Thank you for all your prayers. Today was easy. Very easy.
Somehow, I had in mind that I was probably going to be leaning on my wife's shoulder, trying to make it from the car to the apartment without throwing up on the sidewalk. Instead, I'm doing as well as I was doing two weeks ago before any radiation at all.
I think it's your prayers. Thank you.
The nurses—two female, one male—told me that I could bring a CD to listen to.
Unlike the brain radiation, the TBI (Total Body Irradiation) takes about 20 minutes, if they're not doing measurements and checking out the lung blocks they made for me. They shoot me for about four minutes from the front, stop for 15 seconds to see how I'm doing, then shoot me for about four more minutes. Then they turn me around, set me back up in the contraption, and do another two 4 minute shots.
Anyway, I brought a CD in the afternoon. It's Peruvian Indian music, mostly drums and pipes, that I really like.
As it turned out, one of the nurses had recently purchased the exact kind of pipe they were playing, planning on learning it. It got her inspired, and she said she'd quit putting her lessons off.
A little later, they were trying to set up the lung shields—lead patterns like what you'd use to stop Superman's x-ray vision—and it was taking a while. They had called in the techs who built it to adjust it on its mounting plate and to compare it to the x-rays of my lungs.
The male radiology nurse was just hanging around while the techs fiddled around. I told that nurse that the music made this sound like a movie.
He said, "Yeah, it really does."
I said (though this isn't true, but it was good conversation), "When the machine's on, and you're all out of the room, and the music is playing, I can imagine I'm in a South American dungeon as a prisoner. I think, 'I'll never talk!' over and over again, and it passes the time."
He started laughing and said, "You'll never get any information out of me!"
So then it was the nurses' turn to fiddle with the shield. They had to mount it on the contraption, adjust its height and its distance from my chest, and the male nurse was handling the x-ray screens so they could see exactly what the shields were blocking.
So while they did that, I interrogated the techs who build the shields.
The shields are either 1 and 1/4 or 1 and 1/2 inch thick. They're a little smaller than my lungs because they are a foot closer to the machine than I am (and I'm about 14 feet from the machine so the x-rays can spread out and hit my whole body, including my feet). The techs explained that they actually design a mold from the x-rays of my lungs, and then they pour molten lead themselves. The shields are designed specifically for each patient, then melted back down, and the lead is used for the next set of shields.
They won't use the shields until the second TBI tomorrow.
Oh, they have to make one shield for each lung AND another set for when they're irradiating me from the back.
They lined up both of those today, which made for a sore rear end sitting on that bicycle seat, but it will be better tomorrow because the shields are all set up.
Tomorrow I hope to bring a couple history CD's to listen to while they irradiate me. That will definitely make the time pass quickly.
Finally, the stem cell transplant clinic told me that I'm definitely going in the hospital on Friday for the chemo. My guess is that I'll stay through the Tuesday transplant, then, if all is well, be released on Wednesday to recuperate at home, though with daily hospital visits to check my blood and provide me with platelets, blood, nutrients and minerals, medications, and tests so that they know how much of the immuno-suppressive drugs to give me.
Um, finally again. All my blood counts were worse than last week, though only slightly worse. It might be the brain radiation I had, or it might just be that my body can't make blood well any more after all these treatments. It's not going to take much for this TBI and chemo to drop my white blood cell counts to zero; they were headed that way anyway! My white blood cell count is running about 1/3 of what was normal for me in my previous life.
My wife insists that we will find out somewhere along than the line that my dropping blood counts are exactly the best thing that could be happening to a transplant patient prior to the conditioning regimen and that God is making everything work exactly the best it could be.
I believe her.
Thank you to all of you again!
Jerry and More Answers to Prayer
Oh, and thank you for praying for Jerry. He was pretty sick today, but nothing like what could happen to a transplant patient. Remember, even on a reduced intensity chemo and no radiation, his chances of surviving the treatment were no better than 80%. That's surviving. He didn't just survive the treatment, he practically coasted through it. No fevers; no hospitalization.
The mines have not been kind to Jerry. He has lung problems and back problems. The chemotherapy and the leukemia have not been kind to his liver. His liver enzymes were elevated more than mine (and mine have dropped completely back to normal.).
But he's cruised through this.
He's had a lot more people praying for him than just you who read this blog. Thanks to all of them.