I didn’t see this one coming!
Throughout the journey I tended not to over read or research on the internet and just take each step at a time. Very often my research was nothing more than turning up on the time of each appointment. Thereafter doing what I had been told to do trusting completely the knowledge and expertise of the consultant and nurses.
My contribution was ensuring daily exercise, walking a minimum of 10 miles a day and re-fuelling with great nutrient rich healing foods and juices. Above all a great positive unwavering faith and belief that I would fully heal and to inspire others whom are in similar situations.
In my head I thought stem cell collection was a relatively non toxic process. In my eyes my treatment to date had been nothing more than a few pills and injections. A point that my consultant often reminded me was not the case and that my treatment did involve some serious levels of toxicity!
On the day I was finally to start my stem cell I had 2 dilemmas to negotiate.
The first was to convince my consultant that despite my thumb injury I was a quick healer so please don’t delay my progression to the next phase.
However, it had to be cleared by the medical and ethics team that I was fit and healthy to proceed. More importantly I was happy to take responsibility for my treatment and any associated risks.
After all at the beginning I had signed a medical disclaimer that I was aware of all risks associated with my treatment plan that did include death! Surely once was enough and not to have to be continually reminded at every stage! Once I’d started I was fully committed to my treatment without doubt!
Their concern was that stem cells created would try and migrate to heal and recover my thumb wound. This in turn could impact a successful stem cell harvest.
Finally after an 8 hour wait the green light was given to proceed!
Following this, more mortification. I was informed my stem cell collection and mobilisation of stems included x2 1000ml infusion of Cyclophosphamide liquid chemotherapy!!
I won’t deny I was horrified however what else was I to do but get on and over it as this was the process!
However, it made me realise how blinkered and selective of hearing I had been.
Although it is possible to mobilise stem cells using G-CSF alone, a cycle of a chemotherapy drug, usually cyclophosphamide, is often given before the G-CSF injections.
Cyclophosphamide temporarily reduces the number of stem cells in the bone marrow. When the bone marrow recovers, it goes into stem cell production ‘over-drive’. With the addition of G-CSF, it is usually much easier to collect the required number of stem cells. G-CSF is given consecutively over approximately 10 days when used after cyclophosphamide treatment.
(The most common side effects of cyclophosphamide include loss of appetite, skin rash, sickness, nausea and general weakness). Fortunately I continued with no side effects with great health. This results in the release of stem.
Stem cell collection – healthy stem cells are filtered from the blood and stored
My aim was to beat the machine and go through the whole session without moving. That would interior the machine and collect the maximal amount of stems possible. Again I’d had a slight misunderstanding.
I was asked to keep my week clear as you might not be able to harvest sufficient stem in a day. On 3 consecutive days I’d go to Christie’s at 7am to be told my levels weren’t sufficient at this time. However when it was I was warned I’d certainly know about it!
However I’d be boasting as other than needles I had a high pain threshold and the nurses just smiled. Anyway night 10 since I’d started I went to bed as normal only to wake a few hours later in joyous pain.This was it!!
The nurses were right. OMG I felt like the toy stretch Armstrong and my body was like an algal plume. I won’t deny I was in great pain and my groaning woke my household with my son Teague running up the stairs at 1:30am to see what was wrong!! I had to explain this was a joyous moment and my stems were ready!
There’s no way I could sleep and we were back at Christie’s by 6am and ready and raring to go.
If the cell count is high enough, collection will take place using a machine known as a cell separator or apheresis machine. Apheresis is the technique through which stem cells are collected from the blood.
For the National Cancer Institute, Collecting the stem cells usually takes about three to four hours. A line inserted into a vein in each arm. And movement was to be minimal. If you moved even the slightest i.e; to turn a page or scratch an itch then the collection machine would stop and have to be restarted by the nurse.
My plan was to beat the machine and not beep. From my previous 3 days I had seen lots of beeping machines and even a feinting with a patient kept in over night!
Now for those that know me 2 hours without a comfort break is impossible now I had to go 41/2 hrs!
Anyway as the session began hour by hour passed and my collection bag grew! So much so, even the nurses were impressed and commenting ‘have you seen this’!
Eureka for once I’d succeeded. I didn’t pee for 4 1/2 hrs and my session was complete. 700ml of stems cell fluid collected! And… I completed the 20 metre dash in record time! Relief!
Now for the drive home and call an hour later to say my stems were all good and we will see you in 2 weeks for your transplant!