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  1. I am very pleased that this thread and my postings have been useful to many of you in planning your cruises on the Ruby Princess this summer. It warms my heart to see the number of times it has been read keep going up as I know each time that another person is gaining knowledge and information that they are looking to find. Since so many took an interest in my battle with cancer, it is time to update everyone on the present status of my Stem Cell Transplant. This post very closely follows what I sent out to all of my friends and family in an email update earlier this week. The experimental treatment I received did hold the cancer in the semi-remission that it was in before my cruise in June/July. This meant that I was still eligible to have the stem cell transplant, my best chance to survive. I completed a full week of testing, and classes the week of August 10th and all went well so the transplant is a go. I had a dental appointment for evaluation Wednesday, August 19th at M.D. Anderson no problems were found. In the classes we learned that I will be allowed to take most anything I want to take with me when I check into the hospital to help it feel more like home. You are encouraged to decorate your room with pictures and posters. I will be encouraged to get up and walk around as much as possible to help prevent pneumonia. We saw one of the rooms and it is quite nice and fairly roomy and each room does have a window. Since the stem cell transplants are done on the entire 18th floor, half of the 17th floor and half of the 10th floor they all have great views. Monday, August 17th (my mom’s birthday) was an appointment with the Stem Cell Transplant Oncologist and all of the others on his team. During this meeting I signed all of the consent forms to move forward with the transplant and the various experimental protocols. We learned that when the donor went in for his physical and to answer health related questions he was deemed not eligible to be a donor, but we were told that they plan to still move forward with him as my donor. Turns out that we will not be able to know what triggered him to be not eligible for at least the first year after the transplant but were told he does not have any thing infectious or anything such as HIV, etc. It was most likely due to places he has traveled to during certain time frames. Any of us that cruise visit places all the time that make us in-eligible to donate blood for at least a year, and might also not be eligible to be a stem cell donor. Tuesday, August 18th in the morning I had the CVC (central venous catheter) implanted and the old port removed. The process went well and we were back home around noon. I will say that I had two shoulders that hurt. The pain would fall within what they call “discomfort”. By Wednesday morning the pain had subsided. Both of the procedures were done using locals only. The CVC has three lines out of it and they each must be flushed daily with Heparin. Until I am admitted to the hospital Wednesday, August 26th we will have to return to M.D. Anderson to have these flushed daily, even on Saturday and Sunday. We will receive training and be certified in doing the flushes and the needless cap changes, as well as the weekly dressing changes that will be required when I am discharged from the hospital. The CVC will remain in place until around day +100 after the transplant day. On Thursday, August 20th, day -13 (days before the transplant are counted as negative days) I began the Bulsulfan chemo with that day being a 15 hour day at M.D. Anderson. This day they determined how much to give me and monitored for reactions to the chemo. On Friday, August 21st, day -12 it was another day of Bulsulfan chemo but only lasted about four hours once they got started over 2-1/2 hours late and we had arrived an additional 2 hours early. I will not receive any more chemo until after I check into the hospital on Wednesday, August 26th, day -7. Starting Thursday, August 27th, day -6 through day -3, at 4:00 AM I will receive the full strength chemo that will kill my bone marrow. This will last about four hours each of these days and then I will have two days of rest on days -2 and -1 before receiving the transplant on Wednesday, September 2nd, Day 0. Wednesday, August 19th in the evening I began taking a medicine that is to help prevent me from having seizures from the chemo. Another possible side effect that they do not have anything to prevent is possible irreversible lung damage. Then, there is possible liver damage. I will, for sure, lose all of my hair and it might not all come back, not that I have all that much hair. I plan to shave my head the day before admission to the hospital. These are just a few of the side effects of the chemo. It is expected to take about 10 days for the transplant to begin grafting to create my new bone marrow. It is during these 10 days that I will again need transfusions of Platelets and Red Blood Cells. After the 10 days is the point that I might start to have the GVHD (graft vs host disease). This might range from minor to very severe. We learned that most can be treated, and while not enjoyable can be controlled. The exception is if the intestines are attacked, the treatments don’t always work and it is the most likely cause for death. During this time I will be monitored very closely for any early signs of GVHD so that treatment can be started in a timely manner for the best results. If all goes well, I will leave the hospital after about 5-6 weeks and be able to go home. This is only possible since we live within a 30 minute drive to M.D. Anderson. Those that live further way must stay close to the hospital. I will have to return to M.D. Anderson every day for the first 100 days after the transplant day. By the way, while I can take most anything with me, there are some no no’s. I cannot have any fresh fruit or vegetables, and fresh flowers are not allowed. My diet will be restricted to well-cooked meats, vegetables, and fruits. They expect that I will lose at least 20 pounds or more during the transplant. I will very likely not feel like eating in addition to other factors. The dietary department is not your normal hospital fair. From 5:30 AM to 10:00 PM you can order anything at any time and as much or little as you want and as often as you want. There are no set meal times or ordering for a particular meal, just eat when you feel like it and what you feel you can eat. Food can also be brought in from outside, as long as it follows the guidelines and is either from home or a well trusted place, but not from any buffets. The big “C” word is not kind to anyone. We have many friends that have battled or battling cancer