The cancer family of diseases are nasty, very nasty. The word “family” doesn’t seem appropriate here. While I’m grateful for all the new treatments for cancer, which we didn’t have just a few years ago, we must find a more humane way of treating this terrible disease. We need treatments and cures that are beyond radical surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and, like what I had, stem cell transplants.
There are two types of stem cell transplants, autologous and allogeneic. I had the autologous type, where my own stem cells were used. This process greatly reduces complications and duration of treatment.
While I spent about 25 days in the hospital, I met allogenic stem cell transplant patients who had been hospitalized and re-hospitalized for several months. They look to me with some jealously that I may be discharged on this coming Friday. With that said, the process has been brutal for me (and my experience is average).
I left the hospital 8 days ago on a positive note. My symptoms (fatigue, altered taste, cramping, diarrhea and vomiting) were improving. Then, around July 4th, my symptoms started to get much worse. I’m now on day 27 of diarrhea and severe abdominal cramps as well as nausea and vomiting (sounds like Pepto Bismol commercial).
My team is trying to get to the bottom of this. On Friday, I had an IV infusion to help correct my electrolytes. On Saturday, we started the process of trying to find out if I have some opportunistic infection of my GI tract. I should know the results in the morning. If this is not caused by an infection, the next likely possibility is a disorder called “pseudo host Vs Graft Syndrome.” In this case, it is where my digestive tract is attempting to reject my stem cells, although they are my own. This latter problem is usually easy to treat (high dose steroids) but we must rule out the infective cause first.
After having, what feels like, the stomach flu from hell for 27 straight days, I feel exhausted from it. The abdominal pain is almost unbearable at times. I pray that these symptoms will end, that my team can get to the bottom of this, and there will be better and better treatments for cancer that are not so toxic. I also pray that this hiccup will not derail my discharge to come home. Of course I dream about going home, however, I don’t want to go back to Anacortes in my present state of discomfort.