Bone Marrow Transplant: Colds and Chemo / by Leslie

This is the third installment of the story of Jerry's Bone Marrow Transplant, which details my father-in-law's life saving bone marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore. Read the previous installment - Part Two: Testing Complete

Maddy and Jerry have been in Baltimore since last Sunday and are trying to settle into their apartment. The TV isn't working yet (the management are working on it), the phone land line is crackly, and spotty cell reception has made it difficult for them to be in touch. We try to talk to them at least once a day though, usually in the evenings, so we are still hearing about what's going on with them but it's brief and we just hear the highlights.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

They spent last week with Chris's sister Gloria, her husband Hank, and their son Jake, going to appointments, getting instructions on how to care for Jerry, and some down time. We got a call from Jerry on Wednesday night, he was on the deck, doing a crossword and sipping a scotch. He was in a great mood and he told us that the doctor has reported that he is a hard man to kill. We like to hear that!

Jerry got a Hickman line placed on Friday and started the chemo yesterday that will suppress his immune system to prepare him for the bone marrow transplant. He'll be getting a dose of chemo every day until Wednesday. Thursday he gets radiation and Friday is the transplant. They were at the hospital for just a few hours yesterday, in the afternoon he had a nice long nap and later they went for a walk on the boardwalk. Maddy told me last night she was making Jerry hamburgers for dinner.

They are in this and committed to it, but I would be lying if I said that they didn't have a moment or two when they had second thoughts. It's going to be long haul and it's scary and they have wondered if they shouldn't just wait it out. Why not just return home and hope for the best? I think it's part of the process, to remind yourself that you don't have to do the hard stuff, but then you take a deep breath and steel yourself and get on living life, get on fighting for your life. If anyone can beat this, it's Jerry.

As for us, all the boys in this house are sick. It is typical that we have not been sick for months and two weeks before the transplant, we come down with colds. In addition to the normal runny noses and coughing, Quinn had an unusual three hour nap on Friday followed by intensely red, flushed cheeks that as of this writing have not fully gone away. 

Being the internet fool that I am, I looked up flushed cheeks and have diagnosed Quinn with Scarlet Fever or Fifths Disease. I know that this is totally ridiculous and I'm sure it is just a cold, however we are more paranoid than usual and so we called the pediatrician last night and spoke to her. We will be taking Quinn in on Monday morning for an exam and blood work up. She will be able to determine if it's bacterial or viral and rule out things like strep throat. He was the first one to come down with the cold, so if there is anything unusual going on, he would be the one to show it first. We have to know what we are dealing with, so that Jerry's doctor's can make an informed decision.

Chris is worried that his cold will delay the transplant, but I told him that we have no control over these things, we must just take it as it comes and if they need to bump things a day or two for him to get better, then that is what they will do. In the meantime we are pounding Vitamin C and Cold Eeze and trying to stay rested and hydrated. I'm not sending Milo to school on Monday or Tuesday to make sure nothing else comes our way.

Hopefully we are dealing with just a simple cold and by the time we get to Baltimore, everyone is healthy again. Jerry's immune system will be compromised so we have to be very careful not to expose him to any colds or runny noses. With that in mind, when Chris's sister comes down they will be getting their own apartment too, so that Jerry can stay isolated.

The other thing that we were concerned about was that the doctors asked if either of the kids had received a live virus vaccine recently. Well, as a matter of fact, that MMR vaccine that I have been delaying FOREVER, Quinn just got last month! How convenient. We were told that there is no risk of infection as long as it's been 10 days since the vaccine. It was well over a month ago, so we should be fine. Still, I had to shake my head at the chances of that and wonder why I wasn't thinking about it when we got the MMR. Sometimes it's hard to know everything.

We are leaving on Wednesday for Baltimore. Packing for the trip will commence any minute now. Maybe tomorrow? We are staying in an apartment, so we have to pack all kinds of things we wouldn't normally bring. Groceries, step stool for Quinn, sleeping bags and blow-up beds, a box of toys and our Keurig coffee pot (because that's how much we love it.) Our car will be packed sky high, but at least we are past the baby days and don't have to bring all the gear that we used to have to bring. I do have to remember swim suits, there is a pool in the building, and I think I should pack shorts and sandals in case it gets really warm.

The dogs are off to a women who watches dogs in her home. They are basically going on vacation. The last time they were there, Batman met a girl wiener dog and made Robin very jealous. It was the thrill of his little dog life. 

I will try to post again on Thursday after we get a full report from Maddy and Jerry and have a meeting with the doctors. Thanks again for all your well wishes, I can't tell you how much it helps us to know how many people are rooting for us and thinking of us. All of our friends and family are the foundation on which we stand.

Read the next installment - Part Four: Guatemalan Worry Dolls