Sunday, July 20th – Haven’t updated since the fatigue hit – leaving Moscow this morning.

IMG_0561Apologies in advance.  So many things have happened at this amazing hospital.
Once the fatigue set in, I had to rest so much more.  Lots of photos to come, lots of wonderful patients as well.
Marian and ‘Robert arrived yesterday.  They were here to witness and enjoy a new life celebration!

Yesterday, was Saturday, July 19th.  Dr. Fedorenko gave me all the testing  results, as well as MRI”s and discharge instructions. He was thorough, as usual and answered all my questions.
Afterwards, Marian, Robert and I went to a local grocery store and Robert pushed me in a transport wheelchair.  It was too far for me to walk using my rollator.  Once we were back on the hospital grounds, I  decided I would walk for a bit, pushing the wheel chair  for balance and stability  I walked really slow, but  I continued  for a for about 1/2 hr and it felt so good!  It was the first time I had ventured outside for almost one week.

Once inside the hospital entrance with my four ‘favorite’ stairs, Robert carried the wheelchair up the stairs.  I decided to walk while holding the railing.  It was not difficult at all.  There was a full flight of stairs that I’d never attempted before.  Marian was nearby, but I did not require her assistance.  I continued to easily climb the stairs.
So, I went up one more flight of stairs!  Hip flexors and quads cooperated and I thrilled I had even attempting the stairs!

I feel ready to go home to Bethany where we have lots of stairs : )

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July 15th- Fatigue like I’ve never experienced before in my life! – Day 30

Wow! Not at all what I was expecting. I had a wonderful day first day OUT after being inside for one week. I enjoyed the sunshine,  letters from home,  talking to friends face-to-face and once again being outside. I was surprised that I needed help getting up the four stairs, when it had not at all been difficult in the past. I just figured it was just one of those things. From now on I will only go outside before 5 o’clock during the week when the door with the ramp remains open. Carol and Ellie  had volunteered to take me all the way to my room but it wasn’t necessary once I was on flat ground. I decided to visit Sheila, my New Life Birthday buddy and her wonderfully supportive husband, Dan because she was now out of isolation as well.  I was planning on visiting for about 10 minutes.  Sheila was watching  a movie, and Dan was ready for a nap.  Well, my jelly legs did not cooperate and I stayed chatting with them for over an hour until legs were ready to walk the TWO doors down while still using my rollator.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, I had a visit from both Anastasia and Dr. Fedorenko.  They both stressed the importance  for me to REST, REST AND GET MORE REST. I stayed in bed the entire day and only got up for meals.  I also realized that I had not been getting as much sleep as all the other patients.  I stay up too late thanking people for their donators, support, prayers and love.  I am also continuously fundraising to help meet my goal.

One of my first official sponsors was Erin Cassell, of Roll Up’Dye.  She so generously volunteered 200 shirts, her skills her dyes and her time.  I’ve been searching unsucessfully for a venue, inside or outside and 200 adults/kids willing to participate for over 4 month.  I could be a camp, a church, boy scouts or girl scouts, a swim club a family reunion.  Any possible gathering of people who enjoy tie dye!

The event can be indoors, outdoors, hosted in a back yard, etc.  The variables are endless!   If the shirts will sell for $18 each, my fundraising goal would be closer to my goal : )  Please help me find a group who might enjoy tie dyeing!

So, I will follow Dr. Fedorenko’s orders, sleep more, delegate more and get tons more rest.  My body has gone through a lot and now I need to help it recover.  No more late nights and I’ll even try to take naps 

Time to solely concentrate on myself. My latest thought was that everyone who knows me, used to know me or wants to help fundraise can ask their friends for a small donation – $5/$10/$15 if it’s a good day. If they have already donated, they are just the collectors I take a much needed rest from fundraising and who knows – it could actually work. A small amount can add up and help me with the remaining treatment costs. However, this is not for anyone who has previously donated any amount in the past. Just please encourage your friends and family to make extremely modest donations if they can. What do you think? It could help a lot!
***Already received a donation from my sister’s friend, Karen, from Sacramento!  It works : )

So, these are my thoughts for today:
Take care of Nancy.  I did not know I had done too much.  But that was fatigue like I’ve never experienced before and I will certainly take notice of what I do every day and how my body feels later and the following day. I’ve been advised that this level of fatigue will be normal for the first 3 months after coming home.  Good to have an idea about what to expect!!!

