As my chemo intermission draws to a close, it is time to update everyone on what is to come. As you know, I spent the first two weeks of December going through the prepping for and then harvesting of my stem cells. This was not a particularly pleasant procedure. The daily high dose neupogen shots left my bones aching and me sweating so badly at night that I needed to change my clothes at least two or three times per night and put a towel down on the bed after each sweat. The harvesting required me to be hooked up to a machine (via a temporary catheter in my neck) that circulated my blood and filtered out my stem cells over a three hour period. This process, which was repeated over four days, left me tired to the core for over a week.
For now and hopefully forever, thankfully and most likely, I will not be needing those stem cells. They have been preserved in liquid nitrogen where they shall remain should I ever need them. But because my doctor is so pleased at my progress, I will NOT be undergoing an autologous stem cell transplant. The doctor says that for now there is no need for it. That the risks from the transplants and the fact that patients like me seem do equally well following both transplant and continued chemo made it a no brainer. Transplant risks include permanent damage to my heart, thyroid, testicles (both in terms of reproduction and in terms of production of testosterone), and an increased risk of secondary malignancies in the future (the testicles piece sold me on the chemo regimen). Had the disease not been totally gone, we would have gone ahead with the transplant. But because I am lymphoma free, it’s time for four more chemo influsions which begin next Tuesday. I am not looking forward to this, but we are now halfway through this, and there is an end in sight.
So after this incredible intermission which brought us Sophia and the return of my hair in places that I didn’t even know were supposed to have hair, it’s time for a little more chemo. So here goes nothing. Come mid-March this will be behind us…
In more exciting news, Sophia had her first bath on Sunday. She is so cute.
Today Sophia, Jacqui and I packed up the Yudell family truckster and headed south to Miami for a few days of fun in the sun on the beach. No matter that tomorrow’s weather forecast is for rain, Jacqui and I are just happy to be on our first, albeit brief, vacation in a year. And tonight, despite the bad weather, the three of us are heading to the Jets/Dolphins game for some Monday Night Football. Sophia is sure to be the youngest Jets fan in attendance.
It has been quite a four months for us, and we are so happy just to be alone, hanging out, and enjoying one another without IVs, chemo, or blood draws. There is now an end in sight to this whole wacky world of de-lypmhomatization (more on what’s to come in a blog later this week), and this “intermission”, which brought us Sophia and some much needed recovery time, has been a wonderful time. I know that I’ll be bald again in a few weeks, weakened from chemo in mind and body. But I also now know that my body recovers quickly, that I am lymphoma free, and that the future is bright and long.
Last night, after her first flight of her young life, Sophia got to meet her Grandpa and the two have been inseparable since. My dad, who is recovering from surgery and has not had much of an appetite these last few weeks, was inspired to recovery today by his beautiful grand daughter and began eating and talking about food like his old self.
Later today (with the approval of our pediatrician for those of you who may still be living in the dark ages) Jacqui, Sophia, and I are heading down to Florida to visit our families for a few days and then to spend a few days in Miami Beach teaching Sophia how to swim and maybe how to go clubbing on South Beach.
We are excited for the warm weather, to introduce Sophia to her Grandpa, and to see the rest of the wacky gang of grandparents who, rather than holding Sophia one at a time, might try to hold her at the same time–one an arm, one her head, one a leg, and one a tush. I’ve been scouring the internet for a service than can clone a first grandchild to satisfy first grandchild crazy grandparents.
Today is Sophia’s three week birthday. It is hard to believe that it has just been three weeks. She is such an incredible presence in our lives, and it is hard to believe that she was never here. She is changing every day, makes us smile more broadly morning, noon, and night, and her cuteness is so infectious that I’ve bought myself my own terry-cloth frog towel that I have taken to wearing around the house in an attempt to just look cute (which is hard for a post-chemo, mostly hairless 38-year-old). Below is a collection of some photos of Sophia’s family and friends who have visited over the past few weeks.
Sophia loves her big brother Otis.
And Sophia loves her Grandma.
Sophia loves her Bubbe and Papa Z.
Sophia loves her Aunt Andrea.
And Sophia loves her Uncle Bill.
Sophia loves her Uncle Paul and Aunt Bette (especially when they changed her diaper).
Sophia loves her Uncle Kelvin.
And Sophia loves her Aunties Ivy and Marci.
Sophia love her Cousin Dara and friend Julie.
And Sophia loves her Aunt Lisa.
And today Sophia got a special surprise visit from her Uncle Alvan. Lucky Sophia!
Finally, this weekend Sophia is so excited to meet her Grandpa whom she loves so very much. Yay!
Been great just posting photos of Sophia to the blog as we are a bit tired and my brain is not much for writing these last two weeks. Looking forward to catching up on some sleep and sharing my thoughts about fatherhood. But not tonight. Tonight just some more Sophia photos…
On Tuesday night I came down with a bad cold and began hosing myself down with Howard Hughes-like rigor. Tonight I am finally feeling better.
Today Jacqui came down with the same bad cold and has been dressed in a Howard Hughes-designed space suit-like outfit that has a velcro patch over her nipples so she can nurse Sophia without infecting her with the cold.
So far Sophia is doing fine and spends her day laughing at her mama’s silly looking space suit-like outfit.
It is Tuesday afternoon and I am sitting in the pheresis center at Penn having stem cells sucked out of me by a machine that hums like a car engine via a catheter that was just placed into my neck. The procedure itself is painless, but for the next few days I’ll be walking around with some tubing hanging out of my jugular looking like 50% of Frankenstein. Does anyone have a turtleneck I can borrow? Below is a photo of the catheter that went in my neck.
To prep me for this procedure, for the last 5 days Jacqui has been giving me shots (in the arm) of a drug called Neupogen that stimulates the over-production of stem cells in my marrow to the point that they are free flowing in my blood stream. Once harvested, the stem cells will be preserved for the transplant, which is now scheduled for January 2. Happy New Year Michael!
While this all stinks, we are in the final stage of delymphomatization, and by the end of January this “speed bump of life” will be behind us. Despite the hair loss, neutropenic fevers, puke-o-meter, long hospital stays, and just generally feeling like poop, this has all been worth it. My lymphoma is gone. How cool is that? And all I can think about is holding my beautiful little Sophia, my hair curly and long, my arms strong, and my mind clear and chemo-free.