posted this a few days ago and I keep meaning to repost it.
In memory of family and friends who have lost the battle with cancer; and in support of the ones who continue to conquer it! Post this on your LJ if you know someone who has or had cancer. 93% won't copy and paste this. Will you?
I'm lucky to not have lost anyone to cancer. But I have an update on my step-mom that I've been meaning to post for a few weeks now.
Around Christmas they had gotten to the point where the chemo and other treatments weren't doing what they wanted them to do. So they promptly started harvesting stem cells from her blood. They did this for 8-12 weeks. She would go in frequently, maybe even daily some weeks and they would go through a process similar to taking plasma (pull out the blood, separate out the stem cells, put everything else back in).
Early this month, I got a call from dad saying that they had finally done her transplant. They had harvested more than enough stem cells for two transplants just in case something went wrong. She got her dose of lethal radiation that killed off everything in her bone marrow on a Wednesday and the next day got her transplant. By that Friday, when I talked to dad, he said she got up that morning and showered by herself, which was a big deal for her at the time. She has to remain in an incredibly sterile environment for about 30 days. Even the salt and pepper on her food has to be brought up to bacteria killing temperatures. She can't eat anything raw, except for fruits and veggies that can be peeled (bananas, oranges, anything with a rind, basically). Even then, she has to either wear gloves or let someone else do the peeling. She's basically radioactive right now. Or was at the time (I'm sure at this point some of those effects have waned).
Something I hadn't really thought about was just how much this is sort of like hitting the reset button on your body. In a year, once her blood production looks good and they're sure she's not going to have to go through the process again, they're going to have to readminister every vaccination she's ever had (and then some, since we get a lot more vaccines now than we did when she was getting them as a child). The nurses gave her a little birthday party the day she went in for her transplant. They said it was sort of like she was being reborn.
At that point he said it would take about two weeks for the stem cells to do their thing and start producing blood cells again. So she's in a fragile state right now, but they're all very positive about how she's responded thus far and very optimistic that this will help put her into remission. As soon as it's safe for her to have visitors, we'll go down and see them, I hope.
Time was of the essence for her. She was diagnosed about a year ago and this is how far and how fast it progressed. Because they caught it early on, they were able to monitor the progress and plan an attack, so to speak. Of course, she will always go in for tests on a regular basis from here on out, even if this does exactly what they hope it will. But again, because they'll be monitoring her, they'll be able to do this all over again if necessary.
So, I'm more grateful than usual that I can post that I've not lost anyone to cancer. A year ago, it looked considerably more bleak for our family on that front. I'm eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses who have worked with her and continue to provide her care. Everyone has been tremendous. I'm grateful that my step-sister-in-law (that's a mouthful) is right next door to help my dad out with things and help take her to appointments and help her get around and such. I wish I could be closer right now and wish I could do more for them. But I'm so glad they're in good hands.