Walking, Walking, Walking

Day by day, my strength and stamina improve. Marilyn and I increased the length of our walks each of the last four days. Saturday, we walked the perimeter of Volunteer Park and then a portion of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Lake Union
Lake Union

Sunday, we drove to Woodinville to visit with friends Kevin and Arlene. Together we ambled along a portion of the Sammamish River trail near Redmond. Monday, in the early afternoon we made a three-mile loop downtown to Seattle Center and back. Near home we stopped for dinner at the South Lake Grill. It was ‘happy hour’ and I had a Stella with a salmon burger. My appetite slowly crawls out of a three-week hibernation. Now, if I can just find my sense of humor, I might be able to wisecrack my way out of this funk.

Walking the streets of Seattle, once again a boom town.
Walking the streets of Seattle, once again a boom town.

Tuesday, I visited the clinic for routine blood work and ongoing checkup. Afterwards, I walked alone along Eastlake Ave., just trying to put in some miles. Much of the return jaunt climbs a long steady grade. Cool weather and the new built-in air conditioner of my baldhead did not prevent me from working up a good sweat.

Such is the plan at this stage of the transplant process: proactive waiting. My stem cells are cooling it at the “Hutch” (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), just across the street from the SCCA. My transplant will be setback two weeks due to the recent bout with pneumonia. The SCCA alerts you prior to arrival that the procedure may take two to four months. In other words, expect delays. So, in late August, I will receive a mega dose of chemotherapy (melphalan is the drug for you Google junkies). This is a lethal dose of chemo. Therefore, my body must be clean of infections. The intent is to literally kill my marrow, wipe out to the greatest extent possible the presence of malignant plasma cells.

Within one to two days, a portion of my frozen stem cells (approximately five million) are thawed and infused back into my body. Essentially, they come to my rescue. They are the support system that allows me to survive the strong medicine. The stem cells make their way to the marrow. There, they begin creating new white, red, and platelet blood cells. The engraftment may take from 10 to 28 days. The clinic monitors my progress closely. Certain complications require hospitalization, though some patients do go through the entire process as an outpatient. I’ll need a little luck.

Is luck a factor? Sure, though the better I prepare and care for myself, the luckier I can be. Last time around, with just a conventional dose of chemo, I had the misfortune of encountering a pneumococcal spore from only God knows where. Evidently, these bugs exist in soil. Seattle’s feverish building boom stirs things up daily. Nonetheless, I feel close to normal. That is if I forget the facts that I am miles from home, bored, and anticipating another more aggressive therapy.

Cancer robs a patient of many things. I am the classic man who knows too much. For me, the blissful opacity of ignorance vanished with my treatment. At 61, I’ve seen another veneer of innocence stripped from my consciousness. I’m mad and wonder how many layers are left? In this context, anger is a healthy sign. Obviously, I’m feeling better.

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