Day 1-4 post transplant: the initial days post transplant were uneventful. My blood counts had yet to drop, and so I was able to walk around and still had energy to do some mundane tasks, like brushing my teeth. I continued to gargle with special mouth wash to avoid getting mouth sores from the high dose chemotherapy.
Day 5-9 post transplant: these were the worst of days. Since chemotherapy destroys your GI tract, I was in a great deal of stomach pain. What started out as just a discomfort became a full blown, debilitating ailment. I would scream and cry from my hospital bed as my Mom and Paul would take turns rubbing my back. I con sider myself to have a rather high tolerance when it comes to pain, but this was too much for me. My doctor decided to put me on a self administered morphine pump, where I can push a button and give myself a dose every 30 minutes. I wished I could push the button every 30 seconds it was that bad. They did several CT scans to make sure that I wasn't growing any tumors or have enlarged organs, and thankfully, those scans came back negative. I was put on a liquid diet and food was administered through my IV. All I could really do is "ride the wave" until the pain stops. To make matters worse, my counts had begun to drop and I needed multuple blood and platelet transfusions. My immune system was non existent, and so I was placed in isolation, where I couldn't leave my room for fear of contracting something as simple as the cold. I was continuously reminded that catching a cold with no immune system could be fatal. Even my parents had to wear special suits and masks when in my room. My physical therapist was kind enough to transport the bike so I could continue to work on my strength. My endurance is not even 1% near where it used to be. I can only be active for about 10 minutes and then I feel like I've ran a marathon and need a long nap. I think Rashida Jones nailed it when she said "Chemotherapy is brutal. The goal is to pretty much kill everything in your body without killing you."
Day 10-12 post transplant: after four days, I started to push the morphine less and less. My stomach stopped hurting, and I was able to tolerate food again. I was taken off getting food from an IV, and slowly worked my way up from oatmeal to grilled chicken. A nurse draws my blood every morning at 4:00 AM, and the results are then written on my whiteboard by 7:00 AM. I swear, waiting to see if your immune system will produce white blood cells feels like playing Russian Roulette. You just never know what the numbers will be. Thankfully. there was a common trend in my counts-- THEY WERE GOING UP. This is a great indication that my immune system is "resetting" and the stem cell transplant is working. At this point, it is just a waiting game. There are so many thresholds that need to be met before I can go home, and I am constantly reminding myself to have grace with my body and give it the time it needs to heal and repair. But let me tell you, being here for over 3 weeks now is no walk in the park. I miss my bed, I miss my shower, I miss the freedom of not being connected to a 7 ft tall IV pole, dragging bags and bags of medicine everywhere I do. Cabin fever is real. I sometimes catch myself just staring at a calendar on the wall. The days are very long. I try to pass time with coloring pictures or reading magazines, but I just want to go home. I miss my siblings, and my nieces and nephews. I want to feel the cold air against my cheek. I want to wear boots and scarves, and not hospital gowns and pajamas. However, I am so blessed to still be in the fight. My "neighbor" a few rooms down left a several days ago to go into hospice care. It just didn't seem fair. But cancer doesn't know fair. Cancer does not care if you just married the love of your life and want to start a family, cancer doesn't care if you have two small children who wonder why mommy is sick all the time, cancer doesn't' care if you're the youngest of five kids who just wants to live a normal life. Cancer also doesn't know how powerful love is, and that's the weapon I use the most.