This is a breakfast that made me so happy when I was in isolation.  Oatmeal, coffee, yogurt and thinly sliced apples made very soft in the microwave.  Today, I made tuna with cumin, turmeric and yogurt and that was so tasty too!  The food is healthy and excellent here, but a little homemade variety is fun too!

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One more is an older photo of Dr. Denis Fedorenko.  Some how, I love this one of him : )

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Last shout out of the day is today is Stevie and Carol’s 25th Anniversary!  Stevie was so sweet to loan me his ‘new’ macbook charger.  It was compatible with my 2008 macbook and mine decided to quit working last night!   Thank you again, Stevie!


July 13th – Isolation official over on July 12th– Day 28

I’ve been on a plethora of medicines since I’ve been in Moscow. I’ve had no  problems with any of the medicine or testing…except the MRI bothered my lumbar spine and was easily remedied with 800 mg advil and an ice pack.

There was no problem with the neupogen shots, steroid drip, chemo, or chemo rinse. Constantly using the bathroom was an inconvenience and disturbed my sleep, but it was insignificant in the big picture.

I’ve been taking:
Flucouazole 200mg/day which is an anti fungal
Ciprofloxacin 1000 mg/day which a broad spectrum anti bacterial                                                        Bactrim 960/mg/day 3x/week which is synthetic antibacterial (used in the treatment of various bacterial infections)
Omerprazole 40mg/day    

I eat extremely healthy all day, but at night due to the steroids, I snack like I have not eaten for days!  I talk to myself occasionally (often : ) and still try to fundraise and help my family from afar.  I’ve had mostly good days.  There was one night that I was not able to  sleep well at all, which is  very unusual for me.  I finally fell asleep at 5 am, and was gently woken by nurses at 8:30 am for my morning testing.  I am always able to get back to sleep for a few hours if I need more rest. But, I was awake for the day! It was a miserable day for me.  But, it’s only happened once.  I typically don’t take naps, but I expect that will change upon my return home to begin my recuperation. I’ve been fortunate that the whole procedure has not been as difficult as it has been for others.  I’m still  expecting a longer, more arduous  recovery than most because of PPMS and my level of disability upon my arrival in Moscow.  I’ve written down every inspirational message from friends, family acquaintances and strangers.  The one that I think about most is Go! Fight! Win!  This just sums up my plans perfectly.  There is nothing more important that can be done by me to improve of the quality of my life and that of my family than to restore my daily independent functioning and to gain strength.

Today, July 12, 2014, when Dr. Fedorenko came in for his daily visit he had some delightfully surprising good news. After less than a full week in isolation, my bloodwork  showed promising results.  Although, all our medical information is in our official chart which we’ll be given a translated copy before discharge, Dr. Fedorenko always brings in a hand written copy for us to discuss.

                                      July 12, 2014 – Hemoglobin  83, Leukocytes 2.4, Platlets 199
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I was exercising when he came in.  Hairnet is to control ALL the strays hair that are finally coming out!  Always try to take photos by my daughter’s fish art!

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So, the good news was, I was no longer in isolation!  I could leave my room wearing a mask, take a walk down the hall, even visit friends on the 2nd floor : )  I did not want to go outside my first day, having fallen out of my bed the night before.  I did not get hurt, just bruised a bit. Was trying to retrieve a paper that I dropped.  Still dropping many things : (
Since the door with the ramp is closed on weekends and after 5, I did not want to take the risk of the stairs by myself just yet.  But was so delighted to see some friends I’d not seen for a week and meet some new patient arrivals!!!!!!  BEST. DAY. EVER.  maybe?

