STEM CELL TRANSPLANT: Day +1 to Day +14

With my friend, Joanne.
With my friend, Joanne.

After the very high dose of chemotherapy (Melphalan) on Valentine’s Day and the Stem Cell Transplant on Day 0 (the birth of Munira, Version 2.0), the rest of the time in the hospital has been waiting for the stem cells to engraft, and for me to manage the devastating effects of the chemo.

And what a process it’s been!  Day +1 through Day +4 were relatively easy.  I entertained visitors in the beautiful Rebecca’s Hope Lounge on the 14th floor, ate Indian snacks (thank you, Shamim!) and hot dogs, danced the hokey pokey, read a couple of books, and took the time to rest.  During this time, as my hemoglobin and platelet levels dived, I repeatedly needed blood and platelet transfusions.  But I was doing okay.

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You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out…
…and you shake it all about.
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You do the hokey pokey…
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
Out for a walk in the hallways of 14C
Out for a walk in the hallways of 14C

And then from Day +4 to Day +9,  I felt like I was hit by a truck – literally.  I was so sick that I just wanted to curl up and die.  All the effects of the chemo from the week before hit me with full force.  And even though Dr. Franke had prepared me for it, I could not imagine how sick I would get.  Lifting my head from the pillow was a big deal.  Taking a shower exhausted me for the rest of the day.  Thinking about getting out of bed to take a walk was unfathomable to me.  I could watch TV for a few minutes before my eyes would close.  My meals trays went untouched — I couldn’t eat anything.  I survived on Gatorade, Ginger Ale and Ensure.  The reason for all this is that all my white blood cell counts were at zero from the chemo (as expected).  During this time, the stem cells were seeding and multiplying.  This is a process that takes time and not something you can rush.  I needed to have several more blood and platelet transfusions, and neupogen injections to bring the counts up.  Every day I wondered if I could do this. 

On the night of the Oscars, I had a nose bleed — because of low platelets, and the nose bleed would not stop.  It was impressive to watch Nagib and Shayne take turns applying pressure, hands bloodied, blood on the bed, focused on stopping the damage.  After one hour of doing this, the bleeding resumed again, and we had to start all over again.  Shayne was a real trooper and just took charge.  The next morning, I noticed that the shape of my nose had changed from the constant application of pressure!  Oh, and my face showed the effects of water retention (from all the I.V. fluids I was being given) and I looked like Marlon Brando from The Godfather – – not a pretty sight.

My daughter’s friend, Aliya Sunderji, a medical student, left me a note that offered me hope and perspective: “Regenerating a new body full of cells can’t be easy. Remember, you’re allowed to be tired, fed-up and selfish. These weeks will allow you space for that. Even mother nature feels gross and looks terrible during these gray, slushy days, in order to look radiant in the summer – as will you in the spring.”

And then Day +10 arrived, and things started to shift, exactly as Dr. Franke had predicted.  He had drawn a smiley face on Day +12 of my calendar, and told me that it would be my “Happy Day” and, miraculously, on that day, I felt like I finally came out of the land of the living dead.  Today is Day +14, and the Doctors are thrilled with my recovery!  They are weaning me off all antibiotics today and  plan to release me in the next couple of days.  When I go home, I am expected to rest for 3 to 6 months and let my body heal.

Tough as the past two weeks have been, I must say that the quality of care in the Stem Cell unit, 14C, has been exceptional.  I think it starts with the leadership of Dr. Norman Franke, who heads up the autologous stem cell transplant unit.  He believes in empowering and developing his staff, and it is apparent in the way the nurses speak about him.  He has created a culture where nurses are comfortable being who they are, and yet live by a shared vision of looking after their patients with single-minded dedication.  The culture is one of competence and compassion.  The nurses are like Mary Poppins.  Regardless of the issue you have – diarrhea, sore throat, cough, fever, pneumonia, nose bleed, nausea, mouth sores, trouble sleeping, dizziness,  – – they just reach into their bags and find the right remedy.   Their goal is to get you through the dark side.  At one point, I was lamenting that my hair was falling out.  Voila!  My nurse, Joanne C, set up a make-shift barber shop in the washroom and promptly shaved my head. 

