George’s Journal

Thanks for visiting the site, I hope you’re enjoying the summer months. I wanted to give you a brief update regarding my progress/status.  Eleven days ago, Thursday, July 29th, I woke up with a temperature and “stomach issues,” and ended up going to City of Hope that evening with a 102 temperature.  I was admitted and stayed through Monday. It appears that I caught a bug, and had to work it out of my system with heavy antibiotics, etc, in the hospital. It was a drag being back in the hospital (12th time since September), but a relief that my ailment was not more serious.

What I’ve learned is that post-BMT setbacks are expected, and more common than not.  Dr. Chen and other BMT experts that I’ve spoken with told me not to worry, that it’s part of the recovery process. According to Dr. Margaret MacMillan, Clinical Medical Director of the Pediatric BMT Program and Medical Director of the Unrelated Donor Program at the University of Minnesota:

“The transplant day is obviously just one day…but then it’s really about a year of recovery to anticipate. Over the course of that year you gradually get better, but there are setbacks…..For instance, you’ll get discharged from the hospital. You’ll start eating.  You’re feeling a lot better. Then you get a fever, and you’re back in the hospital with an infection. Not to worry. That’s part of the recovery process. It’s not a straight increase in your quality of life. It goes up and down…It’s important to expect that it’s going to be at least 6 months to a year of a pretty major change in your life.”

One adjustment that I’ve made is I now wear a mask and gloves to my physical therapy sessions.  Can’t be too careful with the way germs float around. Irvine Right, the place that I get my PT is a very professional, clean and productive environment; however, there are at least a dozen other rehab patients in the big room simultaneously working on their own recovery – everyone typically sitting or laying on a therapy/message table doing their exercises, lifting light dumbbells and/or working on the Stairmaster or Lifecycle.

SPECIAL VISITORS

It was great to have my sister, Suzanne Robertson, and niece, Jennifer (14), visit last week.  They live in Castle Rock, CO, just south of Denver.  Suzy’s timing was good, she was here to help Cheryl while I was in the hospital, i.e., drive Jacquelyne to volleyball, Eva to swim practice. We had a chance to catch up later after I returned home. Hopefully, next month, Suzy and Jennifer will join us for the Tallman Family Reunion (my Mom’s side) in Newport Beach.  We have over 70 family members coming in from around the country. We’ll have a full house with my Mom, Dad, John, sister Janet and Suzy and Jennifer. It will be wonderful to see aunts, uncles and cousins that I haven’t seen in some cases for 20-30 years.

Additionally, our special family friends, Tom and Harriett Cole, are in Anaheim from Michigan for a few days. We got together with them yesterday to catch up and break bread at lunch.  Harriett is a life-long friend of my Mom and Dad’s.  Her Mom (Mary) used to be the crossing guard on busy Southfield Road near my elementary school (School # 3) in Ecorse.

GRAFT-VERSUS HOST DISEASE

A side effect that about half the people get after an allogeneic bone marrow transplant is called Graft-versus host disease (GVHD).  Because of genetic differences between me and my donor, my new immune system may identify my body’s cells as foreign and attack them.  Acute GVHD develops in the first 3 months after transplant. I reached the 3-month mark Friday the 6th, and I’ve had some GVHD. It primarily affects the skin, digestive tract and liver. It can cause systems ranging from mild skin rashes to stomach pains, nausea, cramping, diarrhea and jaundice. In serious cases, GVHD can affect major body organs and become life threatening. In my case, I’ve had “itchy skin,” moderate skin rashes and some stomach issues. Nothing too intense.

Chronic GVHD can begin any time post transplant but typically develops during the 3rd to 6th month. Sometimes patients have their first symptoms of GVHD when their immunosuppressive medications are stopped.  Patients who had acute GVHD (yours truly) are more likely to have chronic GVHD. Symptoms of chronic GVHD can involve the skin, joints, mouth, digestive track and other organs. Chronic GVHD can last for months or years.  The main treatment is to increase immune suppression, often with steroids like prednisone, which can be added to another immunosuppressant, like cyclosporine.

The “silver lining,” experts say having some GVHD may not be all bad. Patients with GVHD have a lower risk of the cancer returning after transplant than patients who did not develop GVHD.

BIG WEEK…..PRAYING FOR CONFIRMATION OF EARLIER DIAGNOSIS

This week is a huge. I have my second PET-CT (“cancer free” screening), Wednesday the 11th.  We’re so close to the miracle of “no metabolic activity/no cancer!”  As you’ll recall, my first post-transplant PET-CT in mid-June was the result we were hoping and praying for.  Now, I ask for your prayers that my June diagnosis be confirmed.  You have been so instrumental in my journey.

As I emphasized in my June 24th post, with the tremendous support and love you have given me, how could I not beat cancer!  Again I’d like to quote the Venerable Father Solanus Casey, the wise and wonderful Catholic priest in Detroit who passed in 1957, and is under consideration by the Pope for beatification (sainthood):  “One weakness we all have to guard against is worry.  Instead of worrying we would do well to foster confidence in God.  This we can do by not only patience, but by thanking God ahead of time for whatever He sees is best for us.”

I feel extremely blessed. God has been watching over me.  I’ll enjoy today, and count my blessings. Next week, I’ll report back to you regarding my status update.

Cheryl and I are monumentally grateful for your spiritual support, love and generosity – it has greatly enriched our lives.

God bless you and yours,

George

…”With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)


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