Well it took few days more than expected–apparently due to my lack of spleen, my white counts are either zilch or through the roof. Not much in between. So it was hard to capture a good day to start the stem cell harvest. Turns out Monday was the day! I had approximately 3 times the amount needed to start the harvesting, which was awesome, even though I only had 11 white cells to work with. (Basically what they do, is they measure the concentration of healthy stem cells within your available white blood cells, and THAT is what they try to extract).
My body could certainly tell I was ready by that Monday because I had TON of pain in my bones and muscles. It was awful. Even the pain medicine didn’t really help. Either way, it turned out to be a very long day. It took about 2 hours to get the blood test results back, which said I was good to go with harvesting on that day. We went immediately to the apheresis center where they perform the stem cell harvesting, and they hooked me up to this extraction machine that is actually from 1974 (like for reals. They said they haven’t changed it since then, and you can tell. It was this giant computer on wheels that they had to wheel over to my bedside, and required about a half hour just to “warm up” once they turned it on. Makes me wonder why it hasn’t been updated, but whatever.. See pic below!). It took about 4 hours, and by the end of it, I told Derek, it felt like I had run a marathon. My body was just exhausted. I was very weak, pale, and it seemed like such an effort to walk or put my arms up. Following the transplant, I required another blood transfusion, which was about another 3 hours long, because my red cell count was rather low (again). When all was said and done, we collected about 65% of the required stem cells on day #1, and got home 12 hours after we left
Day #2 wasn’t quite as bad because we didn’t have to go through the process of waiting for a blood test to come back. I just went immediately to the apheresis center to start the process. Everyone expected my numbers to suck that day, since they were so good the day before (they usually spike then take a nose dive), but my white blood cell count shot up to about 35 that day, and the concentration of stem cells remained about the same! After about 3 hours, I was done–They only needed 5 total units of stem cells for the transplant, but were able to extract 14 from me in total! They will freeze the extra for about 5 years, and I guess I will be able to use them if I need them. I’m not really sure for what, as of yet, but I’ll find out. I was happy just to have more than we needed to work with, and for the whole process to only take 2 days, as opposed to 4!
Its been two days since that last stem cell harvest, and I’m finally starting to not feel quite as tired and weak. A week from today I have my PET scan and Echocardiogram/MUGGA scan (to make sure my ticker will survive the transplant). I’m nervous for the results, but as of right now, according to one of my nurses, it looks like the transplant doc is moving towards transplant regardless of the outcome. (But hopefully its just scar tissue). I have an appointment with the transplant doc on March 3, then the transplant is scheduled (as of now) for March 6th. I will spend about one full month in the hospital at that point, so desperately trying to work as much as I possibly can until then. I’m certainly nervous for all of this, but I’m ready to get this shit started. I am SO SICK of being sick. Even though the odds are kind of like-merp-, I’m still hoping for the best. I won’t even know whether or not it worked for me, for about a year–watchful waiting/scans/etc, which totally sucks. But shit. I guess at this point, a year off of cancer treatment really doesn’t sound half bad!!
Goal for this week: Get back on the elliptical or try to go for a run, once I’m not so tired. Need to make sure I’m strong for this transplant!