Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reservations in Rochester

This week I got the call I wanted from the Mayo Clinic. They will begin my stem cell transplant procedure July 12. Yeehah! Here we go.

By implication this means the doctors are satisfied that my cancer is responsive to the chemotherapy, something I had to establish before they'd proceed, and that the protocol for the next two-and-a-half months is expected to be a continuation of the chemotherapy I'm already taking (and which I know I can tolerate well enough), aimed at gradually increasing my strength and recovery from the mess they found me in Jan 31 when I finally stumbled into the ER at St Luke's Hospital in Duluth.

Looking ahead, here's the front end of what will happen in Rochester. The first week is highly scripted. After that the schedule is more flexible, depending mainly on how I respond.

July 12-14                      Final testing begins.

Afternoon July 14          Meet with Dr Buadi (who oversees all stem cell transplants at Mayo). I need a green light from him after he digests all the test results. While we're expecting no surprises here, who am I to rule out surprises after all that's befallen me the past year?

Evening July 14             They'll start giving me injections to induce my bone marrow to make my stem cells available for collection.

July 18                           Begin harvesting my stem cells. This will proceed until they have more than twice what they think they need.

July 22 (?)                     Once they have the stem cells in hand, they'll give me an injection to kill off everything in my bone marrow.

July 24 (?)                     Two days later they'll reintroduce my healthy stem cells to start repopulating my bone marrow. The rest of my time in Rochester (perhaps six weeks in all) will be devoted to healing under close medical supervision, hoping that a robust response from my stem cells will dominate, placing the cancer in remission.

Mayo's has enough experience with transplants for people with my cancer and the volume is large enough that I'll be able to stay at Transplant House, a private facility in town (about a mile from the clinic) that is wholly geared to support people going through what I'll be going through. They have two large buildings conveniently located in Rochester (with daily shuttle service to the clinic) each of which houses abut 30 people. Each room has two beds (one for the patient and another for the primary caregiver) and a private bathroom. Kitchen facilities are open to all in the house with private storage space in the refrigerator and cupboards for each patient. Amazingly, this is available for $30/night.

I figure it will be a piece of cake adjusting to the housing after all my years in an income-sharing community. In fact, for me, being bivouacked temporarily at Transplant House will mostly represent an upgrade in living space. It will seem spacious. What do I need, after all, beyond a caring companion, a bed, a bathroom, a comfortable chair, a table, and an electrical outlet with a wifi connection?

Among other things, that means I won't miss spring in Duluth, which can be a tricky sighting.
No only am I a patient these days, but I'm discovering that being a Duluthian entails patience. Every day I look at the Minneapolis Tribune and peruse the weather maps. For most of April northern MN has stood out as the font of blue from which all other cold weather emanates in the continental US. It's impressive. And another week goes by without daffodils or lilacs.

I was driving to a rummage sale this morning when a person in the car casually reported that her husband was going to miss the sale because he needed to help out with the family maple syrup harvest. It's the second half of April for Chrissakes! Talk about a time warp. Sandhill would have wrapped up sugaring two months ago.

That said, the delay does not mean I've missed anything. Since I won't be going to Mayo's until July, I'm confident that I won't miss any spring flowers. Of course the upside of the delay is that the mosquitoes have not yet appeared either, which, up to a point, is a trade I'm willing to make. I give enough blood at the hospital; there's no need to give in the backyard as well.

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