and many have not survived. We have crossed paths with a couple of them here at M.D. Anderson that are also presently being treated for cancer. There are many that have responded to me on this thread that have friends, family members or themselves that have cancer or survived cancer. We see people of all ages and races on a daily basis that are fighting cancer of all kinds. Cancer does not discriminate in who it attacks. We have spent a lot of time while waiting on appointments in a place called The Park, which is an indoor park area within M.D. Anderson. It is quite common to see people there with their IV poles and pumps trying to find some form of tranquility during their ongoing battle with cancer. It breaks my heart the most to see young children hooked-up to their IV poles that are battling cancer. M.D. Anderson has done everything they can, everywhere, to try to provide a serene environment and to make you feel at home and to make your life as good as they can. I am ready and am okay with all of the risks, as this is my best option. I will be fighting it all the way and I WILL NOT LET IT WIN. I have agreed to take part in any experimental studies that will help future patients. I feel I owe this to the fight against cancer, since I am benefiting from what others before me did to get the knowledge to where it is today. I cannot promise when I might write future updates. Just know that I am in good hands at M.D. Anderson and whatever the outcome, it will be the will of God. P.S. If all goes well, I expect to return to cruising in a year to two years once I have been re-vaccinated and cleared to travel freely. Just remember that every day is a gift from God, so make the most of each and every one of those days.
  2. You will surely enjoy this cruise. We did it over the 4th of July. If you have not already done so make sure you book the Tracy Arm Excursion. It goes far closer to both North Sawyer and South Sawyer Glacier than the ship does. You will not miss anything not being on the ship but will see far more than those that stay on the ship. I know this as I have video cameras on both sides of the ship recording what was seen while we were off of the ship. Stop by the Photo/Video Gallery and say hi to Casey and Erin, the two Video Producers on your cruise. They will do a great job of capturing the events of your cruise and a special DVD of just Tracy Arm. These are well worth buying. I have watched mine many times since getting back home. Enjoy your cruise and I will be following along. My review and photos and more can be found at this link: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2235693
  3. I got an email from Casey early this morning that they were unable to enter Tracy Arm Wednesday due to a large iceberg blocking the entrance to Tracy Arm. They then diverted and went to Endicott Arm. I have no further details. I do hope that there were good things to see in Endicott Arm.
  4. My wife and I had been assigned different disembarkation times than my sister and niece despite the fact that we all had shown on the questionnaire that we were traveling together and needed to disembark at the same time. We had gone down earlier in the week and got that corrected and also had it changed to where I would have wheelchair assistance getting off of the ship. Our meeting location was Crooners which is right next to the gangway used to disembark the ship. Our time was 9:25 AM but we were called and headed off at 9:05 AM. It was a breeze and with the help of a porter the bags were found and then it was off to Customs and Border Patrol. The porter directed us to the far left line and it went very fast. This I do believe was the fastest we have ever gotten through Customs and Border Patrol. We were taken out to the bus and loaded onto it. We had a short wait while others boarded and it was full. We then headed to the airport. Everything went fine from that point on. The operation is well run and I can say that taking the shuttle for us was the best choice. Now for some overall general comments. These need to be taken from my point of view to be fully understood. It is common for people to say that the worst day on a cruise is better than the best day at work. Well, I would change that to say that the worst day of a cruise is way better than the best day in a hospital, and I have spent several months in the hospital this last year, including over Christmas. As for the food. I am a picky eater but did not have any problem finding wonderful food that looked and tasted great with no exceptions. If you don’t like the food that Princess serves then try spending several months in a hospital and see what you think then. The shows and presentations were all very good even though we had seen most before. I was critical of the cooking show using the same lines it seems like on every ship but the demonstration was very good and enjoyable. All of the staff were very good and doing all they could to make your cruise the best it could be. Most of these people come from very poor areas and they are working hard to do a good job. They are working long hours and away from home for extended periods of time to earn money to make their life and their families lives better back home. To them the passengers are rich people even though most of us are middle class, that is still a far better standard of living than they have at home. My hat is off to all of them. I would also like to ask everyone while on your next cruise look for some of the staff that are doing a job over and above what is expected to fill out one of the Consummate Host cards, they do make a difference for the person you write about. Please come away from your cruise not only “new again” but thankful for the great service you have received. Simple things during the cruise make a big difference to most of these people as well, such as a thank-you. These wonderful people gave me a week of my life where I could enjoy myself and for the most part put my cancer and what I face out of my mind. I know that I look good in all of the pictures but let me assure you that a picture is just a moment in time and does not show the true picture of my health and that I tire very easy. While I was not able to do things the way I have in the past or the way I would have liked to do them, this week was a very welcome fresh breath of life. I will never forget it or the wonderful staff that made it so great for me. Now a big thank-you to all of the people that have read this review and to those that have wished me well. I hope that it is helpful to future cruisers both repeat Princess cruisers and those new to Princess and possibly new to cruising. God willing and if all things go well maybe I will see some of you on a future cruise.
