This week, I managed to make it into work for one full day and one half day (probably). I’ve had an echo cardiogram, EKG, pulmonary function test, multiple labs, and a tri-fusion catheter inserted. I’ve also met with my transfusion coordinator, social worker, radiologist, and oncologist, submitted FMLA forms, and updated my co-workers on my preliminary out-of-office schedule. And I go into the hospital tomorrow to start my next round of R-ICE chemotherapy.
On the one hand, I’m really glad things are moving so quickly, since this cancer continues to be astonishingly aggressive. On the other, I am overwhelmed. And scared. And exhausted.
The best days were the ones when I could go into work. Being able to focus on something other than being sick and the treatment path I’m having to undergo is both rejuvenating and refreshing. Any time I can spend at the day job is beginning to feel like a luxury day at the spa.
Meeting with my transplant team, I got a better idea of the magnitude of the stem cell transplant procedure. I’ve been operating under the assumption that once I completed my three-week stint at the hospital, that was it; I could go back to work, resume life as usual, start running full tilt towards a resumption of normalcy.
I was so wrong.
I knew that the procedure will involve a total destruction of my immune system, utterly wiping out my bone marrow. I didn’t realize that it would also destroy my childhood immunizations. I’ll need to get re-vaccinated for everything in something like one-and-a-half to two years from now. And during this time, I’ll be at risk of contracting chicken pox/shingles, measles, and all the other lovely diseases one thinks are safely behind you as an adult.
Also, the weeks in the hospital for the transplant itself are only the beginning. With my immune system wiped out, even with the stem cell transplant coming to the rescue, I will be weak and unable to be around people and potential infections for upwards of months. They won’t let me return to work until my immune system stabilizes, and that is going to exhaust my remaining leave time as well as the three months of unpaid FMLA time I’m allowed. Even after I’m allowed to return to work, I will continue to have a terribly weakened immune system, suffer from fatigue, and all the horrible side effects of what will essentially be a lethal dose of chemotherapy, for upwards of a year.
So much for a speedy return to normalcy.
My transplant coordinator recommended that I try to take things one step at a time, but it’s hard not to stare at the big picture and gibber with anxiety and dread.