transplant plus fifteen

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.


transplant plus twelve

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.


transplant plus six

It has now been a week since receiving chemotherapy and six days since the stem cell transplant. All in all, I am doing well. While I felt some nausea as a result of the chemotherapy, the anti-nausea drugs did their work and held back the worst. I seem to be past that stage now, moving into the phase of living with low blood counts and waiting for the stem cells to graft on to my bone marrow. This leaves me feeling fatigued much of the time. In the meantime, I continue to visit CP6 every other day for blood work and to receive iv fluids to keep me well hydrated.


transplant plus one

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.


four days

News today from the bone marrow transplant centre that there has been a cancellation next week which means that my transplant will not have to wait until the following week. I am now scheduled to have chemotherapy on Tuesday, September 13 followed by the stem cell transplant on Wednesday, September 14. Both of those procedures will last all day. After that I will visit the centre every other day for a few weeks (unless I have a fever that will require me to be at the centre daily in order to receive intravenous antibiotics). I can expect to be at the lowest ebb in terms of white blood count on the weekend of September 18, with things beginning to improve once the stem cells graft back onto my bone marrow in the two weeks following. It is good news that we can get on with the transplant procedure in four days. I will enjoy the good weather and my good health this weekend and then buckle down to the task at hand next week.

the bright field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

- R.S. Thomas



The good news is that I have a new date confirmed for my stem cell transplant. That means that I am cleared to move forward. I am in good health. The recurrent fevers that bothered me throughout the month of August have disappeared. The effects of three months of taking large doses of steroids have worn off. I have received a ten day treatment of intravenous antibiotics to make sure that there are is no lingering infection in my bloodstream. The doctors are satisfied that my immune system can be shut down and then jump-started again without great risk. That is the good news.