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I can not stress enough how much Dr. Fedorenko cares for all his patients.  He is a brilliant, caring, warm, thoughtful, loving man and hematologist who should be cloned as soon as possible. There is no personal, medical or procedural question that I have ever asked that has not been explained fully and at length to me.  He had initially asked me to write down any questions I had for him.  He did not care if they were not well worded, small or inconsequential or extremely important to me.  He answered questions that I was just curious about as well.  He always took the time to make sure I understood what I was trying to ask.  My handwriting unfortunately has gotten extremely poor during the last few months due to PPMS.  I was writing down my questions, had trouble reading my own handwriting and my responses from Dr. Fedorenko.  Light bulb finally went off and I started typing all my questions with the date above it for him.  He lets me take the time to type his answers.  I can read them now : ) He answers questions from me and from my family.   He is a gem.  It’s also really easy to make him laugh which delights me. With not much of a body that functions well, my sense of humor and being able to make people smile is pretty much all I have going for me….FOR NOW!
Still furiously fundraising, but ready to go home in ONE WEEK….
GO! FIGHT! WIN!
Thank you, Anne!  I think about you every day and how much you always inspire me.  I can’t wait to see you!
Thank you EVERYONE for your donations and support.  There is no way we could have done this on our own!  Hugs and love to all of you ❤

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July 12th – Isolation – Day 27

Dr. Fedorenko visits patients every day, even on the weekends.  I explained what happened the day before and how I really needed just an hour of sunshine.  He agreed it would be a good idea, but that I must wear a mask until I returned to my room.  I was so happy.  I masked up and entered the elevator to go down to the first floor. My first elevator selfie, wearing my mask, of course!DSCN3595

I was going to meet Brendan, but the timing did not work out well.  Had to take my favorite stairs, because the ramp door is closed on the weekends.  I was still going to be thrilled just to sit outside by myself for a bit of sunshine!  Much to my delight, Nebahat and her husband Ali, Hatice’s family was just arriving for their visit.
We all enjoy spending time together and they did not mind having Hatice wait a little bit more to see them.  I  had a feeling that Hatice would be ok with it too.

DSCN3599I had been so excited that I was allowed outside, I left my room quickly.  I was wearing my same clothing as the day before.  Everything needed a solid washing, but I did not care.  I did not even attempt a  scarf to cover the catheter tubing.  I was outside!!!!!  We took a few more photos to remember my last day outside for a long time!

DSCN3601Then Wayne showed up.  We had not yet met.  But, I had met his wife, Misha a few times.  She was staying on the second floor, in a hopefully spacious room ( have not actually seen it), whose window opens for fresh air!!!  By the way, I did not remove my mask for the photos….not so vain.  One of the earpieces popped off.

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Also, not a vanity photo of me, but a lovely smile on Nebahat. Just an up close look at my hanging, jugular catheter with some lovely tape : )

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Sunshine allotment time almost complete,  Ali and  Nebahat went inside too to visit Hadice.  I decided I still had time to stop off on the second floor to have my last face to face visit with Brendan. I did grab a new mask, so we were not actually face to face : )  His dad, Bob was visiting too. So, I had  double the fun!
We took the time to share some photos.  His from his laptop and my two photo albums that my daughter, Dana had assembled.   This lovely sign was in the elevator!

DSCN3608I arrived back on the 3rd floor ready for my isolation,  I took some photos of how ISOLATION doors look.  They have  a bright green notice on them for no entry without full coverage from head to toe.

DSCN3613                                            Got to see Gro one last time before isolation : )

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My isolation period started Saturday, July 5th.  It was two days after  I received my stem cells back.  It’s been fine.  Daily intensive cleaning – Linens changed, room cleaned from walls to floor and I have cleaning routine for my entire body and  get help to accomplish it and get dressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 


July 10th – last day before isolation – Day 26

So Saturday, July 5th was a weird day for me.   I think I was still thrown off a little bit from the previous day when I learned that although  we had just shared a ‘New Life Birthday” on July 3rd, Sheila was going into isolation the very next day.  I was so surprised how quickly ones numbers can change.  Her numbers must have dropped  quickly and it was her time for isolation.  We were used to daily visits and I was going to miss her and her husband, Dan.  The ‘plan’ was to enter isolation on the same day and be isolation buddies.  But, she always has the best attitude and was not concerned : )

I knew it would be my last day of going outside in the sunshine for many days.  Our blood work is taken daily along with our blood pressure and temperature 3x/day. I also had been told that Sunday, July 6th was going to be my first day of isolation.  I had to time my outings between two drip infusions that I was getting twice a day, so bathroom timing before an outing was an important part of the plan. Got the first one in the morning and kept waiting for the second one to arrive. I waited for so long. when Anastasia stopped by, I asked her talk to my nurse.  My second infusion had been hours ago when I was having lunch!  I had no memory of it at all : )   I finally got dressed and visited Judi and Gro.  Our plan was to practice tying scarves around our soon to be bald heads.  Adam face timed in the middle of the session. At this point, he has ‘met’ many of the other patients and spoken with Dr. Fedorenko too. My laptop ran out of battery  before I could locate the video. Gro remembered the most and gave us a solid lesson.   I was disappointed that I could not get one last bit of sunshine before  Isolation, but things have a way of working themselves out.


