Ready for the stem cell transplant…

That’s all I can say after my visit with my oncologist Dr. Rodger Tiedemann on Wednesday.

Dr. Tiedemann reviewed the results of my blood tests and advised that I had achieved a partial response to my chemotherapy treatment. My M-Protein numbers have dropped by 50% from the peak in July, when I restarted treatment for relapse of my multiple myeloma.  Also, one of the other markers, serum free light chains, have dropped by 70%.  Although this is not as good a response as we would have liked — a Very Good Partial Response (>90%) or a Complete Response (>95%) would have been better, he is satisfied with the progress and gave me the all clear to start the stem cell process. 

I was expecting this to happen in a couple of weeks, but the dates are coming in fast and furiously. Monday, Nov 18 is my Hickman Line surgery.  Wednesday is the high-dose chemotherapy to get rid of any leftover cancer and Control-Alt-Delete my bone marrow. And Friday, Nov 22 is my stem cell infusion and the emergence of Munira 3.0. Apart from being a bit overwhelmed, I am excited and optimistic with this new phase of my journey.

6 years ago, when I went through the transplant process, I did it as an inpatient at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  This time I am doing it as an outpatient.  Each morning, starting next week for 3 weeks, Nagib will need to take me to the hospital in the morning where they will evaluate how I am doing and take bloodwork.  If I am doing well, they will send me home in a couple of hours.  If I require intervention – blood transfusion, platelet transfusion or anti-biotics due to fever, infection, etc. – I will be treated at the hospital and stay overnight until I’ve recovered enough to go home. For the next 3 weeks, I will need 24/7 care and Nagib has taken time off work to take care of me.

I am also expected to be severely immuno-compromised and at high risk of getting infections.  The hospital recommends cleaning and disinfecting our home so I have arranged for a cleaning lady to spend a day cleaning every surface of our home and for someone to clean our vents. Where are the duct cleaning phone calls when you really need them?! 

My hair will fall out for the umpteenth time by the end of the month, but I am so prepared that I have already purchased a gorgeous wig! 

In the meantime, I am starting to make a list of all the things I want to do during my confinement at home.  I plan to give my room a bit of sparkle by putting lights on the wall (I figure if I am going to spend hours on end in bed, I might as well create a fun space).  Nagib is less than enthusiastic about this idea so we are still negotiating.  Binge-watch every Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel.  Watch all my favourite movies for the umpteenth time – Phantom of the Opera, Serendipity, P.S. I Love You, etc.   Read a lot.  Continue to work with my brilliant editor to meet the deadline for my book to be launched in the spring of 2020 and plan for creative book launches.  And while I am making all these plans, I suspect I will spend big portions of the day sleeping a lot. 

I am taking the next 2 to 3 months off work to recover and get my body strong.  There is a sense of freedom as I claim this time to focus on health and vitality.  And in December I am excited to welcome Shayne, Sabrina, Afzal and Cherelle with open arms and new, cheerful, bursting, cancer-free blood cells when they come to visit for the holidays.