On February 1, we got the good news that George was going to be discharged and could go home! It was a long month of driving back and forth to Camden for me and a long month being away from home for George. At first, George was a little scared to leave the hospital because he felt safe there. Anytime he ran a fever or had a headache, the doctors and nurses were right on top of it. Oh, you have a headache? Let’s send you down for a CT scan. Your leg hurts? How about an MRI? So, the thought of going home and having a pain or feeling something unusual and having to deal with it without that reassurance was daunting. But, he reluctantly agreed to go home. We were given a magnet for the fridge with a phone number for the triage line to call anytime he ran a fever or experienced a few other symptoms. With fever, he was to go immediately to the emergency room, where he would be transferred back to Cooper hospital. Once we told Dr. Leiu he wanted to go, it was pretty quick as all the discharge papers had been completed.
George was happy to be back home, but he had some tearful moments…the normalcy of our house contrasted to what he was experiencing with his illness. I imagine he almost felt like a visitor in his own home after being gone for a month. It took a couple of days, but he started to feel at home again and safe. Chloe, our dog, was happy that he was home! I think she was depressed when he was gone!
As luck would have it, my step-son Michael was coming home for the weekend to celebrate his 21st birthday! We were so happy George would be home for this milestone! We enjoyed cake and watched the movie Belfast. My daughter, Zoe and her boyfriend Kevin came as well. It was such a great evening! I think it was rather a shock for the kids to see George, as he had lost 24 pounds since being in the hospital and looked thinner than the last time they saw him. So weird that he lost that much weight as he didn’t experience nausea (except for one night) and never lost his appetite.
George was still dealing with pain in his leg. He was able to hobble around better without using his cane, but it was still difficult. We moved him to the bedroom upstairs so he wouldn’t have to go up and down and fixed his home office with a pillow for his leg.
It was so great to have George home! We quickly got back into our routines…he working in the home office and me working out, going to the commissary and walking the dog when it was warm enough. He started feeling comfortable being home which was wonderful because it felt normal (except for the leg!). Our next step was his first outpatient appointment at the MD Anderson hospital with Dr. Ghimire on Monday, February 8.
The visit with Dr. Ghimire went well. He went over the results from George’s follow up bone marrow biopsy. He told George that he had a good response to the induction chemotherapy and that his myeoblasts were less than 5% of his bone marrow, so that was technically “remission.” He then said he wanted to have him do another round of chemo called “consolidation” as soon as possible to keep him in remission. We were a little bit surprised by that. It meant George would have to go back into the hospital in the next few days and endure more chemo and all the side effects that go with it. Not what we wanted to hear or were expecting. I knew about consolidation chemo, but I guess I thought that happened when you were in the hospital preparing for your bone marrow transplant. Now we find out he may have to have consolidation chemo several times before the transplant. Every time he has chemo and his blood count drops, he is vulnerable for infection. It was a lot. A lot to process and a lot to accept. But, it is what it is. And we have no choice but to move forward and follow the treatment plan.
The next day, Dr. Ghimire’s office called. They wanted George to be admitted to the hospital the next day, February 10, to start his consolidation chemotherapy. This would be a shorter and less intense chemo because there weren’t a lot of baby white blood cells to kill this time. The plan was, he would be in the hospital for 5 days and then come home. And we would have the triage number on the fridge to call in case he ran a fever while his numbers were bottoming out, which made us both really nervous. And so….that Wednesday, we packed George up and I drove him back to the hospital and he was admitted.