Day “-2”

They call the chemo day, day “-2” because day “0” is the day (2 days later) when you get your stem cells back. Around 9pm tonight, I’ll get a dose of chemo to reset and kill everything.

That dose kills without discretion, without purpose, the good and bad cells alike. It’s like sin. Within it is no life. No hope. No purpose. The sole purpose of sin is to kill the soul.

If I just got the chemo and left it at that, I’d most likely die. With no immunity, no white and red blood cells, I’d receive a death sentence by itself. Coupled with my frozen stem cells, I have a chance at life.

With sin, left alone is a death sentence of hell. No hope, no life and no purpose. With Jesus, we have life. We have purpose and we have hope.

So begins the next 2 – 2.5 weeks of recovery. Another step in being as healthy as possible. Thanks to everyone who has helped me in some way to get me here and see me through it.

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Stem Cell Collection 

Day one of stem cell collection is going great. I just got the news that I’ll most likely collect the 12-15 million today. Someone will call me this afternoon with the numbers, but according to their calculations, it might be a one-day affair. Will keep collecting until 1 today. I will also have to be back tomorrow for labs, but this part could end quickly.

Emory has awesome nurses and doctors,  but their cooks leave a little to be desired. I may need food smuggled in when I get admitted in May. Otherwise,  I’ll lose weight dramatically. 

I’m very thankful if this can be completed today. Sometimes,  it’s the little things in life that make the most impact at just the right time.

Find something to be thankful for.  It shouldn’t take long or be that hard. First off, you woke up. You have a home, family and friends. There’s always something there, you just have to see it. 

Cardiac Update 

Well, I met with a Cardiac Surgeon this morning to get signed off on moving forward with the currently scheduled stem cell transplant timeline. Here comes the proverbial “I’ve got good news and bad news….”
The stem cell transplant is still on, nothing changed. However, I will have to undergo open heart surgery down the road for the enlarged aorta. He said if I weren’t going through cancer, we’d be scheduling the surgery within six months. For now, all I know is he will refer me to a doctor who does the surgery (aortic valve sparing surgery- think that’s it…) more than he does. Not sure when I’ll hear from that doctor. I’ll deal with the myeloma first and then get surgery scheduled at some point, I’m guessing next year.
I “liked” a comment earlier this morning on Facebook, “Don’t ask for a light load, but rather ask for a strong back.” I thought cancer was a pretty good opponent to fight by itself, but now I’m adding an open heart surgery too. God is gonna shine through thisalso! He’d already given me a strong back, before I was diagnosed, I just didn’t know it until I needed it. It was there for some time, ready for when I needed it. When confronted with cancer, somehow, I was ok with it and just knew God had it in His hands. While, I was obviously shocked at today’s news, it’s just another step toward total health and I haven’t came this far to give up or get discouraged. God wasn’t surprised. He’s not overwhelmed. He’s not afraid. He is in control though.

Prayers? Heck yeah. I can still use them now and don’t forget to add Jason to your prayers too. Thanks in advance for the thoughts, prayers and offers of help.

Getting Ready For A Transplant 

In preparation for the stem cell transplant, I underwent two days of tests earlier this week. My heart and lungs were tested, I underwent full body x-rays and met with my nurse coordinator who will be with me through the transplant process.

My lungs passed. I go Tuesday to meet a different heart Dr to get his sign off as we discovered I have slightly enlarged aorta. The technician who discovered this issue didn’t seem to think it would hold up the transplant nor be a really big deal, so I’m hoping the transplant will stay on track.

I’ll be giving myself the injections which will get the stem cells flushed into the blood. This sets up the stem cell collection the last week of April. That process will be “easy”. I’ll lay in bed, hooked to a machine, for about 5 1/2 hours for most likely 2-3 days. The weekend prior to the hospital stay, I’ll start injections given by Emory staff to offset mouth sores which the chemo I’ll get will cause.

This sets up the hospital stay, which I’ll share later.

All of the shots, pills and stuff since the diagnosis in January have set up for knocking this down. Each part has had a purpose in the overall plan. If I’d decided to skip any part, my prognosis would have changed for the worse. Our lives are like that. Each situation, each person in our lives all have a part to play. Situations test us, challenge us or help us grow and learn. Some people help us physically, others teach us and others encourage us. Some are with us short spans while others for life. 

