Today was Harvest Day. Or when I woke this morning, Day One of the Harvest.
If I were to have taken the time to have written a blog yesterday, it would have been full of apprehension and fear. I have felt unwell all week, I haven’t slept properly for two, and the prospect of having a line put in my leg, staying overnight at the hospital and general failure did not appeal to me. A whole lot of frustration over something that was completely out of my hands.
This morning I woke up nice and early, after two and a half hours sleep, got dressed and checked my overnight bag. I was prepared. I had slippers, an eye mask and herbal tea. Every part of me had prepared myself for the fact that something would go wrong today. I think being out of treatment for so long, and then the illness last week knocked my confidence. Plus, I suppose I had to be told about all the bad things that could happen in case they did happen, and up to today, all the bad stuff I was told would happen, apart from the ruptured spleen, had happened.
To the Macmillan Centre I went, arriving ten minutes late at 08:40hrs to be greeted by Mamma Jones, who had made the early journey from Peterborough to be my servant for the day. I made my way up to the fourth floor and set up base on my bed for the day. My bloods were taken, and I was told that I had to wait for the results before they went ahead with my stem cell harvest. There is a more technical term for today’s procedure, but I cannot be bothered to locate the paperwork under my bed. So, we waited, and waited a little bit more and then we were informed that it was a Go. I repeat, a go.
From this point onwards, everything was easy. Having anticipated the worst, everything that came today was a pleasant surprise and a nice warm reminder that I can take anything the Medically Trained People and My Myeloma throw at me. I have been doing it thus far, I do not know why I doubted myself. I certainly do not know why I cried in the shower this morning.
The needles went in my arms with the greatest of ease, after a little assistance from a bucket of hot water, a heated blanket and local anaesthetic. The fives hours I was hooked up to the machine flew by, partly because we had Scrabble, and partly because I was inundated with messages. I even managed to swallow my pride and use the commode at 13:15hrs, despite my utter hatred of the wretched things. Seriously, how am I expected to look somebody in the eye who has to handle my urine. My waste. On the latter point, nature was helped by the loose fitting trousers I purchased and the technical sounds coming from the machine. It prevented stage fright. Oh, and I really shouldn’t forget the nursing staff. They made my day much, much easier. No, they made my day better.
I was as comfortable as I could be, thanks to Mum and EMan. The machine works in such a way that I was unable to move my right arm for over five hours, and my left arm was not free either, for that too was connected to a cannula. Right arm out. Left arm in.
So, my blood was departing my body from the big fat needle in my right arm, going through several tubes attached to the machine, that extracted the stem cell and then return most of what was left back to my body via the cannula in my left arm. The machine itself was fascinating. One of my nurses said that it reminded her of E.T, Mamma Jones said it reminded her of Short Circuit and I just spent the day thinking of Innerspace featuring Dennis Quaid. Hollywood was omnipresent today, it would seem.
Technology is bloody brilliant, the machine costs I am told, upwards of £50k, and it seemed to know what it was doing. At least I hope it did.
The procedure was not without side effects, of course it wasn’t. We are talking about me after all. For the harvest, the patient, that would be me by the way, is given a drug to prevent blood clotting. Somehow, I am told, this causes one’s calcium levels to reduce, which I was warned causes buzzing in strange places. My buzzing, and buzzing really is the only word to describe it, was in my lips. Maybe a vibrating buzz would be more appropriate. I also had some buzzing in my right hand and feet, but with hindsight, that was probably just pins and needles from lying still for so long. The calcium deficiency was treated initially by pills that tasted just like the dipper from a sherbet Double Dip. They didn’t work, so the big guns had to be used and I was put on a drip. Afterwards, I decided to self medicate with a strawberry milkshake, a smoothie and a yogurt. It’s basically the same thing. If I were a vegan, I would have had to turn to Ribena.
Fast forward to 15:45hrs, and I was told that my body had decided to behave. I did not need to come back to the hospital for further harvesting, because E.T. had managed to collect 4.2 million stem cells. This pleased me.
And that was my day… I have crawled just that little bit closer to my transplant. The provisionally start date for which is the 27 March, but more on that tomorrow. Right now, I want sleep and oh boy, do I need it.