Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day -6: Steroids and Still Going Strong

We're getting up around 5:30 each morning, then leaving the apartment at 6:45 am. I get anti-nausea meds and fluids at 7:15, then radiation at 8 or 8:30. Then we talk to the doc briefly, go home for lunch and a nap, or we stay awake and get things done (like blogs and emails and house cleaning).

It's a 15 or 20-minute drive to Vanderbilt. We go back at 1:00 pm for more meds and fluids, get the second dose of radiation around 2:30, then go home. My wife does all the driving. She has me banned from driving now that the radiation has started, though she's often tried to ban me from driving over the last six months.

Admittedly, most of that was justifiable.

Tomorrow's the last day of radiation. Friday morning I check into the hospital before 7:30 am to begin getting the chemo. I'll stay there until Wednesday morning, the day after the transplant, when they'll determine my condition and decide whether they can send me home or not.


I haven't slept at all since my nap yesterday. I laid in bed for hours last night. It was restful, I was tired, but for all the thinking, praying, and daydreaming I did, I never came close to going to sleep. I finally gave up at 3:30 am, got up and started on next week's Through the Bible blogs. (I love the start of Matthew!)

The fact is, though, that all that laying down did the job. I've been fine all day long.

I thought maybe it was some weird side effect of the radiation, but the nurse and doctor told me today that it's not the radiation; it's the steroids they've been giving me to help me handle the radiation.

So tonight the nurses have provided a solution that worked for me the one time I tried it in the hospital. It's a combination of Benadryl and Compozine (sp?). We'll see how that goes. I don't want to stay awake several nights in a row! I literally didn't sleep a wink!

Worse, I have a couple games of "Chess with Friends" going on my iPhone, and one of them is really tough. It's a great game, and I'd love to pull it out. Staying awake all night isn't going to help me do that!

Exercise Plans

My daughter will feel a little better about her double-jointed picture on my blog the other day. I'm paying myself back for her.

My wife sneaked a video of me doing some exercises in the hospital room today. It's embarrassing, but I'll let you see it, thus giving my wife permission to put it on Facebook, which she was avoiding because it was clear it embarrassed me some.

That's not to say that she didn't send it to all my friends and show it to the doctor as well!

Here it is, and then I'll explain what I'm doing:

It's look like I'm doing Tai Chi, but I don't know how to do Tai Chi. I'm just using the Tai Chi I've seen as a mold.

Here's the point. Sink down in a low squat or horse stance and stay low, even when moving. (A younger guy who hasn't been repeatedly poisoned over the last six months could go a lot lower than me.) That works the quadriceps and buttocks.

Then, just having fun and doing whatever Tai Chi things I can think of, I strongly tense my stomach, and as I turn, I put all my effort in my core muscles to make each turn of my upper body.

Finally, when I extend and retract my hands, I'm not training for punches, nor am I gathering Chi, though sometimes I use "gathering Chi" hand motions. I'm tensing and working specific muscles.

I have another week in which I'm not supposed to lift anything heavy. This sort of exercise makes up for that without blowing out the Hickman Catheter on my upper chest, which is still leaking blood slightly (which is normal).

The idea of moving with the muscles tensed, working against each other, is what was behind the old Charles Atlas "Dynamic Tension" exercise program, which was advertised in comic books when I was a kid in the 60's and 70's. Do any of you remember those comic book commercials where the bully kicks sand in the face of the 99-pound weakling? Then he takes the Charles Atlas program, comes back to the beach buffed out, and punches the bully? (The ad can be seen here.)

I figured it out from a little poking into the basis of the system when I was a teenager. I think I found an interview with Charles Atlas or something. It doesn't work near as good as weightlifting (except for beginners), but it does work.

The Radiation and Chemotherapy

The total body irradiation isn't affecting me right now, though I'm taking strong measures to prevent problems I've had in the past. The nurse and the doctor were quick to tell me today, though, that the chemo will hit me like a combination of both the radiation and the chemo. It will bring them together.

That's not my plan, though. My plan is to experience some fatigue from no blood, live off transfusions (gotten 30 units of blood or so in the last six months; thanks to all those who donated!), and to intensively hide from all germs for four weeks. Then I'm going to get better, throw up occasionally, and run a 5K in the summer, a half marathon in the fall, and a marathon in Sacramento in 2013.

Lord willing.


  1. Thought y'all might enjoy this little anecdote I got today from his brother, Dave, when I sent him a copy of this exercise video:

    "One of my favorite stories is one morning in temporary housing in Germany (Paul was graduating and I was getting out of the 7th grade) everyone was sleeping except Paul was up doing Ti Chi. I was watching him from behind quietly when I heard him whisper, "n e r v e s of steeeeeel...."

    And that is when I popped out and yelled "YAH!" He and his nerves of steel almost jumped through the ceiling.

  2. I love it when memories bring reasoning to the current events...(thanks, David) I love Shammah's expression as he discovers being filmed while waiting for the doc. I love his infectious attitude, and the opportunity he is enjoying within his "adventure". He is garnering quite a world-wide family of people for whom he lifts spirits each day! May God always add His abundancy to all this!

  3. Love it, love it, love it! Glad you let us on the journey with you, Shammah. Love you both.

  4. Have been catching up on your posts. Praying for you. Thank you for your awesome attitude and touch of humor. Still waiting on my donor match.

  5. Good to hear from you, Tamara. That donor issue is always so complicated. It's less complicated with cord blood like I'm getting, but the engraftment time for cells from an adult is significantly less. I'm praying for you, and thanks again for contacting me in the first place!