- A Mass. A Tumor. Cancer. Metastasis.
- Damaged Veins and the Worst IV Ever
- Pleural Effusion. Headed in the Right Direction?
- 30Aug2014 – A Pretty Good Day
- Stem Cells, A Weakened Immune System, and a Dirty House
- A Stressful Time Back at Home After Round 1
- Cancer is Wood
- Gene Blues and MYCN Amplification
- Liam’s Passing
Liam was allowed to come home for a week before he has to go back in to the hospital for round 2 chemo. Exciting, yes; however, I am forced to look at my home in a different manner. I have never had to worry about a weakened immune system before.
A typical motto in our house has been, “A few germs will build your immune system.” — You people out there with small kids know what I mean.
A few germs, however, can be deadly to a little guy that has an impaired immune system. It is true that after this first round of chemo, his white blood cells are coming back. But after every successive round of chemo, his immune system will get hammered to the point that it will be close to death (if not dead). So much so, that after the next round of chemo (round 2), they will harvest stem cells from his bone marrow so that they can use them later to reboot his immune system.
The process is pretty neat. They will actually administer a drug (Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor G-CSF) that stimulates the bone marrow to push stem cells out into the peripheral blood.
The collection is performed through a process known as “apheresis.” Blood is drawn and passed into a machine that spins the blood to remove certain stem cells (those identified as “CD34+”), and then the blood is returned to the child. 
After the cells have been collected, they will be used during the consolidation phase to give a boost or jump start to the bone marrow. The autologous (meaning he is his own donor) stem cell transplant will occur under a very strict, positive pressure, wing on the oncology floor.
Having the ability for forward vision, however, only makes me more concerned about what I can do today. While Liam’s immune system is not completely compromised yet, the house as well as the lifestyle of three siblings and a dog have me a bit on edge. What needs to change so that Liam is protected? How do we make it through this time in our life when it seems impossible to keep out external germs while he is at home?
So, the immediate family and myself have spent the day attempting to prepare for Liam’s return to home, albeit for a short while. We have vacuumed, mopped the floor, washed all of the sheets, removed all that can potentially have germs. Still, my vision leads me to despair. I know how tiny these bacteria are. I know how my kids will interact with one another.
This problem is beyond me. So, I must keep the cub scout motto in my mind, “Do your best!” It is all I can do, nothing more.