Friday, February 24, 2006

Preparation Time

The schedule is falling in place. I can't be treated until the protocols of medicine have been appeased.

Monday is the day of tests in which we determine that I am healthy of heart and lung.

Monday is the day when we discuss and schedule the biopsy with the chest surgeon.

Tuesday is the day we meet the transplant specialist and discuss the Bone Marrow Transplant, which is not really a bone marrow transplant. It is also sometimes called a Stem Cell Transplant. The official name is Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (PBSCT). It used to be a Bone Marrow Transplant where they took the patient's bone marrow, treated them, and then replaced the bone marrow. It was, in those days, a harrowing series of procedures and often fatal on its own. Now they skim my stem cells out of my own blood and keep them while I am treated and then re-infuse me. It is not, to quote Jeanette, my favorite oncology nurse, a walk in the park. But to quote Dr. Schnur, mortality is no longer a major issue.

I suspect this will happen in April. But we'll know more Wednesday.

It all sounds incredibly interesting, I have to admit. I'm kind of hoping that at some point I'll have an MRI. I've had CT Scans, PET Scans, chest X-rays, echocardiograms, pulmonary tests and lots and lots of blood tests, but I've never had an MRI. On television, MRIs are as common as dirt. I love looking at CT Scans and PET Scans--maybe for my next author photo I could use a CT Scan? Even X-rays are cool.

I'll be treated downtown at the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic is about the size of the town I live in. A medical city, gleaming twenty blocks in the middle of what is otherwise a less than savory part of town, and not far from Case Western Reserve and the Art Museum. I'll spend three weeks there for the transplant. Poor Bob, who already has a fifty mile a day commute will be traveling 100 miles a day if he comes to see me after work. But the alternative, if there was one, would be a hospital with less resources than the Cleveland Clinic.

It is all very important and very life or death and it simplifies things incredibly. Sort of like entering a religious order for a few months. 'I hand myself over to you, oh medical profession, to be purified in your chemical and radioactive baths.' How can a science fiction writer not be at least somewhat intrigued?


Blogger Autumn said...

Cleveland is nice. Their doctors are great. All of my grandfather's heart surgeries have been in their Cadio Unit.

MRI's aren't as fun as CAT scans. But I have the same interest in what the scans look like. I've even blogged some of them. I've got a small collection at home. Sometimes I take them out, and look at them.

February 24, 2006 2:48 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Autumn, why aren't MRIs as fun as CAT Scans?

February 24, 2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Why is it this way with writers? Never knowing what to say when it counts the most?

I am out here floating in the ether, my friend. And I am lucky and aggressive and you've surely got me on your side, so there's that.

Wholly yours,


February 24, 2006 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen. I will spare you all the swear words that ran through my head (and OK, maybe some of them escaped my lips) when I saw your recent posts. I've been enjoying having you back in circulation, and now your friends have to cede you again to the medical magicians. Well. So they will wave their amazing wands, which will be tedious for a while, but also interesting, as you say. And you will tell us all about it in your fascinating way. Feel better, but also feel the love. Feel the iTunes, too.

February 24, 2006 10:22 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

I've been reading your blog with interest for some time ... I'm sorry to hear that you're having to go through this again.

The Cleveland Clinic is indeed very nice -- I accompanied a friend who was visiting a friend there once. And I have stayed at the Cleveland Clinic Guesthouse, which I highly recommend for your husband if he comes for weekends or whatnot. It's a high-end hotel with very reasonable rates for families of patients, and it's within walking distance of most of the clinic buildings.

February 25, 2006 12:16 AM  
Blogger mary grimm said...

If you want a visitor while you're there, let me know--it's just a hop/skip from work.
Important question: can you have chocolate?

February 25, 2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger Autumn said...

CAT Scan, is cooler in some ways... but usually faster. They did my whole chest in under 15 seconds. Which is Good, because you have to hold your breath the whole time.

The MRI you lay down on the bed thing, they pop you into the tube of scanning, and you lay there for what may feel like an eternity while the machine goes *chuuck chuuck* around you. They usually provide music via headsets, but the selection isn't so great. Also, it can take up to 5 minutes for a scan, and you can't move. Not even blink. Breathing shallow is fine, but if you're clastrophobic, I imagine the thing would be terrifying.

Mainly, I like the donut of the CAT scan, over the tube of the MRI and it takes much longer. They do use the contrast dye. Remember the rushy feeling? Yup, it's back.

I don't know. If I got to chose, I'd take the CAT scan, but then I had a ton of MRI's in the past couple years, and only 3 CAT's.

Hope that helps.

February 25, 2006 4:14 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I've never had a medical procedure--from C-section to root canal--that I didn't want to watch or ask questions about. I love X-rays and scan results. I'm not sure if I'm just weird, or it's the writer in me, or if it's just a way of handling my fear about what's going on. But I totally understand the allure of scans and x-rays and neep of this sort.

I will say, right along, I've had the feeling that you have good medical people looking after you. That's a blessing right there.

February 25, 2006 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen--Just stopped by for the first time in a while; I'm so sorry to hear this news. But I'm glad you have such solid treatment options and will look forward to seeing you back on the circuit. Hang in there; you'll be in our thoughts.

Brett Cox

February 26, 2006 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to think that I made enough of an impact on your life that you may remember me from taking your Creative Writing class a few years ago. (Who am I kidding? Of course you'll remember me!)

I have three thoughts to share with you:

1) I'm incredibly sorry to hear the news. Sorry enough that if I were able to understand the medical jargon you were using, I'd offer to donate something of myself if it could prove useful.
2) The depressive quality of your writings is lessened by simultaneously watching the episode of "The Family Guy" in which Peter discovers he is legally retarded. (Try it!)
3) The entire community of John Carroll is in desperate need of your writing skills. The English Department just isn't the same without you!

Get well and come back soon,
Jonathan Rosati

February 26, 2006 11:19 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Jonathan, yes I do remember you! I remember all the real characters from classes--the opinionated, the eccentrics, the fun people.

I miss JCU, but you've got Sarah Willis and Steve Hayward and I happen to know they write pretty well. And Steve is smarter than me, anyway.

February 27, 2006 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen, I'm really sorry to hear this. But you are strong and fiesty, and you will beat it.

You do not want an MRI, though. They are no fun. The tube is claustrophobic, the magnetic coils are very loud, and you have to stay there and Not Move for a long time. I had a very bad time once, when they kept me in the tube for a half-hour because there was some problem with the equipment.

February 27, 2006 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never had a CAT scan, so I can't comment on that, but I did have an MRI recently and thought it was fascinating for a couple of reasons.

1) The noises the machine made reminded me of sound effects used in techno songs. If I spaced out in just the right way, I could imagine that I was in a really minimalistic music video.

2) The MRI tube had a strange dual effect on me. I felt really claustrophobic and anxious at times -- so much so that I actually experienced nausea. But alternating, and even mixing with this sensation, I felt a profound sense of relaxation and safety. Maybe because of the "hugging" of the tube? Dunno, but it was odd and interesting.

I was really sorry to read the news about your relapse. I've been reading your books and stories for quite a few years, and found your blog when you were fighting the first round. I wish you all the best in your next medical adventure.

February 27, 2006 8:17 PM  

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