Today is Day -8, the day I was admitted to the UC Davis Medical Center to begin the transplant process. They count the days a bit differently here (maybe so that the numbers don’t seem too depressing as they mount up): Day -8 means there are eight days left till I get my new stem cells from my brother James, and tomorrow will be Day -7, and so on. Then, once the stem cells have been delivered (on Day 0) we start counting on the plus side: Day +1, Day +2, etc.
Before today could really become Day -8, though, I had to leave our house and make it into the hospital by 9:00 AM. I did depart, more or less when I was supposed to, but with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, not everyone with cancer has the privilege of getting a shot at a cure, but on the other hand, since I don’t actually feel sick and can’t locate any signs of renewed cancer growth, it feels a bit strange to be voluntarily committing myself to what promises to be an unpleasant, solitary, and unpredictable process. It was especially hard to say goodbye to the girls, though in (perhaps characteristically) different ways. 6 year-old Lucy rushed off quite early this morning for a play date with nary a backward glance, and I could barely detain her for a farewell hug and kiss, while ten year-old Nora (who had no social engagements and wanted to play a last bit of ping pong before I departed) got and gave multiple tearful hugs before I managed to leave. The nurse who showed me to my room asked if I had a cold; a natural mistake when you see someone with red eyes and the sniffles, I guess.
Actually, it’s not really my room, THE room, i.e., the one I’ll be spending the next 30-odd days in. It’s a private room, yes, with its own bathroom and everything I need, but it’s in the regular cancer ward on Davis 8 (i.e. the eighth floor of Davis Tower) not in the transplant unit proper. At first I was exceedingly demoralized to be told I’d have to wait for a room to open up in my final destination later on; in my emotional state, I desperately wanted to unpack, post some of the girls’ art and messages of love, and generally make myself somewhat at home. To make matters worse, it seemed I would not be moving into my real room for a few days, since the smaller room they proposed to put me in later today was not deemed suitable for someone who was staying for such a long time. After stewing for a while, I wished aloud to Kate that I could simply remain where I was for a few days, then move into the larger room when it opened up, thus skipping the middle stage and enabling me to settle in for the time being. Cogent and persistent advocate that she is, Kate persuaded the nurse to persuade the doctors to okay this plan.
So I unpacked and settled in after all, and Day -8 began with a small but distinct victory. Perhaps it was only a moral or psychological one, but it was a victory nonetheless. It was also a reminder that I have a lot going for me as I begin this process, including a supportive and engaged spouse. I am slated to begin my radiation treatments tomorrow morning around 7:30 AM, so I’ll be needing that support, as well as some Ativan, all over again on Day -7.