It is Thursday and I am on the other side of the stem cell transplant procedure. It all feels a bit surreal since the effects of the chemotherapy that I received on Tuesday will be experienced between three and seven days after the treatment. It means that in the meantime I am living in limbo between the treatment and its effects on my body. Yesterday, while waiting for the stem cell transplant, I felt quite healthy and had to remind myself that my life was about to be rescued by a small bag of cells that had been taken from me four weeks ago. It was such an ordinary day and yet a day on which my life was about to be saved.
To recap, on Tuesday I received enough Melphalan to wipe out all of the cancerous cells in my blood. It also wipes out all of the healthy stem cells in my blood. Then yesterday, Wednesday, a bag of my stem cells that had been kept frozen at 800 degrees below zero was taken out of the freezer, thawed in a warm water bath and then quickly returned to me through an intravenous drip. In thawing the cells they came back to life and so it was important to return them to my body while they were alive. It took about thirty minutes for the salmon coloured cells to make their way back into my blood stream. It will take them about two weeks to graft back to my bone marrow and start producing blood again. The preservative used to keep the cells from being destroyed by the freezing process caused me to feel a bit faint (lowering my blood pressure) during the procedure. That was the only side effect that I felt. The other side effect noticed in our household is the scent of creamed-corn that my body is giving off (this is a common side effect for the first few days after a stem cell transplant).
So now I am into the three week period when I will be most at risk for infection as my immune system shuts down and re-boots. I have eleven prescription medications - a variety of anti-nausea drugs (which seem to be working well so far) as well as anti-biotic, anti-fungal and anti-viral drugs among others. I am scheduled to go to the Bone Marrow Transplant Day Care Centre at VGH every other day for blood tests, iv fluids, etc over the next three weeks. If/when I develop an infection I will be going to CP6 - Krall Centre - daily for iv antibiotics (and, if necessary, for in-patient care at the BMT Centre on the 15th floor). I am very grateful for the first-rate medical care that I am receiving and am so fortunate to live in Canada and so close to the care at VGH and St Paul's in Vancouver.
Thanks again to all who have been checking in, offering words of care and concern as well as prayers from a distance.