When the day began it was still dark. I went downstairs to wake up MF for school. When I walked into the room The Dog greeted me like I had been gone for weeks. I was taken aback. He never does that in the morning. Uncanny. How did he know that I was leaving today? The Dog will be all right. He has lots of humans who will to take him for walks in woods. He makes friends easily. He’s already forgotten about me. I will miss him much more than I will be missed. The inequality between species is not always to our advantage.
At the transplant unit BF and I were greeted by a remarkably friendly staff. A doctor and a nurse sat us down and explained various rules. I was given the first of several anticonvulsants, and I was put on warning that the day would be full of information. But that’s not all. They planned to perform a third bone marrow biopsy right away in order to a get a baseline before the transplant. You could have heard my good cheer crash to the floor in whimpers. I tried to appear to take the news in stride, but I was not fooling anyone. The doctor said it was absolutely necessary. I was also to have a catheter inserted into me so that they could run all of the many fluids into me without re-poking me every time.
Then the nurse took us to my room. We entered an ante-chamber where she inspected everything that I brought along: A laptop, a tablet, two ten pound dumbbells, a yoga matt, several books, DVDs, eight pairs of sweat pants, eight long sleeve v neck t-shirts—hospital chic—eight pairs of socks, and eight pairs of underwear—all previously washed per instructions at 6oᴼC /140ᴼF. Most of the DVDs were not allowed because the album that they were in would be too hard to disinfect. The same with an old book. Only new books are allowed. The computer, tablet, cell phone, cables, and weights were all swished with some kind of alcohol wipe.
I had an opportunity to peer into the room, my place of residence for the next five weeks. It is probably 12 feet by 15 feet, with a single bead, exercise cycle, TV, two monitors, a couple of stands that you might confuse for coat stands but in reality are IV stands, various devices that seem to read out measurements. All sorts of one-time use devices, wrapped in plastic, and a couple valves to which hoses apply. One seems to be for oxygen, but something tells me that nitrous oxide is not part of the deal.
It was a bit harrowing to look in. It is most certainly a hospital room. And it is where I will live. BF had to wear a gown and face mask to enter. Once in the room the nurse took my blood pressure and temperature —the latter I will have to do several times a day. I was weighed, again my job twice a day. Then the nurse explained that they are vigilant against hospital bacteria. Every orifice except my ears—I mean every one—was to be swabbed and examined in the lab. Fortunately there were two places that she left me to do in the privacy of the bathroom. I like her. She has a fine sense of humor about it all.
My instructions were then to shower, leaving the anti-bacterial soap on for at least two minutes before rinsing, and then put on my sweat pants and long sleeved shirt. I was beginning to look the part of a patient. More rules: Close the toilet top before flushing. Always wash hands with soap and then with disinfectant. If I drop something on the floor—where all the nasty germs live—I must call a nurse to pick it up.
Then lunch came, but it deserves no further mention. As the doctor came into preform the bone marrow biopsy and the catheter insertion, BF conveniently used the opportunity to go buy some shower shoes for me, which we had forgotten. Bone marrow biopsies are almost routine affairs to me now. This doctor was good. But I felt the deep, deep pain in the bone, nearly too much to take. She knew and backed off. She was also having trouble finding blood. She explained that it was due to the fibrosis, the scarring of the bone narrow. That might have gotten worse since May. The doctor got enough of what she wanted and withdrew the needle.
I was left to rest for little while; then she came back with a tranquilizer, which I took before she inserted the catheter. By the time she started that I was a bit light-headed and certainly compliant. A hole in my neck was made first. Then 20 centimeters of tube were run into a vein almost as far the heart. So the stuff they hook up to the catheter and drain into me will be taken directly to the heart and dispatched thoughout my body right away. I now have a master tube sticking out of my neck. It divides into four littler tubes. As I write I’m hooked up to two bags of saline solution. I push the stand around like a dancing partner.
With the tube, the stand, and the bags, there is no denying now that I am a patient. After all of these months of waiting, of worrying, of working at not worrying it is really happening. I am a stem cell transplant patient. I have the tubes to prove it to myself and everyone else. I texted a picture of me and my tubes to my sister. She replied, “Just think of it as your cure starting.” I like that.
It's a long ways from being over. One day at a time, I tell myself. Epictetus. Night has fallen. Tomorrow morning I will awaken to a doctor who will start my chemotherapy regimen. It is really happening.