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May 3 / matt

Home!

I got home a little after 1 pm today. I arrived to a wonderful and sparkling clean house thanks to Lindsay, Ben and Grace. It feels so great to be outside of the room I was stuck in for 26 days! I’m very much enjoying laying on the couch and watching tv in the comfort of my own home. Mom and Lindsay cooked me up a great non-hospital dinner. I still have another 80 days of restrictions on the road to recovery but a huge hurdle has been cleared.

Being free of the IV pole is such a relief!

Thanks to everyone for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.

May 1 / lindsay

720 and rising

Good news this beautiful Sunday morning! Matt’s ANC count is 720 today (Day 18). His counts began rising on Day 14, dipped down a bit (which is normal) on Day 15, and now he is steadily producing white blood cells! Yesterday the doctors estimated that he might even get to go home on Tuesday – much earlier than we had anticipated!

This is very good news as Matt has been having a hard time being restricted to this tiny hospital room – he feels restless and stir crazy. So hearing that he might go home in a few days makes it more bearable. Generally he has been feeling pretty good; a little more energy each day. He’s had some trouble in the past couple days with nausea but that shouldn’t stop him from going home as long as he keeps his pills down. He has also been experiencing tremors – shaking in his hands and feet. It’s made it difficult for him to eat things like soup. There is not really a treatment for that other than muscle relaxers, so we are hoping that goes away as he gets taken off some of the drugs that may be causing it.

We’ll keep you updated but send good thoughts for Tuesday!

Apr 24 / lindsay

Happy Easter!

Today we celebrate Easter in a different way than usual, in the hospital. This morning it rained early; then by 9 am it was warm and sunny. I walked to the hospital today and was amazed by the brightly colored tulips and blooming trees along the way – a reminder of spring, new beginnings, and the story of Easter. It gave me a positive feeling about what we are going through now.

Matt has had a week of ups and downs. Fevers early in the week were followed by some mornings of nausea. Now things have steadied out a bit so that he generally feels pretty lousy but in a way that is to be expected, nothing extreme. He sleeps a lot! But is able to get up and move around in between naps. Jon was here for a long weekend and he kept Matt company when Matt was awake, and me company the rest of the time! It was nice to have him here and as you can see in Jon’s post below he is sporting a pretty awesome bruise!

We also had Matt’s aunt Becky and her family, Tom, Hannah and Luke come for a visit on Friday; and my sister Jenna and her husband Eric last night. Matt enjoys having visitors to break up the day and remind him of all the people out there thinking of him.

Today is Day +11. This is supposed to be the very bottom stage, where Matt’s counts are basically at zero – he essentially has no white blood cells – and he has very little energy. He is hopeful that by the end of the week he will start slowly feeling better, as his body should begin making white blood cells again (from Jon’s stem cells) starting around Day 15.

We wish you all a very blessed Easter Sunday!

Apr 22 / jon

cancer fight

battle wounds

This is what happens when you accidentally get injected with your own blood.

Well it wasn’t easy helping Matt fight cancer, I have bruises to show for it, but I hope I did my part. Don’t worry It doesn’t hurt as bad as it looks. At least not anymore. (but it looks pretty badass)

Apr 17 / lindsay

Sunday, Day +4

Today is a quiet day on Rhoads 7. Matt is taking a nap while I keep myself occupied. The Styers have gone home to catch up on their lives and businesses – I’m sure they will be back soon for more visits. It is great to hang out with such a caring family – I’m excited that I get to officially join that family soon! :)

Matt is struggling a bit with nausea and some achiness. His legs were so achy that he was having trouble sleeping – but finally last night he slept really well, so we’re thankful for that. He did have a fever this morning for a few hours but it’s normal now – a doctor just came in and took some mouth swabs to send to the lab to check for the flu. And he made me put on a mask just in case it is the flu. Hospital policy. :(

There is another guy on the floor just a few years older than Matt who is also here for a transplant; he is about a week ahead of Matt. I see his parents every day – we are both always bringing bags of frozen foods and fresh laundry to our respective loved ones. Something about saying hi and checking in with them everyday gives me a little bit of peace and calm – there are all kinds of people going through this and each of us is connected in a way we don’t really understand. I am grateful for them.

I am also so grateful for all of you who keep updated on Matt’s progress and send him love and prayers. Thank you so much for your support.

Apr 15 / grace

Transplant Day +2

Setting up to play Dominion

The nurse told us the other day that often good things on Rhoads 7 happen slowly, bad things seem to happen fast.  The transplant itself and yesterday were uneventful.  Matt was feeling pretty good yesterday and we had a good day chatting and playing games.  But I can tell today that just as they predicted, he is beginning to feel worse.  Sore mouth, achy bones, especially in his legs and feet. Sleeplessness.

I am so impressed with Matt’s determination and just matter of fact attitude in dealing with this process.  He is quite an amazing guy.  It was more than touching to see the thankfulness that he expressed to Jon this afternoon as Jon left to go back to Virginia.

