Neupogen Shots, Bone Pain, Throwing Up, Bloodwork and Birthdays!

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Well, I’ve been taking Neupogen shots now since Saturday. I take three shots at the same time at 7:00 in the morning. These shots help get the stem cells out of my bone marrow and into my bloodstream, so we can harvest them on Thursday for my transplant. I’m going to need two million stem cells to do the procedure.

Injecting Neupogen is actually really easy. When I first was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I was on a drug called Copaxone, and I had to inject myself every day for the first couple years. When I was first diagnosed, I had a real fear of needles, but after a while you learn to get over it. Neupogen shots are a lot like Copaxone. It is a really small needle, and you inject into the fat, not into the muscle. Most people take two Neupogen shots every morning to prepare for this procedure, but since I’m a bigger guy, I have to take three shots.

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When I started on Saturday, I didn’t feel a thing, not so much as one symptom. In fact, I felt so good that we went downtown to the Science and Industry Museum with my sister, Laurie, and had a blast. It is definitely a must see, if you’re visiting Chicago. While we were there, we watched a movie on at the Omnimax and that was really cool. Olivia really loved this museum because it was really interactive and there was a lot to see and do. When we got home from museum, the Zapata’s grilled me some hamburgers and brats for my birthday, even though my birthday wasn’t until Tuesday. Saturday was the best day to do the dinner because of the weather and the food tasted so good!

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The next day of shots was also easy, not one side effect! Also on this day, Liz made me my favorite kind of birthday cake…. German chocolate! I love German chocolate cake and ice cream!

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On Monday, it was time to get back to business, and I needed to go down to Chicago to have blood work drawn, because this was the day that my immune system was supposed to drop because of the chemo. At this point, I really have to start being careful in public to not get sick. We woke up to a heavy snowstorm and tried to wait it out for a little bit, but it wouldn’t let up, so we decided to head toward Chicago anyway.

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As we were leaving town, the radio kept talking about how backed up the traffic was going into Chicago, so I decided it would be better if I just took the train, and I went by myself. The scary thing about this, is that with no immune system, the train seems like a real risk. But I wanted to keep things moving and not have any setbacks.

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Fortunately, I had a medical mask that I could wear on the train. It was funny to see how people looked at me like I was just some sort of “germaphobe” or freak. The good part, was nobody tried to sit near me! When I got to Union Station in Chicago, I was able to grab the first cab I saw.  I took it to get to Northwestern for my blood work. That went well.  I was in and out in minutes, and after a quick bite, I grabbed the first taxi I saw back to Union Station, and was on the train in no time back to Aurora.

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As I was sitting on the train, I started feeling the first tingles of bone pain in my femur, pelvis, and lower back, but it wasn’t too bad yet. I didn’t wanna start the pain medicine they gave me for the bone pain yet, because it wasn’t too painful and I didn’t want to waste any. Within a couple hours, that all changed. My lower back felt like somebody took a sledgehammer to it, and my femurs felt like someone stuck a big ice pick right into them and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I took the Hydrocodone they prescribed, but it was barely making a difference. I tried laying down, and that helped a little, until I would have to move. Fortunately, Liz read the doctor’s orders and thought that I could also take Tylenol, so I popped a couple of those and that helped a lot. I was at least able to go downstairs and join the family. I still have to take the medicine every four hours before the pain gets really bad, but at the same time, I feel like I’m taking so many pills its making me really nauseous! So right now it seems anything I do, it’s just going to suck! I need to eat when I take the painkillers, because they’re so strong. It’s hard to eat because of the nausea I’m already feeling.

Today, it was a little harder to take my Neupogen shots, because now I’m realizing the pain it is going to cause, but I know it’s going to be worth it. Today is also my birthday, and I woke up feeling a little better and ate breakfast with Liz and Olivia and opened my presents. Liz got me a cool Northwestern hoodie, which will always be real sentimental, since I remember I spent my birthday here and she also got me a nice T-shirt.

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I was feeling good enough after I opened my presents and took a nap. I was about to get on the elliptical, just to see if moving would make my bones feel better, but about the time I got out of the shower, I started feeling really nauseous again and ended up throwing up a few times! Throwing up + bone pain is not a fun experience!  Hopefully, I can still salvage some of this day!

You would think that throwing up on my birthday would be a total bummer, but the fact I’ve made it until now without getting sick is really a good thing. I knew this was going to be part of the game, and I’m glad it’s just starting now, and not last week. Because of that, I’ve been able to have some good times with my family! Soon, I’ll be celebrating the birthday of my new immune system and to have this opportunity, and a second chance is all I could ever ask for!  Cheers to a new and hopeful year!

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