Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

With my newly reinfused stem cells, I have the immune system of a baby. To protect that infant immune system, my nurse practitioner, Barbara, went over my discharge instructions - the lists of daily dos and dont's. I plan to follow the instructions to a Tee because I don't want a repeat visit to Hotel Hope.

I do, however, have trouble with one of the guidelines:
"If pets are allowed to stay with you, you should avoid close physical contact with them and they should not sleep in the same room with you."
First of all, what's the point of having pets if you have to "avoid close physical contact." Second, our dog, Betty, has slept at the foot of our bed for 11 years. Our cat Heather likes to sleep curled up near my face. (Tiger chooses not to join the family bed.)

I'd love to hear from other pet-loving post-transplanters, both auto and allo. How have you handled the "close physical contact" clause? And how do you kick out a dog from its "rightful" place at the foot of the bed?

If you don't feel comfortable leaving a comment, please email me directly at

Thanks in advance from me and the Carrier family pets for any advice you can provide.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Dr. Forman, and he said that this is not an "absolute" since my white counts are high. I just have to make sure that I'm vigilant about washing my hands and that I avoid "kissy kissy" with Betty. I'd still love to hear other pet stories.


Lilli said...

I understand the reason for the rules, but it's hard to explain that to a dog who has had the same place of honor for 11 years. Obviously, the people who say these things do not have pets. That's the only logical explanation.

Still, better to be home with a dog in the dog house than in the hospital with the dog in your bed at home! I hope you work out a good situation for the whole family.

Piper Robert said...

Just a few of my thoughts. Let's give the pets a little more credit. They are more "intelligent" than us, in some respects. I think Betty will understand the circumstances since she's able to sense things on a different level. You have a good rapport with Betty and if you have a heart to heart with her, she'll be helpful. After all she's a dog, she'll understand, that's what dogs do. Betty will be able to change gears without any problem when there is a real need such as this. This is just a short term adjustment anyway, not a life sentence. Betty wants you healthy too.

Cats are cool. Heather will do what's required. No biggie.

Susan Carrier said...

It's true about Heather a cat. He's not a worry because all I have to do is nudge him and he's outta' there.

Betty is a different matter. I don't know if she would "understand."

Of course, it's all a moot point now since Dr. Forman gave the thumbs up to Betty sharing our bed.

Ann said...

I was told the same thing when I was a neutropenic leukemia patient. And, it was unacceptable to me, too. After my SCT transplant I cornered every doctor and nurse who would stand still and grilled them on the subject of living with cats. The consensus was that it was okay so long as I kept my hands clean and under no circumstances was I allowed to clean the litter box. Sometimes the cancer card is awesome. If they'd known that I'd be coming home to 4 cats, I think things would have been different. 3 are ours and one is Dixie's. They all take turns sitting in my lap and napping since I'm no longer a moving target. One has a tendency to scratch and bite--she's just turned one, so I have to be extra careful with her. I have been scratched and I have been bitten. I have also elected not to share this with my doctor. Dixie's cat loves to sleep on my chest at night, and she too likes to give kisses. I wake up in the middle of the night to find maniacal amber muppet eyes poised just an inch above my nose. I know that I just have a second to do something before Pez starts to lick my nose like there's no tomorrow. I fool myself into believing that I've managed to stop her amorous overtures just in time, but I have to face the fact that I'm a heavy sleeper. I'm sure that I've been covered in cat saliva more than once.
They all take turns sleeping with me and have since I arrived home in September. The two that have been with me for over 10 years have modified their behavior towards me--I think I smell funny to them now, but are loving none the less.
I'm sure your gang will just be happy to have you back. You'll know when you're in imminent danger. Just trust your instincts. If you ignore the PLTD--non pet related, I've managed to stay healthy this long. Welcome home. I know how much it means to be free of the metal private dancer, surrounded by your own stuff. Enjoy it.

Susan Carrier said...

Ann, I was hoping you'd reply. This was such a fun comment to read.

I especially liked your description of the "maniacal amber muppet eyes poised just an inch above my nose."

I posed this question to my hematology patient exercise class, and one man, a post-allo-transplant patient, said he was taking no chances and "got rid" of his two pets. Unthinkable.

Karen said...

I'd never "get rid" of my two cats forever, but I'd probably find them a temporary home (where my boys could visit them) until the doctors told me they wouldn't pose any infection hazards.

Piper Robert said...

Remember, no kissy kissy.

Just curious, has Betty been especially "nice" since your diagnosis?

Lisa C. said...

Both my two cats love sleeping on my bed, but because I'm a light sleeper I usually carry them to the sofa on the living room if they fall asleep there. They both have their own special blankets for either the sofa or the sofa chair so I don't feel so guilty. Having said that, I usually get "called" to the door at least two or three times for a night-time "chat" before I can settle down in my own bed.

Anonymous said...

We've two dogs who sleep on the bed. I had no problems following and chemo round (when I was VERY neutropaenic) or my autologous stem cell transplant, and when I asked about it, was told not to worry. Caged birds, however, were right out. I think the rule is more fiercely enforced for those who have allogeneic stem cell transplants.

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