The Stem Cell Transplant
It was the 6th September 2019. I was ready and prepared for 4 weeks isolation and the final steps of this part of my journey to recovery. The Stem Cell Transplant was finally going to happen.
I went into hospital nicely balanced with my 2 bags! One bag contained my clothes, books, and laptop.The second bag fully loaded up with my vitamins, supplements and homeopathic potions. This made my nurses laugh saying I had enough to service the hospital, however they were fully accepting of my programme of supplementation.
Today was a full on day and within 15 minutes of checking in I was taken down to theatre to have my Centreline inserted. This was a quick 20 minute procedure that involved a small insertion on the top right of the pectoral clavicle area. 20 minutes of realisation to the journey ahead and then within an hour the treatment was to begin.
This involved high dosage melphalan. Effectively a high dosage chemo to wipe out all cells in the bone marrow including the rogue mylo cells. The chemo was designed to wipe out all cells in the bone marrow and leave the body within 12-24 hrs. A procedure prepares the bone marrow as a blank canvas ready to receive the new stem cells.
24 hours later
Effectively whilst the chemo had done its job of wiping out my bone marrow, my bloods levels of immunity were still at a level which offered some immunity. I was given the option to take a wander in the first 4 days.
Proper preparation and planning ….
Despite this opportunity, I decided it was best to keep isolated with my mindset to proper prepare and ensure my body doesn’t pick up anything that would weaken or stress my immune system further.
It was also imperative that the room temperature was as cold as the air handling would allow (16 degrees). This was an eye opener to the nurses as most other rooms on the ward were all a lot warmer if not tropical by comparison.
Since the start of the year I was a follower and convert of the ‘Wym Hoff Theory’ and therefore had already practised tapping into the healing benefits of cold temperature. Until this stage I’d regularly had a cold daily shower and cold baths.
I was encouraged to exercise daily. However within 30 minutes I had already broken the cycle ergometer. Whilst I did a baseline routine my energy was to heal and recover and a few days of stillness was a change to the 10-20km I’d walked daily everyday in the year to date.
Day 5 and hello to state of Neutropenic
It’s not a great place to be however it was a necessary process I had to go through.
Neutropenia is when a person has a low level of neutrophils. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. All white blood cells help the body fight infection. Neutrophils fight infection by destroying harmful bacteria and fungi (yeast) that invade the body. Neutrophils are made in the bone marrow.
This means you will need to stay in a clean environment such as a single room, or specialist ward until engraftment is fully established.
The period of time waiting for the stem cells to engraft and start producing new blood cells was the toughest part of the transplant process.
Until the new blood cells are produced and show up in your bloodstream, you are at risk from infection, anaemia and bleeding.
I must admit that following the melphalan all of a sudden food was a turnoff. I had a complete loss of appetite, lack of energy and even taking my pills and potions was a mission.
However as each day passed I got onto a settled routine with personal care and hygiene at the forefront. My daily routine and isolation was all about maintaining great personal hygiene and protection against infection.
I was asked to bath or shower daily and to wear clean clothes and change towels and bedding each day.
I also had to mouth wash 4 times daily with gingagel for prevention of certain mouth ulcers and sores for the duration of the treatment.
My daily schedule:
- Wake at 7am by nurse to take my bloods and observations
- Shower whilst room serviced
- Prepare my drops and vitamins
- Catch up on my emails
- Daily 30 mins exercise
- Catch up with my wife and family
- A liquid Lunch of soup at 1pm
- TV and read for the rest of the afternoon
- Followed by late tea, more soup and evening TV before zoning out again at 10pm before repeating
Happy 52nd birthday
It takes 10–14 days for adequate numbers of newly formed blood cells to be produced from the engrafted stem cells and to enter the blood. Until this time you will remain immunocompromised.
Hallelujah and the best ever birthday present ever with the return of my Neutrophil on my birthday! it’s not often in life you can say you were re-born and re-booted on your 52nd birthday. I was able to celebrate in person with the 1st visit of my stay with my wife.
The return of the my neutrophils was a positive sign that the engraftment process signals the beginning of the bone marrow recovery period.
I’ve got to admit that the next few days were totally unexpected and took my breath away. My neutrophils reappeared on what was officially down as day 9 of the process. However, the next 4 days blew my mind with my neutrophils and bloods getting back up to normal levels!
National Fitness Day – more than 1 celebration!
Then out of the blue on UK National Fitness Day (Wednesday 25th September 2019) day 15 of my programme, the consultant visited me and said I believe your wife is visiting you today and she is taking you home!!.
Wow I still get goosebumps and tears every time I think of this day!!
In fairness I was looking forwards to enjoying UK national fitness day as it is one of the main business highlights and celebrations of the year. I was so looking forward to following 3-1-5 and the team on social media and phone. I knew my team had something special planned for this great day and have always been part of this celebration.
However I was joyously homeward bound and not going into hospital to break any records. I was informed that at day 15 I was the fastest turnaround stem cell transplant in Christie’s History and I was leaving with hair!!