Friday, March 13, 2015

On the other side

Yesterday was my 2nd birthday, and I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get anything posted about it until today.  Overall, it was both a high point and a bit of a low point.  Let me explain.

After receiving that lethal dose of melphalan, we need to restart my immune system, to recreate a new chance for life, hopefully one in which cancer plays a back role.  So, I was excited, interested to see how this would go, and what it would be like.  The staff was also supportive, excited, and helpful.  My Aunt Or brought me a little birthday cake and my lovely wife brought me a superman hat for my balding palate.

It was very interesting and exciting.  They got me prepped with medications that were designed to help reduce the chances of negative effects from the stem cells (mostly the preservative they were in), and to ensure a good transfer.  At one point, we had something like six, maybe seven, people in my small room getting things ready.  

Here is Aunt Or watching the proceedings:
Here is my nurse, Shirley, helping to get everything set up.  
Here is where it gets even more interesting -- Mahmoud from the Red Cross brings in the nitrogen bucket, we all called R2D2.  He had to put on blue protective gloves to pull the stem cells out of the storage unit.  In the following picture, you'll see the warmer they use to unfreeze and warm up the stem cells and you will see Mahmoud holding one of my bags of stem cells to make sure it is working well.  

The technology here is truly amazing.  Everything was checked and double-checked.  Then Shirley put up the bag of my stem cells on the "Patient Pal" IV pole -- they did NOT filter or mess with the stem cells in any ways in order avoid any potential risk of damage to the cells.  They infused them directly into me.  You can see the clear IV tube and then the bag next to it with the red fluid -- those were my stem cells coming home again.  Hooray!  

Here I am on the bed watching this happen, seeing the stem cells come back, and playing Imagine Dragon's On Top of the World.   It was pretty festive at that point.  Patricia came over to hug me, and after two bags, the process was done.  

So all of this was a sense of great relief, that we had put into place my future survival, that things had gone smoothly.  Everyone cleaned up.  But.....they had warned me that the process ultimately could be a bit anti-climactic.  For one thing, the preparatory drugs they gave me to help make this a smooth process also zonked me -- I could not stay away for the last parts of the procedure.  After I woke an hour or so later, I was fuzzy and pretty tired.  

I think in many ways, things we look forward to in life, even the answers to our prayers, sometimes may come in ways that leave us feeling just a bit let down -- like they weren't as spectacular as a hollywood film or something.  I didn't leap out of bed and dance a jig.  And that is OK.  Life is full of beautiful moments, ordinary moments.  Life is not about living a series of spectacular, amazing things from one second to the next -- I think it is more about acceptance, about learning and growing, about becoming better people.  That means accepting our more ordinary moments and celebrating them for the threads they play in the weaving of our lives.  

So the latest?  Today was also wonderful -- my father and lovely brother and sister got to visit with us most of the day, but I have also begun struggling with persistent nausea and the fatigue is growing stronger.  This next week may be a bit more of a struggle, but we knew this was also part of the process.  The hardest thing today was to watch them all leave to return home while I remain here.  But this, too, shall pass.  I look forward to better days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

By the way, some have wanted to comment but maybe didn't know how?  When you are reading the blog, at the bottom of a post, it will say something like posted by Anton Tolman.  To the right will be a link that may say "1 comment" or "No comments".  If you click on this link, you should be able to post a comment or reaction to what I wrote.  Make sure to click on the Publish button at the bottom of the comment or it will not save it.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, honey bunches -- but you are the one who gave me the superman hat! You are my Wonder Woman.

    2. I was going to say that Trish was Wonder Woman. Ahh, great minds think alike:)

  2. So happy that things are going well there and your family was able to visit. I am praying for both you and Trish. Keep up your positive vibes and give Trish a big hug from me.

  3. Anton, Read your blog and procedure. You kick butt with that new immune system and if you need any help we will come running! Look forward to hanging with you both real soon! Mary and Rich

    1. Thanks, Rich -- I appreciate the support.