Today begins the third week since the stem cell transplant. The last two days have brought two landmarks. On Tuesday, day thirteen, my hair fell out. Well, most of my hair fell out. It was on my pillow in the morning and falling out in clumps at the slightest touch. There is a thin stubble left. We are planning to shave it off tonight. It will be interesting to discover when the hair begins to grow back and to see if it is different when it returns (apparently it can grow back differently). While the loss of hair is the most obvious outward sign of cancer treatment I am not finding it to be a big deal. It seems a slight inconvenience given the opportunity for the promise of a number of healthy years ahead.
Then on Wednesday, day fourteen, the blood work came back showing the first signs of my stem cells grafting onto my bone marrow. The white blood count went from 0.1 to 0.6. The neutrophil count (a subset of the white blood cells) went from 0.0 to 0.1. This is not a large number when you consider that a normal white cell count is 4.0 to 11.0 and a normal neutrophil count is 2.0 to 11.0. But it is a start. And it is a sign that the transplant has begun the process of restoring my immune system. It means that my regular trips to the hospital will end shortly and the Hickman line used for blood work and intravenous fluids and transfusions will soon be removed. Its a good feeling.
In the meantime, I continue to experience low energy and fatigue. It is amazing to me how easily I fall asleep during the day. The medical team tells me that this will continue over the next two to three months as my blood system is slowly restored to normal. It is going to be a time of trying to eat well, get rest, stay away from illness and slowly buildup exercise until I am strong enough to get back into a normal routine of work and family life. The good news is that I'm through the most difficult days and looking forward to getting stronger every day.