Another week that has not gone as planned. Another postponement of the stem cell transplant. Another week of waiting. Last week my stem cell transplant was postponed for one week because of a continuing and mysterious fever that showed up again on the Tuesday night before my scheduled chemotherapy treatment last Wednesday. Everything was moved ahead one week to today and tomorrow. Many tests were undertaken to make doubly sure that no bacterial infection had been overlooked. Along the way multiple blood samples were taken to see if bacterial cultures could be grown in those samples. While I was having fevers none of these samples tested positive. Alas, after the fevers had subsided (I have not had a fever for a week) two of the many cultures that were taken tested positive for a staff infection. This is a bit of a mystery since there are no fevers accompanying these positive results. My doctors suspect that these test results may have been false positives resulting from contamination. However, all agree that we must be absolutely sure that my immune system is not reduced to zero by chemotherapy when I am harbouring a bacterial infection that would then be free to multiply. As a result I am undergoing a full round of intravenous antibiotics that requires ten days of treatment. Today I completed my seventh day of daily trips in to Vancouver General to receive the regular dose of antibiotic. I keep reminding myself that this is now my full-time job and that the drive to VGH is now my commute. Once the ten days are complete and I have no more fevers or signs of possible infection I will be rescheduled for chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant as soon as a spot comes open.
It is all somewhat frustrating. I am ready to get on with the transplant. I understand, though, that it is important to err on the side of caution when it comes to my health through the upcoming procedure. So I continue to practice the virtue of patience as best as I can. In the meantime I continue to become a member of the fascinating and caring community of nurses, doctors and fellow patients who make up CP6 (Centennial Pavilion 6, otherwise known as the Krall Centre). Most of the patients are recovering from stem cell transplants. Some are leukemia patients who are waiting for, or have received, transplants from matching donors. Some are receiving treatment for lymphoma. Others, like me, are multiple myeloma patients who are recovering from autologous transplants such as I am to receive (a transplant of one's own stem cells). Once through the doors of CP6 all is very common place with patients and caregivers familiar with one another and with the daily regimen. There is good natured banter mixed in with ongoing updates and concerns about the next stages of treatment. Now that I have been cared for by a number of the nurses I am on a first name basis with most of them. And, since my case has caused some bewilderment for the doctors at rounds, I am also on a first name basis with many of the doctors. It has not taken long to feel at home in the world of CP6. I am glad for that.
I keep reminding myself that in the grand scope of things these two weeks of delay will be a small blip in my treatment and recovery. I also remind myself that the hundred days of recovery after the transplant will also be a modest investment leading to a lengthy period of remission that my doctors are confident will follow. Yet there is a lot of time to think while receiving intravenous medication and waiting for the transplant to take place. Sometimes it is hard not to feel overcome by sadness. My life changed in the span of those few short weeks of tests and doctor's appointments in March and April that concluded with the words "multiple myeloma". It all still seems a bit unreal. I often find myself really missing Micah - our beloved standard poodle - who would have been such a comfort if he were here. His death from lymphoma in March has left an empty place in our home and hearts. We will surely find another dog who will be a wonderful companion in the days ahead. Right now, though, we miss Micah a lot.
On the other hand, we are taking great delight in our beautiful family and especially in the newest generation. Last Saturday afternoon all four grandchildren - Madison, Hannah, Nathaniel and Naomi - were over with their parents for a swim at Crescent Beach and a play in Nana and Papa's yard. What a blessing!
I'll be very glad to be through this stretch and to be back to some sense of normalcy when the days are not governed by treatments, procedures and appointments. In the meantime I will try to receive each of these days as a gift and blessing - even the ones when my patience is sorely tested. I am reminded of the opening of Mark's gospel: "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news'." (Mark 1:14-15) The good news emerges out of deep trouble. John is arrested. The powers that be are determined to shut down the announcement of good news to the poor and heart-broken. Jesus steps into the breach, preaching that the goodness of God can not be shut down, that it is close at hand, as close as turning and living in a different direction - towards a blessed future. Repentance is a determined decision to turn towards a future in which God heals and restores life, life that is full of ache - yes - but not so full of ache that it cannot yet know joy, wonder and gratitude. I'll keep preaching that gospel to myself until I can preach it again to others.