Apr 13 / grace

Day 0

I believe that in bone marrow transplant terminology, the day of transplant is day 0.  There is a schedule of milestones that are achieved along the way after that.  It is now 3pm, Matt is finishing up his last!!! radiation treatment.  Jon has come home to Matt’s house to rest.  The procedure for Jon went well, however from my point of view,  it was not what you would call a pleasant experience for Jon.  I took some photos of the machines and Jon hooked up with multiple tubes.  It is up to Jon whether or not he will share the photos!  They told Jon he would feel tired and achy and he does!  We are still waiting to see if they collected enough stem cells, they had to stop after 2 hours, when one of the needles was not working properly.  They will let Jon know later today if he needs to donate again tomorrow.

The nurse told me this morning that Matt is doing well.  Yesterday was a hard day, and as his blood counts continue to  drop, he will not feel well.   The actual stem cell infusion, should happen around 5 or 6pm this evening.  Matt is now neutropenic and that means he has very little immune cells left.  He has to eat a very safe and limited diet and we have to use sterile precautions while visiting in his room.

It is quite a process to comply with the isolation procedures.  To enter Matt’s room you first wash your hands with instant hand gel, then put on a gown, then put on gloves.  If you want to take your purse, coat, computer etc it the room, you wrap them in a gown.  There are also wipes to wipe off your phone, computer, or other items you want to bring into the room.

Tonight we plan to play some games with Matt, and keep each other company in his room.   I can see that a big challenge for Matt will be, having to stay in the same room and being so isolated.  Matt continues to have his sense of humor and Lindsay is amazing in her stamina and support of Matt.

 

**** The transplant nurse just called Jon.  They needed to collect 2 million cells from Jon, they collected 4 million, so the infusion for Matt is good to go. !!  5:00pm

A photo of the actual infusion of cells…as complicated and simple as this.   There were 4 million stem cells in this small bag….

Apr 13 / grace

Transplant Day

Jon and Alan are in the Apheresis Unit, where Jon is having stem cells collected from his blood. Matt is sleeping after having some intense radiation this morning. I am in the family room across the hall from Matt’s room and just submitted payroll for the Dutch Village Inn. Lindsay is home this morning doing up some laundry in special daily packages for Matt. The day is a mix of ordinary and extraordinary. The morning started with Matt’s housemate and soon-to-be-doctor Ben giving his first shot to someone, as Jon needed his last dose of his daily shot to help him produce extra stem cells.

Jon needed his first shot on Saturday, and he gave it to himself; however, he felt pretty ill afterward, so the next day his housemate Dan graciously gave him the shot. The next day Amanda gave him the shot, then Dan did it again and then Ben today. I write this in thinking of how surreal this all is and how much of a community we have supporting us in this process, even willing to give Jon shots.

Matt has to have another radiation treatment this afternoon. Jon will be in the donation room for about 4 hours this morning, and the plan is that Matt will receive the stem cells by infusion late this afternoon or early evening. This will be a day of supporting and waiting and watching and praying.

Apr 7 / grace

Truly Blood Brothers

Matt and Lindsay Harrisonburg

The schedule is set – Friday (Apr 8) Matt will be admitted to the hospital to begin the preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Friday through Tuesday Matt will undergo intense chemo and radiation, then on Wednesday the transplant will take place. Jon will be the donor. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Jon will have injections to help stimulate his bone marrow to produce extra stems cells. Then Wednesday morning they will collect these extra cells from Jon. This process is called apheresis, and is sort of like dialysis. They will run Jon’s blood through machines and separate out these stem cells and return Jon’s blood back to him!! Once they collect a few million of these stem cells, they will give them to Matt, as a transfusion. At that point these cells will find their way to Matt’s bones and he will then make new cells, and will have Jon’s DNA! Amazing.

This is a very quick, semi-scientific explaination of a bone marrow transplant. I was told by the transplant nurse that this can be called a bone marrow transplant or a stem cell transplant. It will replace Matt’s bone marrow with Jon’s.

Matt will stay in the hospital for 4 to 6 weeks, and he will need to stay in the same room. He can have visitors; however, any visitor must put on a gown and gloves. Of course if you are at all sick please do not visit, Matt will have to rebuild his immune system.

Once Matt’s blood counts start to come up, he will be allowed to come home, but visitors and his activities will be extremely limited for a few months. There is no doubt that this will be a real trial for Matt as he will not feel well and will have so many restrictions.

I am sure that he will appreciate card, emails, and visitors.

Lindsay will also need our encouragement. I know that she will want to spend time with Matt, and it will be a lot of extra work for her.

Alan, Jon, Amanda and I will take turns as we can keeping Matt company and helping out as needed. He will have to be very careful again with what he can eat, and no flowers in his room. Once he gets home he will not be allowed to cook, clean, do laundry or go out in public for a few months. I think this sounds way more fun than it will actually be for Matt!!

Most of all we will appreciate your prayers, they really help to give us all strength.

Mar 11 / grace

The next step

Last Tuesday Matt’s doctors determined that it will be best for him to have a bone marrow transplant. The details are being arranged now and the transplant will happen sometime in April. This will include a month long hospital stay and then 3 months (approximately) at home in semi-isolation. We will update with details as we know them.

Matt joined us for a week at Siesta Key with Grandma and Grandpa Witmer this past week. The warm weather, white sand and blue water and sky were wonderful. A much needed break for all of us.

There are a lot of unknowns ahead, but we all feel confident this is the way to go to beat this!