All of my blood chemistries came back normal. I didn't need any transfusions or electrolyte repletions – great signs that my body is doing what it is supposed to be doing, rebuilding.
The breathing treatment was a little odd, but no big deal. I've never had to take an inhaler in my life so it was a bit strange. The respiratory therapist took me into a room and had me suck two puffs out of this big inhaler tube to take in the medicine. Then he hooked me up to a nebulizer which was basically like breathing in and out of a big peace pipe. I had to "breathe normally" (as easy as that is) while wet, medicated air flowed in and out of my lungs for about 15 minutes. I choked on it a couple times and drool dribbled down my chin, but I recovered. I'll have to repeat this treatment twice more over the next few months as a preventative measure.
Erin, Dr. Cooper's APRN, came to see me as well as my transplant coordinator, Kathryn. So, next steps? I have an appointment with my local oncologist, the esteemed Dr. Dailey to check in and get him up to speed on what took place during this whirlwind two months since I've seen him. I'll now be back under his care. Then it's back to Smilow on July 1 where I will receive another breathing treatment and lay in the tunnel once again for a PET Scan. I'll then meet with Erin to go over the scan results. The hope is that all the chemo worked and we can say officially that I am in remission and cancer-free. On my last scan after the ICE it was determined that there were no visible signs of cancer, though there was one area in my chest lighting up – it was read as non-cancerous (possibly my thymus gland being super active?). We're hoping that this is completely gone at this point. If not, then we'll have to look at some other options to rule out cancer activity with more certainty. I'm confident that my scan will be clear ... though nervous as hell.
My restrictions? Stay away from obviously sick people. Continue my antibiotic three times a day for six months. Come back for check-ups with Dr. Cooper at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months post transplant. Continue on the no sushi, no digging in dirt restrictions. No gym for at least two weeks while my platelets continue to recover (yoga class is fine so I'm back at the studio every day). Get lots of rest. Drink lots of fluids. Listen to my body. Ease back into work as I feel ready. Other than that, as directly quoted from Erin: "Eat, drink and be merry."
They de-accessed my port and sent me on my way – a whole month of freedom. My parents went to use the restroom and I went out into the meditation garden for one last time. As soon as I heard the babbling river and was surrounded by the zen stacked rocks and exotic trees I just lost it. I had worked so hard to stay strong for so long and now that I was granted release it all just came flooding out of me – everything that I had been gritting my teeth to hold back so that I could pile drive through the hurt, the pain, the frustration and the fear.
I sat on a bench and just started shoulder-shaking crying. There were other patients out there, but I didn't care. I just stared out at the view overlooking the city as tears streamed down my face. Hot tears of pure relief and release, a physical symbol that I made it through. I sat there thinking about all of the previous times I was out in that garden – always with an IV pole attached to me, always with at least a mask on, other times with gloves and a gown to protect myself. But that day I was free to breathe in the air and to touch the weathered wood of the bench with my bare hands, run my fingers over the ridges and elevations of the stones.
My parents came out and found me red-faced and teary-eyed and sat on either side of me as together we took it all in. The fight from hell was over and we all felt a whole lot lighter.