her. As these are undifferentiated cells, they should take root and form non-cancerous cells in her bone marrow. (At least that's how I understand it!).

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday and our birthday. Easter will have special significance for those of us seeking resurrection and new life!

Thanks for all your prayers, concern and support. As they say up nort', "you done good!"