So after Wednesday’s disappointment, I went back that evening to receive plerixafor, a £5000 injection that helps move the stem cells from the bone marrow back to the blood for harvest (so so grateful that we have the NHS in this country – worth every penny of tax that Nick and I have ever paid!).
As I mentioned, I’d been warned about sickness and diarrhoea, but luckily only felt a little queasy and poorly. Unfortunately it also causes insomnia like the G-CSF injections and that seemed to be the one downside. Another night of no sleep (not helped by a fox deciding to get randy for an hour at 2am!) meant a tough start to the day.
That said, the day itself went fairly well. I’d been so nervous after the harvest I had back in 2011 when they’d had to go in my groin (and hit a nerve in the process!), that I have nothing but the utmost praise for the staff at the QE in Birmingham.
They put me straight onto the machine when I arrived at 8am and had managed to find veins with limited issues. We did start to have the same problems as in 2011 but they were great at slowing down the machine so that it wasn’t an issue.
As you can see from the photos, basically what happens is that they put a canular into one arm, and a large needle into the other and turn the machine on!!! The process isn’t at all painful which is good but it did cause what feels like a vibration through your whole body, and tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. This was due to my calcium levels dropping (all part of the process) and they just keep giving you tablets to help. (Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as 2011 when I’d ended up on a calcium drip and shaking.) I think the only other issue was when the big needle came out of my arm – you’re meant to keep your arm in one position for the whole 8 hours and without even realising it, I moved it at one stage so there was a slight panic trying to reset everything in opposite arms! But thankfully, the amazing team got it all started and the machine back working.
Throughout this, they’d done the same CD34 test at the day before to try to make sure that the plerixafor had worked and whether they were likely to get the stem cells. Around 1pm, they got the results which said that I’d only doubled my count and not quadrupled like we needed, so there was a bit of a concern about how many stem cells they’d actually get out.
Thankfully, the calculation the actual machine said was right and we managed nearly 1.5 million – I only needed 0.5 million to add to those that had been harvested back in 2011. So come 6pm last night, Nick finally got me home where I managed to get a much better nights sleep. That will be the last stem cell harvest I ever have to do as you’re only ever given 2 autologus transplants.
So now it’s another waiting game. I go in next week for lung and heart tests, and assuming that all is good there then I have to wait for the QE to start doing transplants again. We get the feeling that this won’t be before mid-August, but other than that don’t know when. The hope is that it will be before the winter when there is of course more risk from illnesses, a second wave of covid, etc.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone for all your lovely messages of love and support. I can’t begin to say how much it means at a time like this. It was 11 years ago today that I first got diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and never once have I felt alone with it. From Nick’s unwavering love and kindness through to all of our family and friends. I am so lucky to have you all around me. Thank you