July 9th – been too long since my last blog – Day 25

*** not edited, just written***
I had an interesting bunch of days here in Moscow.  So absolutely delighted to meet everyone from all over the world who are here to improve the quality of their lives.  I’ve never met anyone with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in person EVER.  There are 4 of us here.  One I have actually not met.  I was already in isolation when he arrived;  New friends from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, and the US is represented by MD/DE  me : ), Indiana, Georgia, Texas and Montana.  All different stories and backgrounds to  learn about which is so interesting for me, who  does not get ‘out’ much at home.  We have a variety of different autoimmune diseases, one patient did find out she had a 2nd autoimmune disease until after complete testing.   We are a variety of ages, maybe 34  to 64 years old,  many varieties of disabilities and pain levels that we  all started out with and have had for various lengths of time.  100% of us know that this is where we need to be to improve the quality of our lives.  Many more able bodied patients have been able to go sightseeing as they go through their testing and ever afterwards for a bit.  Unfortunately, my rollator and I have only gone outside on the hospital grounds to seek some sunshine.  Once, a dear friend, Ali rolled me all over the hospital grounds in one of the hospital wheelchairs.  I am grateful for that experience!!!

I can’t stress enough that all I’ve read and learned  about HSCT through the various facebook groups, phone conversations with previous patients and Dr. Fedorenko have been invaluable.  There is a support system in place in case anyone who had HSCT anywhere in the world can reach out and ask questions.  Dr. Fedorenko is also available by phone or email.  Anastasia, his liaison is the best person for the job. She gives so much extra time to also works tirelessly to ensure everyone is well cared for on all levels.

There is a language barrier for sure and I’ve been learning more Russian daily,  Recently, if there has been anything that’s not extremely simple to communicate, I’ve used google translate.

Anastasia and all the nurses can contact Dr. Fedorenko at any time day or night.  He also comes in on the weekends to check on all his patients.  Anastasia goes to the airport with a driver on any day a new patient arrives, so she can greet them personally.  She does this on the weekends too!!!

Any fears or concerns that family or friends brought to my attention were not warranted at all.  I know everyone had my best intentions at heart, but it did cause me unnecessary stress.  I wanted to arrive as strong as possible, but instead my stress level caused my disability to further decline.  I did extensive research, I was not ‘catfished’ or scammed in any way.  I’m not the smartest person in the world. But as a retired/disabled dentist, I was perfectly capable of making an informed decision.

I’ve been extremely fortunate during my treatment.  Besides some intense lumbar problems that were extremely painful during my MRI testing, I had absolutely no problems.  I ‘d done so well with all the other testing, I asked if he MRI could be done the same day.  No idea if I would have had the same problem the following day. For anyone not familiar with lengthy MRI’s, you are placed on your back, call button in hand and mechanically rolled into a long machine. Some are open, some are closed.  This one was closed. It can be noisy and I was given headphones. You still hear strange noises, but the sound is diminished.  So, I needed a brain, cervical and thoracic MRI.  Midway through the procedure, ALL my extremities got numb, burning and uncomfortable.  But, I wasn’t done yet.  I was rolled out and given a routine injection of gadolinium to check for enhancements and rolled back in for the second half of the MRI.  I just kept breathing in and out and knew I was halfway done. I finished the MRI and was glad I did not press the button for the tech to stop.  I was in miserable pain and got freezing cold.  After being wheeled back to my room, I was really glad Marian, my sister and Robert, my brother-in-law were there.  They asked for an extra blanket. Dr. Fedorenko was called and he agreed I could take my own 800 mg ibuprofen (advil) and an ice pack for my lower back was delivered quickly. I fell asleep and was better in a few hours.

