I love Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. That is what I am trying to do...trust, lean and acknowledge, knowing He will be our guide.
August officially begins our transplant journey as you can see by the calendar below:
I will try to summarize some of the key dates, and ask for specific prayers on Ernie's behalf, being so thankful for your support along the way.
1. Wednesday, August 4 - We have Ernie's "clearance appointment" at Duke to be sure everything is a go to get started on Thursday. Please pray that the lab work is good and he is cleared to move on. Pray for Dr. Gasparetto's wisdom and skill, as she oversees the entire process. Pray also for the other staff members and nurses as they care for Ernie.
2. Thursday, August 5 - We arrive at Duke Radiology by 8:00am to have Ernie's port removed and have a Hickman catheter placed. He is admitted to the hospital for his first high dose chemo and will stay overnight to be monitored. I cannot stay with him, so will be staying across the street at a hotel for the night. Please pray he will have no adverse complications and that the side effects are manageable.
3. Friday, August 6 - If all is well with lab work and evaluation, he will be discharged in the afternoon to head home. At this point he will be restricted from grandkids...this will be very hard, but we can't risk him getting sick and delaying the process as everything is set up at time intervals for the entire month. He will be on anti-nausea drugs round the clock. Please pray that his nausea will be minimal, his mobility remains strong, and that he doesn't catch a cold or anything during this time. Also, he will begin to lose his hair, and who knows the emotions we will be dealing with finding patches of hair in the shower and bed. God's grace is sufficient.
4. Monday, August 9-Monday, August 16 - I will be administering injections (yikes!) at home to stimulate stem cell production, and transporting Ernie back and forth to the Cancer Center across from Rex for lab checks. Please pray for his strength during this time so that we can maintain this schedule.
5. Monday, August 16 - Wednesday, August 18 - If white blood cell count (WBC) is greater than 3000, we will head to Duke as outpatients to begin harvesting his stem cells (aphresis). This process takes about 6 hours a day and we are scheduled for three days, or as long as it takes to harvest 8 million healthy cells (this is actually enough for 2 transplants, so they are thinking ahead and saving us steps should Ernie need a second transplant down the road). Please pray his WBC will be high enough to begin this process, and that they will harvest enough good cells in less than 3 days. I know God is able!
6. Wednesday, August 25 - Return to Duke for labs, chest x-ray, EKG. Move into apartment if all is well. Please pray for this transition and that all is clear to move forward.
7. Thursday, August 26 - Day of transplant minus one (DOT-1) - Drive to transplant clinic for second high dose chemotherapy. This is the BIG GUN! This drug kills both good and bad cells in preparation for the stem cell infusion, basically letting your body start over producing healthy blood cells, but putting Ernie's immunity at zero. Mouth sores are expected as well as nausea and vomiting. However, he will not be in the hospital and I will be caring for him at the apartment. This is a huge prayer request...that with God's strength, I am able, and that he does not for any reason run a fever which would mean infection or hospitalization, and that we can manage the side effects.
8. Friday, August 27 - Day of Transplant (DOT 0) - Return to clinic for stem cell infusion. This is not difficult...just basically a blood transfusion of "liquid gold" - HEALTHY CELLS! Pray this process goes smoothly.
9. Saturday, August 28 - Day of Transplant plus one (DOT +1) - Return to clinic every day from apartment for 2-3 weeks to receive supportive care such as transfusions of blood, electrolytes and whatever else he might need. Please pray he is strong enough to remain at the apartment and walk into the clinic every day. Pray I stay healthy and can keep up with his round the clock schedule of medications, special diet, food precautions, and temperature taking. Pray he does not run a fever, and will keep somewhat of an appetite.
10. Mid September - Hopefully we will be able to move back home and continue his recuperation from there!
As you can see, this will be quite the grueling process, but well worth it when we consider the hope it offers for long term remission and health for Ernie. We are leaning on the Lord and the body of Christ to be able to endure what lies ahead. I know we are not to be anxious, but in our humanity, it is a struggle for sure. We will be taking our Standing in the Gap banner, which many of you have signed for us, as well as Ernie's jar of notes from the family, to the apartment. These will serve as reminders of those who are walking with us, standing in the gap, lifting us up. Thank you more than words can say, and may we be good and faithful witnesses for Christ.
For now, I cling to John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.