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MY TRANSPLANT

I hope, as energy permits, to blog about my stem cell transplant and its aftermath. I’m sure what I write won’t be as fascinating as church politics but merely writing it all down will help me even if it doesn’t do much for you gentle reader.

There is no cure for my rare form of cancer, but what now begins may give me a few more years before the disease returns. While I have no claim to immortality, at least on this planet, I have a few more things I would like to do before I “chuck in my clogs” as they say where I come from. The doctors seem to think that apart from my frail bones, I am a young 71 year old. Yesterday while at Rush University Hospital in Chicago for Dopler tests on kidneys and available veins to insert the device from which cells will be harvested and drugs inserted, the psychiatrist also informed me that I was “young” for my age. Perhaps she was suggesting that I’ve entered my second childhood.

My good friend Fr. Frank Endres will drive me back to Rush this Thursday. At 6.00am I will have surgery to implant the port catheter and then have an injection  to mobilize stem cells into the blood stream for collection. Then we travel back home. The other drug I will be given seems to be an early riser. On Friday and thereafter until the cell harvesting is complete at 7.00am I will be injected in my abdomen with Neupogen. Both drugs come with the usual list of possible side effects. Reading these lists is probably worse than what will actually transpire.

Next Monday afternoon, August 1,  I check in to the Holiday Inn, West Harrison, Chicago, just over a mile from the hospital. The next morning Harvesting begins. This process may take up to four days, but could be over in a day. Mercifully the insurance company pays for the motel, meals and taxis to and from Rush. Once enough of my stem cells are harvested I return home to rest. The main challenge will be keeping the catheter clean and covered when I shower.

On August 8th I return to Rush to be admitted to the transplant unit, a special area of rooms with their own air circulation and other precautions against infection. Then comes a rather drastic course of chemotherapy which effectively destroys my immune system and any remaining cancer proteins, after which, in a few days, my cleaned up stem cells will be returned to me and we wait for my immune system to begin the process of recovery. I’m told that the worst period is just after the stem cells are returned when the effects of the chemotherapy become most obvious. We shall see. I should be in hospital for three weeks or so and then in quarantine at home until the end of October.

I will keep you all posted. In the meantime, do keep me in your prayers!

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