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Archive for April 5th, 2006

Lina’s 2006 Autologous Stem Cell Transplant Schedule

April 5, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

For the first time since early February we finally have a real grasp on the schedule for Lina’s radiation and stem cell transplant. Tests following the initial chemotherapy, and then doctor reviews and meetings, have kept us really busy and tired, but also left us in limbo until now. We apologize for being so out of touch.

Today we’re writing from Boston. With a sense of great relief we’re glad to report that the “harvest” of Lina’s stem cells at the Kraft Family Blood Donation Center was extremely successful Monday. In one day they were able to collect more than twice the amount needed for the transplant – over 200 million! We had planned to be here for up to five days, so it was great news to hear Monday night that we were already through and could celebrate our wedding anniversary knowing we didn’t have to get up before 6:00 am and head back to the Center.

The journey over the last two months has had its ups and downs. During February and early March Lina tolerated her chemo treatments for the lymphoma well and continued to work at her job at Transformit (although certainly not at 100%.) MRIs (images of Lina’s spinal column) done on March 13 & 14 reflected that the chemo was effective.

March 16 we headed to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for a long day of meetings with the stem cell transplant nurse and doctors as well as a radiologist. We were relieved to hear that that the pre-transplant radiation can be done at Maine Medical Center and that the radiation will only need to be on the lower part of Lina’s spine (T12 and down for those of you who remember your biology). The last business of the day was a spinal tap and a dose of chemo directly into the spinal column. One more good result: the spinal fluid test came back clear of cancer.

Friday, March 24 marked the start of the “mobilization” of Lina’s stem cells. Unfortunately this prosaically named process designed to produce millions of new white blood cells included the most massive dose of chemo she’s had to endure so far. Late that same night Lina’s 86 year-old father was admitted to the hospital with failing kidneys. The next day she received the news that her dad most likely had less than a week to live. By Tuesday her two brothers were in town from Texas & California. On Thursday, with his children at his side, he died peacefully at the Monarch Center of Saco (his home for the last year and a half). We are all exhausted, and very grateful for the presence of and support from Lina’s brothers and sister-in-law, and from so many of you.

Fortunately life goes on. Moriah turned eleven on March 29 and we all celebrated her birthday for days. Friends and family rose to the occasion last week and gave Lina daily shots of a “growth factor” that boosted up her bone marrow and others continue to cook for us, support and care for Moriah and Chloe, walk our dog and support us in many other ways.

On March 31 we met with Lina’s radiologist at Maine Medical Center to schedule the radiation that will help make sure the cancer is really gone in Lina’s spine. Mapping out the location of radiation is scheduled for April 10. Later that week a series of 18-20 radiation treatments will begin for 18-20 consecutive weekdays (we estimate April 14-May 10.)

The stem cell transplant will be scheduled as soon as possible after radiation is complete. A good estimate is May 15. At that point Dana Farber will move Lina next door to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for at least three full weeks. The transplant includes several days of massive chemotherapy that will leave her immune system (and hopefully any and all microscopic traces of cancer) essentially wiped out. She’ll live in a sterile “bubble” in the hospital. Once her immune system is strong enough to endure the outside world she’ll head home, but to a very sheltered environment for at least 30-100 days… limited visitors in the house, no unpackaged food cooked outside our home, no travels, no working in the garden, no laundry duty. Thank goodness it will be summer. The outdoors is encouraged.

We truly appreciate your concern and support in all its forms. We love to hear from you and see you (Lina’s email is: lina@maine.rr.com ). Lina will be able to have visitors for some of the time in Boston and we’ll keep you posted on that and any other developments.

Love,

Lina and Craig

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