The days seem to pass slowly, each one counted off, waiting for the stem cells to find their way home to the marrow. Yet, here it is, day twelve already. The medical team tells me to expect the white cell count to begin to increase from its present level of zero any day. They say that the usual time frame for this to occur is between day fourteen and twenty-one. I was in to the hospital this morning (with big thanks to drivers Chris & Es). All seems normal. My white cell count is zero (the great thing about this is that the number of cancerous plasma cells is zero). No signs of infection. I am to return to the hospital in two more days unless I develop a fever in the meantime.
The most difficult part of the week has been coping with the effects of mucositis. This is a common side effect of chemotherapy. The chemo is effective at erasing rapidly dividing cells. This is the reason that hair loss often accompanies chemotherapy. Hair (especially on the head) is made up of rapidly dividing cells. I expect to lose my hair in the next week or two. The mucous lining of the mouth and intestinal tract is also made up of rapidly dividing cells (think of how quickly a cut in your gums heals). I have been fortunate not to have a severe case of mucositis. But I do have a very sore throat as a result of the chemo. My throat is sore enough that it is hard to drink liquids. Along with mucositis the chemotherapy also affects the taste buds. Everything tastes like cardboard (and will, they say, for the next two or three months). So, between having a very sore throat and knowing that everything I eat will taste like cardboard, my appetite has diminished greatly. I have been trying to keep drinking liquids regularly and keeping up nutrition with Boost (liquid meal replacement). Fortunately the sickly sweet flavour of Boost is lost on me since I can't taste it. I'll need to wait until my stem cells graft onto my bone marrow before I can expect the mucositis to heal.
On Saturday I received my first blood transfusion. Along with tracking my white cell counts the medical team is also keeping a close eye on my hemoglobin and platelets which often drop to very low levels while waiting for the transplant to jump start blood production. On Saturday my blood work showed my platelets getting very low. These are the clotting cells which heal cuts and bruises in the body. My appointment was extended and I was the grateful recipient of platelets from an anonymous blood donor. Thank you donors! As I have a cancer of the blood I will be receiving blood products by transfusion for the rest of my life. If you are - or can be - a blood donor your donations are very much appreciated by myself and so many other recipients.
Now I am waiting for my blood work to show white cell counts increasing. I hope that my next transplant update will bring that good news. In the meantime, I'll do my best to keep from getting an infection. Thanks for being there everybody.