  5. I just got an email from Casey. Last month she was runner-up for the Consummate Host of the Month Award. But this month she got the Consummate Host of the Month Award. It could not go to a more deserving person as far as I am concerned. Below you can see the awards for last month and this month. If any of you going on this cruise on the Ruby Princess this summer would like to stop by the Photo Gallery and say hi to Casey and Erin for me I would sure like it. You might even find that you also might make friends with them and come to understand how they can add so much to your cruise. Also be sure to buy the videos of your cruise, you will be so glad you did when you get back home. Casey is still finding ways to raise my spirits and put a smile on my face. Her family can be very proud of such a wonderful young lady that they raised.
  6. My next post will have the Victoria Port Guide and Shopping Spotlight
  7. Later that evening the Log of the Cruise was delivered to our mailbox. My next post will have the Saturday, Victoria Patter
  8. Looking in toward the cabin from the balcony. Looking into the cabin from the sliding door. Looking toward the balcony from the entry hallway. Looking at the closet area from the entry hallway, it is empty as we had already packed our bags for disembarkation and they were now gone to be off loaded in the morning. And now for the bathroom as seen from the door from the closet. We have come to really like having a Caribe balcony as they have a very large balcony that is half covered and half uncovered, the best of both worlds in our minds. The cabin is very well laid-out and has plenty of storage. There are enough outlets as long as you use all that are available and use a travel outlet strip. The outlet strip I use is made by Monster and has four outlets, two on each side and spaced such that even with large power modules plugged in they all fit. There is an outlet behind the TV that I use with one of these plugged in all week. I also have a second travel plug strip plugged into an outlet at the desk. These outlets are spaced such that unless you have very narrow plugs you can only use one outlet at a time. My next post will have the Log of the Cruise. I will have a future post that covers Sunday and disembarking the ship.
  9. That afternoon we met with Casey and Erin in the photo gallery to say our good-byes and take a few last pictures. Casey will be on the Ruby until mid-September when she has a couple of months off. Then in mid-November she will join the Caribbean Princess sailing out of all places Houston. Under normal circumstances we would be able to spend some time with her on turn-around days but that is not likely to happen that soon after my transplant. Here is a picture of the five of us, from left to right my niece, my sister, Casey, myself, and my wife. We are all decked out to celebrate the 4th of July. Then the next picture is from left to right my niece, Casey, my wife, myself, and Erin. As you can see we were all having a good time. To me Casey is like a daughter or maybe a granddaughter. Now the time that was very hard as we knew we were saying good-bye and it might be the last time we see each other. While we said our good-byes Casey and I still keep up with each other by email. After the next cruise she said that Erin for the first time did the Tracy Arm Excursion and also edited that video and she did a great job. That week Casey went on a whale watching excursion (don’t know which one but will ask) and that they saw Orca whales and a baby Humpback whale. The bay Humpback whale breached 23 times! I think I have already expressed how good she is at her job. She approaches it as not just making a video record of the weeks’ cruise for the passengers but she is also making a video of her life. After our good-byes we headed to the dining room for an early supper as my sister and niece planned to head into Victoria to do some sight-seeing. So after we ate they were off on their adventure while my wife and I headed to our cabin to rest. While in the cabin I decided to take some pictures of the Victoria dock from our balcony. That soon turned into a photo tour of our cabin. A picture looking out the sliding door of our cabin C738. More to follow in my next post.
  10. In the morning we attended the cooking show. Do all of these shows use the same script. It seems to me that the same jokes are used for each of these shows. Chef Quadros, where do you live, on deck xx, no where do you come from, India. Maitre’D Mazzone, where do you live, right next to the chef on deck xx, no where do you come from, Italy. This is followed by a talk about virgin olive oil. Then, on to the cooking part of the show. I will say that one part was different this time. When they added salt to the pasta a large amount was dumped in and the audience gasped very loudly. At the end they brought out the upper level staff of the kitchen and the dining rooms, below is a picture of all of them. A hand out was given to all that attended, see below. More to follow in my next post
  11. Here it is the 4th of July and which port will we visit today…Victoria, BC in Canada. I guess it is only fair as we were in US waters on Wednesday when it was Canada Day. There were decorations around the ship and in the Piazza there were a number of cakes on display. More to follow in my next post
  12. J agree. I had to take a break and have a steak I grilled while I was posting the review. Princess Chefs and staff know how to make food not only taste great but also look great.
  13. I learned this last week that the transplant is being delayed due to the donor not wanting to be contacted before the second week of August. As a result I will be going back on the study medication for another cycle of it in hopes that it will hold the cancer in the semi state of remission. If things work our it might happen the first part of September,
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