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Senior Correspondent

Robert Schrag, a regular contributor to Senior Correspondent, documents the process of undergoing a stem cell transplant in response to multiple myeloma.

Friday, Dec. 14, 2012

This is day minus one. I think I will use their calendar system, because it actually drives what will occur each day. Furthermore, it is written right there on the wall right next to all the boxes of blue gloves. No you don't really want to know … actually, I'm kidding. The major issue in this whole deal is to keep pressure off the immune system. So everybody is OCD when it comes to germs, hence there are more gloves and hand cleaner and masks than I recall from last time. So this is day "minus one" because I am supposed to get my line and my chemo today.  Sometimes I post on the actual day being written about, other times not. On Ocracoke, they have a saying, “living on Island Time,” which basically means "I'll do it when I get around to it." Here it more like hospital time — it will happen when they get around to it. So these posts will be in conceptual, as opposed to chronological, order — sort of "time on the island of the hospital."

For example it is no longer "minus one," It is actually "day +2," meaning I had the actual transplant two days ago, everything is cranking along fine so far and I'll try to catch you up on those days, but I really wrote the first paragraph on "minus one." But then things backed up on me. I had left final grades to compute and post from here inside. The reasons for doing that remain valid. I have the internet, and I have the ability there to both access the necessary data to compute the grades and post them. What I don't have is the energy that would make the task "easy." It is about done now; just waiting for a few more grades to come in through the ethers, but it is part of this process I would rethink. And I've done this all before  I guess I repressed all the time I had to spend sleeping! Anyhow let us now return to the post as though it really is day "minus one." 

Either place, "on island" or "inside", time unwinds at its own pace. Trying to force the issue is like trying to push a piece of string. It ain't happening. For example, my bed moves when it wants to. It is a bedsore thing. Apparently a body at rest really does stay at rest and gets bedsores — unless the bed makes a whirring noise and gently shifts your position. Remember waterbeds? Remember trying to move without waking your partner? It's that kind of movement. It feels random, but doubtless is driven by complex bedsore algorithms.

As it is, I'm hanging out in the room. I should be getting my line put in shortly. They are apparently backed up in that unit today. Unfortunately "getting my line in" doesn't involve engaging the medical staff – all of whom seem half my age — in clever repartee. Rather, they are going to run a shunt in down below my bicep up a vein over towards my heart and . . .

Oops, hospital time cranked around and that's all done. Amazingly painless. As in totally painless. OK, not totally, totally, but a lot less discomfort than getting blood drawn a few times a day. I sent Christine home to get some rest, as getting the line in was supposed to be the big event for the day.

And it was. Just had the chemo — took about 15 minutes — via my new line. The doc tells us it will do its thing in about 20 minutes — clomps onto the cancer cells, or a certain protein therein and kills them. Strange to be lying here in the vortex of such high tech, high science and feel literally nothing, except the occasional tug I get when I forget that I am tethered to my IV tower over there. And it is now just dripping fluid – I'll be allowed to lose the tower if I pee enough. Apparently, I will feel lousy around days +5 to +9. It's not personal, it's just "bidness." Da way it is, ya know? We'll see. So now the next month is all about waiting for the new immune system to kick in. Should you choose, we'll spend it together. Hanging out.

Well, they have promised to wake me up at midnight to "check my vitals" so I'm going to close for now. Just praying that some night this week a midnight nurse will ask me "Did I wake you?" Just so I can say to him or her, "No problem, I had to wake up to have my blood pressure taken anyhow."

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