Sunday, March 28, 2010

Entering the Unknown ... Again

To say that I'm not a little anxious about the start of this stem cell transplant procedure tomorrow would be a lie. The hardest part of preparing myself for it is that I really can't prepare, at least not mentally.

I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around it all and there are still so many unknowns and so many variables. I am a planner by nature and am also a very visual person. I like to know what I've got coming at me. But tomorrow, we'll be on the road at 5:30 a.m., arriving in a brand new cancer center that I've never been to filled with nurses I've never met and spaces I've never explored.

It's possible that we'll arrive tomorrow (I'll have Mom and Craig in tow) only to find after my bloodwork is read that my blood cells aren't ready for retrieval. If this is the case, we'll have to turn right back around – try again tomorrow.

If my bloodwork is good then the nurses will examine my veins for their viability and determine if they're strong enough to handle the apheresis machine process. If they're determined to be too scarred, too difficult to work with, then it's in for yet another surgical procedure. Hence, I can't eat or drink tomorrow morning, one of my least favorite directives. They'll have to put another catheter into a large vein in my chest, a temporary one called a Quinton catheter, which has an in and an out valve.

So, as you can see, the order of events and really what those events are is all up in the air. I'm just trying my best to let go of control and let whatever needs to happen happen. I hope the nurses are prepared for a peppering of questions as I try to understand all of this.

It's not just tomorrow's possible procedure and the whole harvesting process, but it's also the fact that now I'll be receiving my care at Smilow Cancer Center, a behemoth of a place that I have never stepped foot in before. It's a brand new facility, which is exciting, but I don't know the city of New Haven at all; I don't have the lay of the land; I don't know any of the people that work there; and I've only met my new oncologist for a brief 15 minutes back in February.

This is a far, far cry from what I am used to. I know Hartford Hospital in and out because, well, I work there. I know all of the lab techs, secretaries, and nurses at the cancer center and they all know me by name, they know my case, they know where I'm coming from and where I'm going. I know who gives the good shots. I know who to ask for when I need something. I know all the procedures and how the place runs. I have the phone numbers at the Avon and Hartford offices memorized. I even know all the valet parking attendants at the cancer center. I don't even need to hand them my stamped ticket, they just know my car and go and get it for me. And of course above all, I'm going to miss Dr. Dailey and the rapport and understanding we've established.

Now it's time to get used to a whole new world. I just hope that I can turn these unknowns into understoods. I just have to remind myself that this is how I must have felt last May when I was first diagnosed and had no idea what chemo really was, had never heard of Hodgkin's disease, never mind a port-a-cath, platelet count, prophylactic antibiotics, anal fissures, skin burns, embryo creation, and bleomycin side effects. I did my studying and have passed the first set of exams. I guess it's time for second semester?

We'll start with finding the right parking garage.


  1. Karin, I will be thinking about you all day and wondering what is going on. Praying for a smooth transition into your new world. I know one thing for certain, and that is that all the new people you will meet tomorrow are going to realize how very lucky they are to meet and treat you! God Bless you, Lynn G.

  2. wishing you all the best and great success. I am sure that you will acclimate fine to the new definitely have the personality for it...all our best.