That was my total discomfort during the entire chemo/HSCT procedure.   So many people experience more severe side effects that can be painful and exhausting.  From what I heard, the sooner you ring the nurse that you are in any kind of distress, it will be handled ASAP.  I know everyone will not fair as well as I did during  treatment.  I WISH my lack of difficulties would mean my recovery will go smoothly.  I know for a fact that there will be extreme fatigue, ups and downs with symptoms and patience, good food, good mood and family support are essential.  If/when  I have a terrible day, week, month etc, it’s all part of the roller coaster recovery that I’ve learned is normal and appropriate.  I will, in time, have more good days than bad days and that is my goal.  Please be as patient as I will be and be as encouraging as possible! I have real hope….not to be an able bodied person, but to be able to finally strengthen muscles that will actually respond to hard work and dedication : )

I know this is not my typical blog.  It’s too wordy and not enough of the photos that I love to add!
Here goes some of the highlights before my isolation started.

I know this must not look too exciting to most of you, but I eat extremely healthy at home.  This was a tasty, flatbread/cracker from Gro Larson.  Full of fiber and love and she gave me more before I  entered isolation.
I don’t  even  remember what it’s called.  Thank you, Gro!!!  She also brought yummy treats for all of us : )

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This was taken on Friday July 4th, but after 5pm.  After 5, the easy door with the ramps is locked.  There is a convenient alternate exit, but there are a few stairs.  There is a railing which helps.  I’ve done this with Marian and Robert and after they left with other people nearby in case I needed help. This was the first time, I was alone and I felt ready.  I love my lightweight Euro Rollator, made by Drive Medical and comes with a basket for water, sunglasses, light jacket in case the sun goes down etc. The small  pouch was added on right before I left for lipgloss, tissues, reading glasses.  It’s perfect for little essentials.

Anyway, I locked both wheels and easily manage both myself and the rollator easily.  This time I was meeting Brendan who had been out with his dad.  The hardest part for me is pushing open the heavy door.

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I  met Brendan outside. He found a lovely sunny spot and we got to chat about our lives for a long time while we enjoyed the gardens, statues and beautiful sunshine.  And of course a selfie.  Brendan’s hands are much more stable than mine! I always appreciate his company, his insight and his wisdom too!!!

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JULY 4TH- Celebrating our birthdays (7/3/14) & our new lives – Day 20

Well, July 3rd came with little trepidation. It was the day of my reinfusion, or official transplant day.  I was excited, but still fatigued.  I had heard about all the scenarios that could make stem cell reinfusion a bit uncomfortable.  I had my camera team ready.  No immediate family were in the country.  So, Matt ‘volunterred’ to be my videographer and Anastasia ‘agreed’ to take photos. I had forgotten how the prep for the reinfusion is simpler and shorter than the actual procedure. 

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                             The  extended prep time allowed me to use my laptop for a bit.

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Now, the team was ready, but I wanted to lay down and not be propped up on one pillow.

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I asked Dr. Fedorenko about the liquid nitrogen process and he showed me how it would be thawed.

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This is how simple it is to get your own stem cells back.  By the way, the whole time, Dr. Fedorenko was asking me about my symptoms.  Slight metallic taste at the back of my throat, I coughed a few times, and saw a few black dots. My stomach hurt a bit.  I wanted to go to sleep : )

No bone crushing men sitting on my chest, no smell of creamed corn.  It all went very smoothly and quickly. What I did not know until it was all over was my heart rate was all over the place during the procedure.  Another EKG was scheduled for the next morning.

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One bag was already done.  Remember, it took me two days to collect the 2 million that I needed.   If you are squeamish, look away.  Remember, stem cells are bloody red!

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The next bag was getting ready for reinfusion, by placing them into the vials.  Effortless reinfusion because of our wonderful jugular catheter.  Bag one is completed! Bag two went quickly too!

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After a much needed nap, Sheila and I celebrated our new birthdays, on July 3, 2014.  We enjoyed the traditional throwing of the liquid nitrogen down the hallway.  IMG_0214

Dr. Fedorenko presented the New Life Pin to both of us. It’s the symbol of the Iris.
My dad used to plant many irises, so it has an extra significance of  importance to me! 

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                     It was a very happy day and we celebrated by sharing chocolate, not vodka!

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            Then we gathered the four of us who celebrated
our new birthdays in the last two days!

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                                                            HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!

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 Last year we celebrated the fourth of July by enjoying  all our neighbors at the Millers driveway party : )

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