I had a hospital appointment this morning and it’s all systems go with the stem cell harvest.
The first date they’ve given me is Thursday 9 June, when they’ll give me an initial chemotherapy treatment as an overnight patient. This is the same drug as I have been taking up till now, but a stronger dose. I am just waiting for confirmation that the Hickman line can be inserted that same morning, or a day or two beforehand. I have to have another bone marrow biopsy from my pelvis (not as horrid as it sounds actually) and they’re hoping to be able to do that the same day too. They are doing their best to minimise how many hospital visits I have to make.
From two days before they insert the Hickman line until 5 days after, I have to use an antimicrobial body wash/shampoo and nasal cream. This is to ensure I don’t contract any nasty infections around the Hickman line entry, such as MRSA.
On Tuesday 14 June I will start a week of GCSF (Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) injections to stimulate blood cell production/growth and ‘mobilise’ the stem cells, i.e. move them out of the bone marrow into the blood stream. These are administered by injection under the skin into my stomach, at home by me or a brave friend.
The following Monday, 20 June, I will have a blood test at the hospital to see if there are enough stem cells in my blood. If that’s all ok, they will harvest my stem cells that day, which entails being hooked up to a machine for 3-4 hours, which removes my blood, separates the stem cells out and then pumps the blood back into me. The stem cells are frozen once they’ve been collected. And I get to go home.
After the stem cells are harvested, they check how many there are and that they’re all healthy. If they don’t get enough on the first day, I will have another GCSF injection and go back the next day for another collection session. They aim to get enough to be able to use some for this transplant and save some for a possible second transplant some years down the line, if needed. In fact they will keep them until I die – I just signed a consent form about it today.
Once they’ve confirmed that they have enough cells and they’re healthy, the date for the high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant will be booked. This will be quite soon, but probably not till after the next Monday, 27 June, when I have an appointment to see the consultant again. I think this is a general check-up and review prior to the transplant.
That’s as far as we’ve got with dates. But it’s all fitting quite well with other plans… I am expecting, but need to confirm this, that I will not go into hospital till after 3 July, which is the tentative date for my big family party to celebrate my cousin’s and my 50th birthdays.