 

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To Tasha – the motivator,  to Linda, the vein-finder, to Denise for your warmth, to Joanne – for your competence and conversations, to the interesting Yifang and Dolma, to the refreshing Laryssa, to the caring and compassionate Alisha, to Glenna and to Fatima, to Karen – for your love, to Munno and Lauren, to Marlene, to the incredible Aylene, to the irreverent Evelyn, to Arlene, to Johanna for friendliness, to Angela for nursing excellence, to Leigh – for the feistiness factor.  I cannot begin to thank you all for your care and your love.  I did not think that I was going to make it through the dark days.  But you refused to give up and made me believe that I could do it!  What is remarkable is that you do this day and night for each of the 17 patients in the unit!

Despite being in the hospital for 2+ weeks, I have found “Silver Linings” in my “Playbook”.  Some of my favourite times in the hospital have been spending dedicated time with Shayne.  Some days, he comes to see me for a couple of hours at night and then goes right back to work.  Yesterday, I threatened to hide under the covers so he could not find me.  He still showed up and the nurse said he sat with me for a couple of hours, put me to sleep, held me close and then snuck out. 

What price do you put to all this love, care and compassion?

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50 thoughts on “STEM CELL TRANSPLANT: Day +1 to Day +14”

  1. It is priceless and yet I am sure you feel richer everyday! I know that I do from reading about your triumphs!

  2. Munira, you have an exceptional talent for finding life and seeing how it generates and creates connection and beauty even in truly wrenching, hard and dark moments. I’m imagining your stem cells doing exactly that inside you. Warmest thoughts, wishes and care Elizabeth

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks! I’m doing my best to keep those stem cells happy! You know, one thing I have learned through this is that my darkest moments are not so bad after all… Munira

  3. Munira, you are amazing. Truly, truly amazing. I am sending you the warmest of thoughts and wishes for a speedy and complete restoration of total health. It is a honour to know you and to be able to share this journey with you via your writings. Lots of love, Scott

    1. Hi Scott! So through your inspiration, I bought an iPad and I also have Netflix. So we need to get together again for more inspiration! Thanks for reading the blog. Munira

  4. Munira, you cannot imagine how deeply your experience touches and transforms all of us, those who know you and even those who don’t and have become connected via your blog. You are passionate about searching out the good and the humorous aspects of life and recognising them with warmth and love. You are so generous! You have our thanks and love!

    1. Hiya Julia! YOU are so generous! Thank you for being a constant in my life throughout the year. Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it through the year without your friendship. Blessings and love to you. Munira

  5. As March rolls in,so does the sense of a New Season..Spring & Navroz!!
    And for You all the New Bounty & Abundance of Prayers,Good Wishes & Endless Joy !
    Wishing you & your Family a Happy Healthy New Year…
    A Very Early Navroz Mubark to all of you..
    Naz Kamani

  6. Shukhar for the many blessings in the morning after the dark nights. I am grateful for your gratitude! It’s a blessing…. Continue to heal, He walks next to you. May the Lord bless every mother with a “Shayne”. Sending you Healing Prayers. Hugs, Shyrose Visram

  7. May God be with you every minute. All the very best in life. Our Best wishes and speedy recovery.
    Lots of hugs and kisses.

    Munira & Nadir Jadavji

  8. Dearest Munira,
    Your thoughts, attitude and the positivism with which you handle every life scenario have a great impact on your well being, and in turn, on the people around you. I am humbled by the depth of your experience, amazed by your strength, and appreciative of your caregivers’ competence and love. The grandeur with which you retell your experiences and the gentleness in your thoughts that translate into your words, are life lessons from which I continue to learn. There is no trace of negativity, distress, or dullness creeping in to cloud your larger-than-life personality, no matter what. There’s only the one and only gentle, optimistic and generous you– the beautiful you, who continue to inspire us. Sending all my very best for the journey ahead of you.
    Love, Deva

    1. Deva – – You should write for Hallmark! You have such a beautiful way with words. You have seen me when I have had bad days. You were with me when I was first diagnosed and teary-eyed and unfocused. Its been a crazy 13 months and I’ve learnt that there is no place for negativity, distress or anger. Its when i started to accept and embrace what was happening to me that good things started to happen. Munira

  9. slow and steay surely wins the race Amazing Grace, the grace of Allah is there even when we feel he has forgotten us, he has not, what price can we give for that grace?