They all, whether people, situations or events, change us somehow. For better or worse. Whether we want them to or not. 

I know many of you are praying for me and I appreciate it. Do me a favor and pray for Jason Rowell too, we both could use it.

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

My Induction Phase is now complete. I have lab work left, but both the injections and chemo pills associated with it are finished. This week, I go to Emory for two days of tests. It’s weird that the last 4 months, I’ve taken stuff to knock down the myeloma, and now they’ll run me through tests to make sure I am strong enough to go through the stem cell transplant. 

The game changes now. The Velcade taken up until now, has been well tolerated. No issues with nausea or hair loss. My worst side effects seem to have been hiccups, numb hands, feet and lips and hot most of the time. I’ve only been mildly tired up until the last weekend and then it seems to have rushed in this weekend with a vengeance.

The chemo at Emory is designed to wipe the cancer which remains out. After my stem cells are collected, it’ll be time for a “reset”.  This new beginning will be very different than the Induction Phase. It is a necessary step nonetheless, but more difficult. 

So, with a reset, what changes will I make? More or less kind? More or less forgiving? More living on the edge? More playing it safe? Maybe I won’t change anything? 

All this effort I’ve put my body through to live… It’d be a waste to not live. It’d be a waste to hunker down and just stay safe. But, if I take risks, I might cut short the life I’ve fought to save… Living appeals to me. I don’t want to just survive, but I also don’t plan to live life on the edge of dying either. 

The end of April, my new beginning will come from some other beginning’s end. 

Almost Finished with Induction

My last cycle of chemo in this Induction Phase is about through. I have one more injection and a few pills left. Now everything will begin to shift toward Emory for the stem cell transplant. 

I’m ready for my next phase and moving toward healing. I still most likely will have an uphill battle at times. Moreso the chemo mainly, as I imagine the stem cell removal shouldn’t be too bad. 

I’ll know more after next week’s two days of tests and meetings with Emory staff, so look for another update then. 

While the weather tonight is getting wild and we can’t control any of it, rest assured God has us. He knows what we need, He knows our fears or concerns. Many things in life are out of our control, but control is nothing new to God. Allow Him to do what He does best and that’s to allow His will to roll out. 

There’s no better place than within His will. Live there. Thrive there.

Round 4 of 4

Round 4 kicked off yesterday and yes, I know I’m behind on posting updates…

The markers they use to measure how things are going continue to show great improvement as they are way down. God’s grace continues to shine in all of this, so the prayers are working. I also received a second 30 minute treatment to help repair the bones which have been damaged by the myeloma. 

Currently,  I’m just ready to get to Emory in April/May and get this behind me. God is here with me, so that helps me be ready I guess. One of the pronosis outcomes my Dr gave me was that some doctors are beginning to toss the word “cure” around with myeloma. I remember telling him I wanted to help him use that word then.

Your outlook, when given bad news or experiencing things, can influence your outcome. Staying positive,  having hope or envisioning yourself getting past the news can be tough, but necessary. You can’t stay in that moment of diagnosis, you have to move forward. 

Moving forward is harder for some people than others. I’m fortunate that not much bothers me. I received my news and immediately knew that the fight was on. I didn’t worry too much about it, I didn’t get mad with God and I know it sounds nuts, but I didn’t even ask God “why me?”.

I know not everyone reacts this way and that’s fine, it’s not wrong/right or sinful, it’s just how we react. You react the way you do. It’s how God wired us, it’s who we are. It’s just dangerous to our well being to stay in that foggy feeling of the diagnosis. You have to start looking down the road…I know it helps when your prognosis is hopeful. Not everyone’s is. My journey might look different had I been given months to live. I want to think I’d be the same, but it would be a harder road and harder to be positive for sure. Just strive to see past the initial news and stay positive.

My family greatly appreciate everyone who has said a prayer,  offered a ride, meal or other offer of help. The encouragements and conversations, the questions of how things are going mean the world to us.

On another note, please lift up Shawn Lamb and his family, and Chris and Pattie Carnes (as well as the other family affected in their situation) in your prayers. I won’t go into the details, as most of you know what’s going on with both families, but God knows even when we pray without knowing all the details.