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Friday, March 21, 2008

Stem Cells and the Smell of Radiation

My brother is going into the hospital today to begin his three-week stem cell transplant. Hopefully by the end of those three weeks, he'll emerge having beaten the cancer he's been battling for about a year now.

I wasn't going to write about this subject on my blog, on the one hand because I don't want to showcase my family too much, and on the other hand because I want to be brave for my brother. But on the third hand, I kind of need to be able to talk about it, and Bunsnip is my sounding board, not only for general issues that I'm interested in discussing, but for personal issues that I need to deal with. Maybe I'll finally start sleeping better after I just open up about it.

Zac (but I usually call him Broy) was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease (a type of lymphoma) last year. After several months of chemo, Broy went into remission last November, only to relapse in January. Already the cancer had returned to an advanced stage. So the doctors proposed a more aggressive treatment this time, comprised of more intense chemo followed by a complete stem cell transplant.

He's gone through the chemo now, and is entering the part where they basically kill off his entire immune system and then transplant his own stem cells, which they've already collected, back into his body so his immune system can rebuild. He has to stay in the hospital during this process and try to keep away from infection, since his own body won't be equipped to fight it anymore.

It's a really scary procedure, when you think about it. And yet, it's also a very miraculous one, and one that has improved over the past twenty years so that many lives have been saved in this manner.

The process of collecting stem cells used to be rather invasive and painful. They had to go right into your bone marrow to retrieve them. These days, they can cause your stem cells to jump out of your bones and into your blood stream by giving you shots. Then they just filter your blood through a machine to collect the stem cells. Much less invasive. And that's good, because cancer patients already have to deal with enough misery.

Something interesting: Broy says radiation smells like metal. There was a recent story about how a former astronaut identified the smell of space to also be like metal. And that makes sense, when you think about it, because up in space, you are not protected from radiation by any atmosphere. After all, space is a vacuum. It is nothingness housing balls of gas spewing forth radiation. So I bet the astronaut was actually smelling radiation, because how can nothingness have a smell?

A godless thought: if there were a god, I couldn't believe that sheit (a new word I'm creating for she/he/it) would be omni-benevolent, because if sheit were, people who didn't deserve to suffer wouldn't have to. But life seems to deal out its hands irrespective of what people deserve. People like my sweet brother, only 27 years old, and so kind, intelligent, and gentle, don't deserve this lot in life.

There is no cosmic justice.


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6 comments:

Loralee Choate said...

I have discovered the hard way that life is just cruel a whole lot of the time.

So many horrible things happen to innocent and good people while evil assholes drive around in Ferrari's with the whole world as their oyster.

"Unfair" is a vast understatement. (Dude, did I use the quotes correctly, because I have to tell you I have been typing around the internet in fear since you wrote that post on them!)

I am so sorry about your brother. Truly. I HATE cancer.

Sra said...

Ha ha, yes, you used the quotes correctly, because you are quoting a word, i.e., referring to the word directly. And that is a valid use.

Thanks for your kind sympathy.

Sarah Bellum said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. You're right. Life isn't fair and I'll never understand how people believe in a God when shitty things are happening everywhere around them.

Sra said...

Thank you.

I guess I can understand people believing in god, but I don't see why people maintain the vision of god as all-loving and all-good when life is so unfair. What's the point of praying if god is just going to do whatever he wants anyway? What makes us think that if a god created us, he is still even hanging around and looking in on us at all? What makes us think that if there is a god, we aren't just his eighth grade ant farm science project?

Zac said...

Thanks for your thoughts.

I don't usually find the Problem of Evil that compelling, myself. But, wherever your thoughts need to go...

Justice isn't meted out as a natural part of the universe. If we want justice, we have to create it.

Zac said...

Thanks for your thoughts.

I don't usually find the Problem of Evil that compelling, myself. But, wherever your thoughts need to go...

Justice isn't meted out as a natural part of the universe. If we want justice, we have to create it.

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