When I started the blog I thought it would be easy to do one every day, but I’ve now seen that is not possible. It’s simply about my being too fatigued to do it. But today I am ready to go so allow me to update you.
First I should say that the stem cell process has several phases. The first is the mobilization, where the chemo and growth factor shot are given to move the stem cells from the bone marrow to the bloodstream. A recent thought crossed my mind that growth factor could also apply to this whole process because for me I am growing in my self-knowledge and it’s kind of an adventure, crazy as that may sound. Once the stem cells are ready to be taken, the next phase is called harvesting. The third phase is called the preparative regimen which is killing of the cancer with hi-dose chemo. The fourth phase is the re-infusion of the stem cells or the transplant, and the last phase is recovery.
On Thursday, February 26th. I finally had enough stem cells to harvest them. Unfortunately decisions were made late and I didn’t get hooked up to the machine and going until 2:40 and they wanted me on for 6 hours. The process didn’t affect me physically but I couldn’t be detached from the machine – and it caused me to be very thirsty, so guess what – bedpan! Not fun but necessary. The process made me cold so I was given warmed blankets, and the machine was noisy. The machine by the way is amazing. I could see my stem cells (a pretty pink of course!) going into the bag and the plasma cells returning to me. All this happens simultaneously through the two ports of my catheter. It was not easy to read or to sleep so I just kind of rested, tried to relax, chatted now and then with the nurse who was wonderful, and just tried to be present to the whole experience. Since I have been meditating for several years and in recent years really tried to practice mindfulness, I find myself very patient most of the time and this was one time where you’d want to be. There is just a calmness I feel about me. Now mind you, I might still feel nervous inside and I sure can’t control blips in blood pressure, etc, but the space around me just feels calm and I have an acceptance and a trust in what is happening.
Fortunately they decided to stop the machine after 5 hours instead of 6 so I came off the machine about 7:30 pm. I got up too quick and was lightheaded but I so wanted to use a bathroom vs bedpan so off I went. Perhaps it was that action or something else, but I got nauseated and had to vomit (I hate when that happens!). I felt so exhausted that it took us a while to leave and I was more than willing to surrender to a wheelchair. Got home and just wanted to sleep. I ate a little something, got sick again, but eventually made it to bed and slept soundly until 5am. I awoke Friday feeling amazingly fresh – not totally full of energy but way better than the night before. We had to be there again at 7:30 as they though I might need a transfusion of platelets. Well I didn’t need those but they didn’t think they had enough stem cells so I needed to go back on the machine. Again it was acceptance that won out over disappointment and we proceeded to the machine room. Perhaps it was being familiar with the procedure, but I felt more at ease with the whole thing. I was able to even nap a bit. Then after two hours a call came saying they had enough stem cells from Thursday’s harvest and we could stop YAHOO!! It turns out they hadn’t gotten the results of that harvest at the time they sent me to go again, but they didn’t want me to be there so late again, so they opted to send me early anticipating I would need another 6 hours. I think I ended up getting an infusion of magnesium before I could leave but the day was a bit shorter than the previous. Saturday was presumed to be a short day but now I know you don’t presume anything in the hospital. Labs were drawn and they took forever! I ended up having to have magnesium, potassium and red blood cells. We arrived at 1 and left at 6:30pm. So much for a short day!!
We are now “off” for two days! Don’t have to go anywhere and my body gets a nice rest. I should mention for anyone I told that I would be having chemo on Saturday and Sunday, that the schedule has been changed. The chemo will be next Wednesday and Thursday and the transplant will be Friday.
I want to go back to Friday for a moment. It was my brother’s 63rd birthday. He’s been my main caregiver and I couldn’t ask for better. He is especially caring about changing the dressing on my catheter and flushing the two ports. This is daily with the flushing and now has moved to weekly with the dressing. He is religious with this duty and is often reminding me when it is time to do it. If anyone were to ask me what they would need through this or similar process I would say a caregiver like I have. I believe it is important to my healing and I am grateful I have him in my life.
I would like to share a quote I picked up somewhere this week so here it is: “Every event and every moment of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” – Thomas Merton
Thanks again for tuning in……With love, Kathy