Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So Cheap They're Free...

So, it appears that Ian and I were going to be the only ones at the Rush concert this Thursday in Vancouver. As I've written previously, I got tickets for Ian before we knew we were coming to Montreal, and we've been trying to get rid of them ever since with no luck, not even for free. Now, I totally understand why one would not want to go to Rush, ie. Getty Lee shrieking like a kitchen witch in that nails-on-a-chalkboard kinda voice, but, surely, someone other than Ian is a fan? Therefore, I beg, I plead for someone to go and enjoy this concert. If you (and I won't make fun of you) secretly like Rush, or know ANYONE who does, and would like to go to the concert (did I mention, for free?) this Thursday night at GM Place, just email me and we can arrange for you to get the tickets. Please, you'd be helping people like me battle cancer. Ok, not really, but we'd really rather not see the tickets go to waste.

Now, on to the trial...I started week four on Monday, the final week of the first cycle. Next week, I will begin cycle two for another four weeks, after which I will have my first PET scan since starting to see what's going on in there. I have every belief that my body is responding and my tolerance for the drug seems to be improving. The side effects, mainly fatigue and nausea, seem to become less each week. I have been doing a lot of visualization and have made a little altar on our window sill in the bedroom where I have been collecting small "good luck" tokens. I figure it is less gory than offering up a goat (or Ian) for sacrifice.

In the next week we also have quite a few non-medical things going on. Our Quebec City trip has been postponed due to everything already being booked (this year is the 400th anniversary of the city), so we are opting for the Eastern Townships next week. I have also started yoga again, a restorative class where you only do about five or six poses. However, you hold them each for about ten minutes while the semi-abusive instructor, Michael, ensures you don't "wimp out" into child's pose. Now that's a position I can hold! I am also going to begin a Hatha class at a different studio so I can make sure my spirit isn't totally crushed. Actually, Michael is quite entertaining and I really enjoy the in-depth way he talks about the inner workings of the body as it helps with my visualizations.

Not to be outdone on his own healing journey, Ian is planning to attend the Mondial de la Biere this Friday, otherwise known as North America's largest beer festival, with some new English (as in UK, not anglophone) friends. Oh dear. We've also been invited to "Soiree in the City" this weekend (coinciding with the premiere of the new Sex in the City movie), a fundraiser for the Callanish Society at a new restaurant in Old Montreal, where I will be giving a little speech about this incredible organization. I have decided that this means it's haircut time as I think my former Ricky Schroder-do has grown out. You be the judge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sweet Home Montreal

So, here we are, nearly one month into this little adventure and slowly getting used to our new life in Montreal. Our new place is great, although Ian keeps going out on the patio in his housecoat late at night to curse the "partyers" down the road (though I've tried to tell him this is not especially cool). We finally have our phone and internet up and running, but we only have a few English tv channels (by choice) as there is just too much else to do here, and I was hoping that by watching the news in French, I would spontaneously become bilingual.

The first few weeks on the new drug, MGCD, have been mixed. The first week I had fairly severe stomach pain, but we attributed it, as did my new doctor, to the drug going straight to the disease and kicking some ass. Well, those weren't his words exactly, but you get the idea. The intestinal pain has since subsided, but has been replaced with some pretty major fatigue and mild nausea with a barf thrown in here and there for variety.

Still, we are very grateful that it has been manageable as my dear friend who started the drug at the same time here with me is having a very rough go and we are hoping she will be able to remain on the trial long enough to see if it works. The reality of what we are doing has certainly kicked in - that an incredible leap of faith is required to begin an experimental treatment. On the other hand, we wouldn't be here if we weren't confident in the ongoing results this drug has been acheiving in patients with similar circumstances as mine.

Despite all that has been going on and my frequent bouts of narcolepsy, we have managed to be out and about quite a bit. Last week, we hit "the best burger joint in town," La Paryse," with my new friend Heather and her boyfriend, where I enjoyed a delicious veggie burger - a nut pattie with apples, sauteed mushrooms, and a blue cheese dressing. So good. We also found a cozy neighborhood pub in the Latin Quarter (like our Granville...seedy, but full of popular pubs) where Ian was introduced to an artist (who claims Mother Theresa was a client?) who would like to paint some of his photography.

Last Friday, we wanted to go beyond where our legs could take us so we rented a car (a very hip, burgandy Buick) and headed north toward the Laurentians. I know I'm going to alienate my new Montreal friends by saying this, but the Laurentians are so cute, like little hills in training to become big, grown-up mountains some day. They even ski on them! I'm sure they get bigger the further north you go, but we settled on Saint-Sauveur and had an excellent lunch at a little wine bar with charming ambiance and a great waiter who was sympathetic to our not understanding most of the menu.

In sporting news, our ride with the "Rouge Blanc Bleu" was short-lived and we missed the opportunity to riot and get arrested.

Our next adventure will be Quebec City in a few weeks. We will probably take the train so we don't have to worry about parking and I want to see how we like train travel so we can decide if we want to go that way to NYC in a few months. We must get thee to MOMA and the Guggenheim! While there, I also want to investigate the "Earth Room," a 280,000 pound installation of dirt (yes, dirt), that has been in a building in the middle of NYC for more than 30 years. Apparently, it has to be protected as people throw things in it in outrage at the waste of public space. I think it is interesting, but I'm not sure why.

Speaking of dirt, or dirty, tomorrow is a full day at the hospital to have my weekly blood work and evaluations. The set-up here appears to be even more mickey mouse than at home, ie. last week we were at the hospital at 8:30 am for blood work and then sat for five hours in a packed (and stuffy) waiting room with at least 30 other people to see my doctor who apparently takes no heed of appointment times. If they make me wait that long again, I am going to strategically projectile vomit on the magazine rack. That should get things moving.

Monday, May 05, 2008

And So It Begins

Hello! Sorry for the absense on here; I have so much to write and no internet connection. The person we were hijacking it from in our new place seems to have disappeared and now we can't find an open network, so internet cafe it is. All will be up and running on the 13th.

However, I didn't want to let the day pass without writing as today - May 5th - is the official start day of the clinical trial I came all this way to do. You can be sure I gave those four little pills a thorough talking to before swallowing them this morning, directing them to go straight to the source and do some ass kicking (as well as reminding them to retrain those little traitor cells I was telling you about and get them back playing for the right team).

Here we go!