  10. Muni, I just love the way you always find the positive in every situation, and the best in everyone around you. I am so pleased about your progress, and looking forward to the vibrant spring time of Munira II. May each day be better and better for you.
    Love, Cheryl

  11. Its so nice to hear that all is going well and you are on your way… to recovery, to better everything…Kudos to your hospital team – the unsung heroes and ofcourse to you and your family.

  12. Hi Munira,

    You look so cute doing the hokey pokey dance!! i want to learn that too!! lol!! Well!! you are truly amazing and always take everything in your stride! sometimes I feel that people like you are here in this world to teach us all about how to be grateful for everything that we have and to make the most of everything!!! you are truly amazinig! and once again you rose above all and succeeded yet once again!!! so proud of you dear friend! May you always be blessed and may you conquer this battle once and for all!! sending you positive thoughts and tight *hugs*
    Take care friend!! Saira Nasirdin!

    1. Saira – – I am hoping that you and I can meet face-to-face sometime this year. Then we’ll dance the hockey-pockey! You have been such a good virtual friend – – always encouraging and rooting me on. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Munira

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and I love the pictures. You are incredibly positive. I’m so happy you are feeling better and always look forward to reading your blog posts and see how you are doing. Best wishes for your health!

  14. You are looking so good Mukhianima. Sending you Healing prayers,Warm hugs. May Mowla always be with you every step of the way! Navroz Mubarak to the Premji & Kurji Family.Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Best Wishes always.

    Lots of Love,

    Rashida & Salim Kanji,

  15. Munira love, love, love – you have been my inspiration for all these months. I can only imagine that it has not been easy. All i have been sure of is that God is in control, I always remember to say a prayer for you. God is healing you. He has been happy with your Faith – which is just like a mustard seed. Hugs

  16. Munira….I’m imagining every cell in your body refreshing and re-energizing….just as your words do for those who read them. It’s heart wrenching to imagine your experience and I send you all my positive healing energy in a warm embrace. Helen

  17. Our prayers are with you, always. We know that Mowla is holding your hand and we look forward to seeing the ‘new Munira’ soon. Best wishes, Yasmin and Nazir Dossa

  18. Dearest Muni,
    I was so glad to see your Day 12 blog. We are with you in spirit all the way. You continue to inspire us despite all the challenges you are going through.
    Big hug!

  19. Hi Munira, I have been reading up and following this inspirational and informational blog. It is remarkable the power family and friends have to boost the inner power within oneself. After having been exposed to the harshness of cancer with other family members, being surrounded by warmth of friends and family is the best gift through these hard times. You have been in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be there. Take care and stay strong!! I don’t remember where I heard this, but I continuously live by this statement:
    Watch your thoughts; they become words.
    Watch your words; they become actions
    Watch your actions; they become habits
    Watch your habits; they become character.
    Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
    With all that I have read from you, your destiny will be the MuniraV2

  20. Munira Version 2!!!! The world is ready for you, new beginnings, the sweet smell of spring, warmer temps (oh yay!) step out and hold both your arms out, cause its waiting to hold you and caress you. The healing process has begun. I didn’t lie when I said it would be tough but you have been such a trooper and smiling through every thing. It was a real honour to share this journey with you. I just can’t wait to hear more about the new version, close out this chapter on the transplant cause there is no more pain (the only way is UP baby)…. I am hoping that one of these days we can share the shrimp curry with potatoes your aunt made….have been drooling since you told me about it. Love you to bits and it truly has been an honour to know you and your loving family in this journey! God Bless….xo

  21. I just want to say this post is getting me through my day. My dad is very sick post transplant at Princess Margaret and he has Dr. Franke too, it is keeping me assured that he will get better.

    1. Hi Candida – – I have been thinking about you and your dad. How is he doing? The second week of the transplant is pretty brutal. And then things start to get better in week 3. How are you? Feel free to call me if I can help at all, Sending your dad lots of healing energy….

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