Hello again, here I am back in the land of blog.
A lot’s happened since my last update (sorry for the silence) but the BIG news today is that stage one of the stem cell transplant process has been successfully completed.
After a day linked up to a blood centrifuge machine thingy I got a call tonight to say that not only did I deliver a supply of stem cells, but that there’s more than enough to take me to the next and final stage of treatment, the re-transplantation next month.
That’s a big, significant stage in my journey. There was always a chance (around 20 per-cent) that the harvest would have failed to deliver.
So that’s the six rounds of ‘normal’ high dose Maxi-CHOP chemo, done; the re-staging CT scan, done; the single round of Cyclophosphomide chemo, done; the week of nightly home-delivered stem cell mobilisation stomach injections, done; and now the stem cell harvest, done.
Technically I now have four weeks off the drugs and treatment programme.
But it’s a massive month as I build up to what has been bluntly described as a ‘brutal’ re-transplantation process, which will involve a number of weeks in hospital and a number of months of recovery.
I need to try and make sure that I am both physically AND mentally ready for the next hospital admission. So here goes…
Anyway, back to the detail of what’s been happening since I last blogged, about my eyebrow and eyelash losses, on March 22.
Well the hair – what’s left – is still disappearing. And even bum fluff’s having difficulty appearing on my top lip and chin.
On 4 April I spend a looooooong 12 hours in a wee back room at the Western’s Ward 8 getting a big dose of Cyclophosphomide, a chemo drug that helps stem cell mobilisation but can also burn your insides and cause your bladder to bleed – so lots of counter-acting drugs at the same time.
As with most of my treatment so far, though, boredom was the biggest threat to my health.
After that we moved to the bit I dreaded most, but Louise Slorance had been most looking forward to – the home delivered nightly injections of the stem cell growth stimulant Lenograstim.
The good news (we thought) was that a District Nurse would come round on Tuesday and Wednesday night to guide Louise through what was quite an intensive prep process that involved six syringes, six needles, four vials of powder and four x 1ml of sterile water.
This amount of faffing did mean that they only needed to give my belly two (2ml) injections.
So night one, District Nurse did her bit, then Louise did hers. A bit nippy but no tears.
Same on night two, but a bit more painful this time.
The one instruction that stuck with me – for obvious reasons – was to make sure that the BROWN tipped needle be used to draw up the drug from the vial, and the BEIGE tipped needle be used for the injection. Simples…
So, let loose on her own on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (and always with a distracting crowd of kids watching), I made sure that the one thing I checked when Louise was pinching my skin just ahead of plunging the needle home was that the tip was BEIGE.
Blimey, the pain didn’t get any easier – and my belly, big as it is, was taking a pounding.
So on Sunday night I decided to read the small print on the injection instructions. There was BROWN needle. There was BEIGE. But they were the WRONG BLOODY WAY ROUND!!!
So through no fault of her own, Louise had been using a needle designed to break through the rubber stopper on the drug vial to inject the solution into my body, instead of the much thinner – and much more appropriate – needle designed to get under my skin.
We can laugh now… (divorce lawyers have been stood down)
Apart from a painful stomach I didn’t feel any real effects of the drugs until Sunday, when I started to suffer quite bad backache, which is apparently a good sign as aching bones suggest your bone marrow is working overtime.
It wasn’t quite enough to allow me to harvest yesterday (my blood ‘score’ was 8 when it needed to be above 15), but after more injections and an agonising lower back last night I romped this morning’s blood test with a score of 44.
Isn’t science amazing? I was attached to what’s been described as something similar to a dialysis machine. A fairly big needle (it’s OK, I’m used to them now…) in the crook of my left arm to take blood out, and a more regulation-sized cannula in the right wrist to put blood back in.
In between is a marvellous machine with a centrifuge that spins in 20 minute cycles (a bit like the spin cycle on the washing machine), and separates my blood into stem cells, red cells and plasma.
It takes out the stem cells and some of the plasma, but puts the rest back in. Just like that!
Five hours and that was me done. And a phone call tonight to say that they’ve got enough to do the transplant.
So that’s us caught up for now.
Until next time…