it’s all about life

I get the occasional joy of updating my dad’s CaringBridge website.  For those who may not know, he has multiple myeloma – a blood-bourne cancer – and is about to receive a stem cell transplant.  Between blogging there and blogging here, I think I generally get in all there is to say.  I’ve been hanging out in Durham, NC for the past few days as we await my dad’s transplant.  My mom is here as well as my pregnant sister Erin.  We are quite the bunch!  It has been an interesting wait so far.  Dad’s transplant was supposed to have been on August 4th.  We’ve all been ready and waiting for the phone call to say we’re on deck, but the days kept passing with no new news.  Finally, it sounds like we’re going in tomorrow morning.  (Though still, nothing is for sure until about 8:30am…we’ll keep you posted.)

I arrived here Friday evening after sitting in 3 hours of traffic outside of DC.  A drive that should’ve taken 4.5 hours ended up taking 7.  Yuck!  I was surprised to arrive at a pleasant 2-bedroom fully furnished apartment where my family has been having happy hour, eating fancy meals, working out to Turbojams, and playing games!  What is this…family vacation?  We’ve been able to rent this apartment through our insurance, and honestly…why sit around sulking when we can have fun family time together in the wait?

Today was a lazy one.  We had Weber Worship…one of my favorite family events.  Dad coordinated, as per usual, though this time, he made us each bring something to share.  What a teary-eyed group we are!  We each shared a song (surprised?) and cried through them all.  I feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of me.  Scary.  After worship, I ran errands with Erin (…when my brother was little, he thought we were “running Erins”), taught my dad about his new website, took maternity photos of my sis, had a bruschetta and wine happy hour complete with Skyping with Jeff, then ate cornish hens + figs + bacon (“figgy piggy cornish hens”) for dinner!  When we forget about the cancer parts for a brief second…this is the life!

Tomorrow will be a different day.  It will be the start of a long journey for all of us…especially my dad.  My next week will be spent almost entirely at the hospital.  (Dad will be there for 2-ish weeks.)  This is quite an incredible procedure – one which we’re learning more about every day.  I’ll try to answer any questions you may have (either here or on CaringBridge).  For now, I’ll briefly explain the next two days.  Tomorrow will officially be day -1: chemotherapy.  Assuming we get the go ahead, we’ll arrive at the hospital around 10am.  Dad will receive a super intense chemo treatment which will totally knock out his immune system, though he probably won’t experience side effects for a few days.  People keep asking about my dad’s “surgery.”  This is not a surgery.  It’s a simple injection, and probably won’t take more than an hour or two.  It should be painless and easy.  The next day – Tuesday – will be day 0: stem cell transplant.  About a month and a half ago, the docs did something called “mobilization,” collecting 8 million of dad’s baby stem cells and freezing them.  Once day -1 kills his immune system, day 0 will reintroduce the baby stem cells.  This is also a simple-ish injection procedure, though it will take more like 5 hours.  Dad may need blood transfusions throughout day 0 and the following days as his blood count lowers and then finally begins to raise and rebuild.  Dad reported today that he has already decided that on day -1 he will listen to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends album as he receives his chemo.  “It’s all about death,” dad said.  Then on day 0, he plans on listening to the Lenoir-Rhyne University A Cappella Choir’s Hymn CD as he receives his stem cells.  “It’s all about life.”

You’re invited to listen in solidarity with dad 🙂  I’ll keep you updated on his playlist.  There are lots of ways to support, but I’d like to stress that we all need support during the whole month.  The next two days probably aren’t what will be most difficult.  The scary part is praying that dad won’t get any infections over the coming weeks while his immune system is weak.  There are all sorts of crazy rules in the hospital to keep things spic and span.  Like no flowers….so thanks for thinking of the kind gesture, but keep the flowers for yourself!  As I write, dad’s clothes are in the washer/dryer.  We have to take them out while they’re hot and immediately put them in trash bags to bring to the hospital.  Talk about intense!  I can’t even remember most of the rules, but I’m sure I’ll learn in the next few days.  We’ll keep you updated as much as possible.  But for now, rest assured that we’re ready for the battle.  We’ve sung our hymns of hope at this morning’s worship, and we’re ready for Coldplay and the A Cappella Choir to take us through death to resurrection…

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